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Can Anyone Go to a Historically Black College?

So, you heard that historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) generally have lower tuition than most other higher education institutions. This is why you are thinking about applying to one — to earn a degree without being knee-deep in debt. And now you are wondering if it’s perfectly fine to go to a historically black college even if you’re not black.

Anyone, regardless of race and ethnicity, can go to an HBCU. Provided that a student has a high school diploma, he or she can apply to one. As a matter of fact, some HBCUs have an open admissions policy. This means that students with a GED certificate or any high school diploma equivalent may apply.

Many people believe that HBCUs, since they were originally founded to educate African American students, are all-black schools. However, this is far from the truth.

As a matter of fact, these days, according to a 2019 Forbes article, almost one-fourth of students enrolled at HBCUs are not African-Americans.

Let’s get started by answering this question many students who wish to enroll at HBCUs are too shy to ask…

Which HBCU Has the Most White Students?

A historically black college with the least African American students is Bluefield State College. As a matter of fact, more than 80% of its current population is white. In addition, only 17 of the school’s 198 employees are African-Americans. To date, Bluefield State College is the only HBCU with a white president.

In the past, the kids of African American families living in southern West Virginia earned their degrees from Bluefield State College, a small teacher’s college located on a hill overlooking Bluefield’s business district.

Bluefield State College started to admit white students in the 1950s when it welcomed white Korean War veterans into its 50-acre campus. Another HBCU located in West Virginia, West Virginia State College, is now as predominantly white, or PWI, like Bluefield State College, although it still has a African American president and faculty members.

In the past few decades, many HBCUs can’t help but admit white and minorities because more and more African-American students are being admitted to traditional colleges and universities.

To deal with a decrease in their population, they started opening their doors to whites and students of various races and ethnic backgrounds, too, thus making it possible for them to remain operational.

White students are welcomed by HBCUs with open arms, as evidenced by reports of full participation in all aspects of college life and positive faculty relationships.

And this leads us to one more important HBCU-related question that needs an answer…

What are the Most Diverse HBCUs?

According to US News, some of the most diverse HBCUs include Bluefield State College, West Virginia State University, Kentucky State University, Fayetteville State University, Johnson C. Smith University, University of Maryland Eastern Shore, and Delaware State University.

These days, if you enroll at some HBCUs, being always surrounded by African-American peers is unlikely.

It’s for the fact that more and more of them are becoming diverse. Some of today’s HBCUs are predominantly white, while others have student bodies that are more mixed.

So, in other words, if you enroll at one of the most diverse HBCUs in the US, you can expect to meet people from all racial and ethnic backgrounds — only a handful of them are blacks.

When looking for colleges and universities to apply to, many students check out diversity. Besides the schools themselves, students also benefit from going to diverse institutions.

According to studies, diversity on campuses helps improve intellectual and cultural engagement and academic skills like critical thinking and problem-solving.

If you want to enjoy the benefits associated with attending an HBCU and those that come with going to a diverse college, check out this table of the 10 most diverse HBCUs, according to US News:

SCHOOLBLACKWHITEASIANHISPANICAMERICAN INDIANINTERNATIONAL
Bluefield State College10.2%85.1%0.2%1.2%0.1%2.6%
West Virginia State University11.7%60.8%0.4%0.5%0.5%0.5%
Kentucky State University61.8%19.8%0.6%1.3%0.2%0.3%
Fayetteville State University67.1%16.6%1.2%6.0%2.1%0.8%
Johnson C. Smith University72.8%0.6%0.1%6.0%0.1%4.4%
University of Maryland Eastern Shore73.6%10.6%1.1%2.0%0.1%3.5%
Delaware State University74.7%11.0%0.7%5.6%0.3%2.4%
Elizabeth City State University74.7%14.3%0.4%0.7%0.5%0.0%
Tennessee State University76.5%15.5%1.1%1.3%0.2%4.7%
Xavier University of Louisiana77.3%4.0%10.3%2.3%0.3%2.1%
US News

While there are many HBCUs with lots of white students, there are also non-HBCUs with plenty of black students. And this brings us to this question many students have in their minds…

Which Non-HBCUs Have the Most Minorities?

Many non-HBCUs have lots of minorities. Some of them include City University of New York, Rutgers University, San Jose State University, University of Houston, California State University, Polytechnic Institute of New York University, Hunter College, and the University of San Francisco.

As mentioned earlier, diversity is good for a student like you. It helps you challenge stereotyped preconceptions, thus allowing for personal growth and development of social skills, which can help you land your dream job.

This is why when looking for a college to apply to, remember to research the school’s diversity.

To help you get a head start, check out this table containing the names of some US colleges and universities and their respective percentage of admitted minorities:

SCHOOLPERCENTAGE OF MINORITIES
University of San Francisco40%
Polytechnic Institute of New York University52%
San Francisco State University27%
Rutgers University58%
City University of New York72%
San Jose State University57%
California State University55%
University of Houston57%
Hunter College49%

The Ivy League schools are institutions that many students dream of applying to. Alas, besides offering high-quality education, they are also known to be the most expensive and selective schools on the face of the planet. While some of them can be diverse, others seem to have a diversity problem.

Some of these prestigious schools started admitting African-American students as far back as the mid-1800s. For instance, Harvard University welcomed its first undergraduate, Beverly Garnett Williams, in 1847.

On the other hand, the last Ivy League school to admit African American students was Princeton University. The first black students to graduate from the institution were James Everett Ward, John Leroy Howard, and Arthur Jewell Wilson Jr. in 1947. And, in 1951, Princeton University awarded its first honorary degree to Ralph Bunche, an African-American political scientist.

Let’s take a look at a table indicating the percentage of black students at each Ivy League school:

IVY LEAGUE COLLEGEPERCENT OF AFRICAN AMERICAN STUDENTS
Columbia University21%
Harvard University14%
Cornell University7.7%
The University of Pennsylvania7.4%
Brown University6%
Yale University5.6%
Dartmouth College5.5%
Princeton University3.58%

Just Before You Apply to a Historically Black College

Refrain from assuming that HBCUs are exclusive to African-American students. Although it’s true that these institutions were originally established to educate black students, it’s a completely different story diversity-wise these days.

There are many perks a student, whether black or any other race or ethnicity, may enjoy for going to an HBCU.

Like when applying to any other school, it’s a must that you take your time when enumerating an institution’s pros and cons and weighing them, too.

In the end, the best school for you is one that meets your personal preferences, from your available budget to preferred location, and offers the program you’re interested in excellently.

Related Questions

What are the best HBCUs? According to US News, the top 10 HBCUs are Spelman College, Howard University, Xavier University of Louisiana, Tuskegee University, Hampton University, Morehouse College, Florida A&M University, North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University, Claflin University, and Fisk University.

What is the first HBCU in the US? Although the term HBCU was created by the Higher Education Act of 1965, the first higher education for black students was Cheyney University of Pennsylvania. Established in 1837, its initial name was the African Institute. Its name was later changed to the Institute for Colored Youth.


Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent those of the College Reality Check.

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