Historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs) have served an important role in U.S. higher education. According to the Higher Education Act of 1965, HBCUs are “…any historically black college or university that was established prior to 1964, whose principal mission was, and is, the education of black Americans, and that is accredited by a nationally recognized accrediting agency or association determined by the Secretary [of Education]…” At the time of the Act, Black students weren’t always welcome at existing public and private institutions of higher education. HBCUs provided undergraduate and graduate level educational opportunities to people of African descent.
The majority of all HBCUs are in the southern United States, although they are also located in Delaware, Illinois, Maryland, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia. Cheyney University, the oldest HBCU in the country, was established by Richard Humphreys in 1837 in Pennsylvania. HBCUs can be classified in a variety of ways, as public, private, denominational, liberal arts, land-grant, independent university systems, single-gender serving, and research-based. As of 2017, there are 101 HBCU institutions.
HBCUs differ from predominantly Black institutions (PBIs), which were first recognized in 2007 and incorporated as part the Higher Education Opportunity Act of 2008. PBIs may apply for federal funding to assist in serving low- and middle-income Black students. To qualify as a PBI, an institution’s student body must be at least 40% Black, it must have a minimum of 1,000 graduates, and 50% of its undergraduate students must be low-income or first-generation college students. As of 2019, there are 104 PBIs in the U.S. —Amy E. Hamaker