Consider HBCUs

By Marybeth Gasman Nelson Bowman III on September 13, 2013
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As a Latina student from Chicago, Francennette wasn’t sure what her experience would be like at Philander Smith College in Little Rock, Ark. Now, as she nears graduation, she couldn’t imagine attending college anywhere else.

“Philander is a home away from home,” she said. “It’s like a big family that has watched over me for the past three and a half years. Before coming to Philander, I was a little scared of what my experience would be like at an HBCU because of my culture. But even before I came to Little Rock, Philander made me feel welcomed and wanted. I had other options, but I truly believe I could not have made a better choice.”

Featuring a nurturing environment, close faculty and staff relationships, and a strong track record for sending students to graduate schools, Historically Black Colleges or Universities, or HBCUs, can be a terrific option for all students, not only African Americans. They were created to educate African Americans during a time of segregation in the United States, but now are open to all students regardless of race or ethnicity.

Ranging in size from 600 to 11,000 students, the 105 HBCUs throughout the country are very diverse with both public and private institutions, small liberal arts colleges and larger, research-focused universities. Most are scattered throughout the southern states and Mid-Atlantic region, with a few as far west as Texas.

Empowering environment for all students

HBCUs are empowering and supportive college environments in which students receive individualized, hands-on attention from faculty and administrators. Students have ample opportunities to interact with teachers both inside and outside the classroom, where they are viewed as individuals rather than merely members of a racial group.

“I’ve found that the faculty and advisors in many ways have created a very nurturing surrounding that has allowed me to grow and thrive in this very grown-up environment,” said Kyle, a junior at Howard University.

HBCUs offer a family-like atmosphere in which students are cared for and provided with the academic and social tools that they need to succeed. Yet, these institutions are also challenging. Professors want to see students meet their goals.

“The HBCU experience fosters a nurturing environment that has prepared me to survive in the real world, and has played a critical role in my personal and professional growth as a student,” said Bobby, a senior at Prairie View A&M University. “Faculty members go beyond the books to help with lessons in life, and the staff is here to assist in helping every student achieve his dreams.”

HBCUs are open to students of all racial and ethnic backgrounds, and many have large White, Latino, and Asian populations. These students also enjoy their experiences and feel empowered by the family-like environment. They excel due to the individual attention they receive and appreciate the close interest paid to them by the faculty.

“Ever since day one Philander has given me nothing but great support, love, and guidance, not only academically but also personally and spiritually,” Francennette said.

Preparation for graduate school

For those students interested in graduate school, HBCUs are a wonderful starting place. Students leave the institution with a deep sense of self-confidence that enables them to thrive at the nation’s premiere research institutions.

HBCUs produce more African American students who pursue graduate degrees in science, engineering, medicine, and nursing than majority institutions. For example, Xavier University produces more African American graduates who enter medical school and pass the board exams than any other college or university in the nation.

Likewise, Spelman College and Bennett College for Women in North Carolina produce 50 percent of all Black women pursuing graduate degrees in the sciences. Hampton University and Prairie View A&M University have excellent engineering programs that also send large numbers of students to graduate school.

“The opportunity to attend one of the top HBCUs in the country has had an amazingly positive impact on my life so far,” said Kyle.

Bobby added: “It has truly been a life changing experience and I wouldn’t trade the lessons I have learned at my HBCU for the world.”

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