Top 10 Historically Black Colleges and Universities

Briana Boyington, Josh Moody
·6 min read

Historical significance of HBCUs

In a segregated, post-Civil War country, historically Black colleges and universities provided Black Americans with a quality education. Many well-known and respected artists, politicians, CEOs and political leaders are graduates of these institutions. Today these colleges are still some of the country's top producers of Black doctors, scientists and engineers and offer opportunities to a more diverse student body. These are the 10 top-ranked HBCUs, per U.S. News data.

10. Fisk University (TN)

Overall rank: 171-221, National Liberal Arts Colleges

Undergraduate enrollment: 840

Six-year graduation rate for students entering in fall 2013: 50%

Founded in 1866, Fisk University is the oldest institution of higher education in Nashville, Tennessee. The school has several notable alumni who were prominent intellectual and civic leaders, such as sociologist W.E.B. Du Bois and journalist Ida B. Wells. Booker T. Washington, who founded Tuskegee University in Alabama, served on Fisk's board of trustees.

9. Claflin University (SC)

Overall rank: 9, Regional Colleges (South)

Undergraduate enrollment: 1,986

Six-year graduation rate for students entering in fall 2013: 51%

Founded in 1869, Claflin University is a small liberal arts college affiliated with the Methodist church. The historically Black university claims to be the first school in South Carolina open to all races. As one of the first schools open to both women and Black students, Claflin claims two of the first five Black women in the world to receive college degrees: Alice Jackson Moorer and Annie Thortne Holmes, both 1884 graduates, according to the school's website.

7 (tie). Florida A&M University

Overall rank: 241 (tie), National Universities

Undergraduate enrollment: 7,818

Six-year graduation rate for students entering in fall 2013: 53%

Classes began at the State Normal College for Colored Students with just 15 students and two instructors when the school was founded in 1887, according to the university's website. Now known as Florida A&M University, FAMU has been recognized for its pharmacy school and is known as a leading institution in awarding bachelor's and doctorate degrees to Black students. Well-known alumni include Wimbledon champ Althea Gibson, Olympic gold medalist Robert "Bullet Bob" Hayes and Fox Sports reporter Pam Oliver.

7 (tie). North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University

Overall rank: 272 (tie), National Universities

Undergraduate enrollment: 11,039

Six-year graduation rate for students entering in fall 2013: 51%

Founded in the 1890s, the North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University is a national university that is among the top producers of Black engineers, according to the university's website. Well-known alumni include civil rights activist Rev. Jesse Jackson and Michael Regan, who was recently nominated by President Joe Biden to be the administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency.

6. Morehouse College (GA)

Overall rank: 155 (tie), National Liberal Arts Colleges

Undergraduate enrollment: 2,238

Six-year graduation rate for students entering in fall 2013: 54%

Founded in the basement of a Baptist church in Augusta, Georgia, in 1867 and later moved to Atlanta, Morehouse College is the only all-male HBCU in the country. Notable alumnus Martin Luther King, Jr. graduated from the institution in 1948. Morehouse has also produced five Rhodes scholars, the most of any HBCU.

5. Hampton University (VA)

Overall rank: 217 (tie), National Universities

Undergraduate enrollment: 3,714

Six-year graduation rate for students entering in fall 2013: 57%

Hampton University was founded in 1868 as the Hampton Normal and Agricultural Institute. In addition to its mission to educate Black students, Hampton also welcomed 70 previously incarcerated Native Americans in 1878, sparking an educational program that served the American Indian population for more than 40 years. Notable alumni include Booker T. Washington, a renowned educator, speaker and author who founded and presided at Tuskegee University in Alabama until his death in 1915.

4. Tuskegee University (AL)

Overall rank: 20, Regional Universities (South)

Undergraduate enrollment: 2,394

Six-year graduation rate for students entering in fall 2013: 50%

Founded by Booker T. Washington in 1881, Tuskegee University has multiple claims to fame. Tuskegee was the institutional home of legendary scientist George Washington Carver and is also known for producing the Tuskegee Airmen, the first Black pilots to serve in the then-segregated U.S. military. The school's website notes that the university is also a top producer of Black engineering graduates, military generals and veterinarians.

3. Xavier University of Louisiana

Overall rank: 16 (tie), Regional Universities (South)

Undergraduate enrollment: 2,530

Six-year graduation rate for students entering in fall 2013: 51%

Xavier University of Louisiana is a top producer of Black medical school applicants, according to data from the Association of American Medical Colleges. Founded as a high school in 1915, the New Orleans university is the nation's only Catholic HBCU and annually produces more Black graduates who go on to med school than any other university in the nation, according to the school's website. Xavier counts former U.S. Surgeon General Regina Benjamin among its graduates.

2. Howard University (DC)

Overall rank: 80 (tie), National Universities

Undergraduate enrollment: 6,526

Six-year graduation rate for students entering in fall 2013: 65%

Founded in 1867, Howard University spans more than 200 urban acres in the nation's capital and Maryland. The university has 13 schools and colleges and is home to the country's first Black-owned public television station, WHUT, according to the school's website. WHUR, the campus FM radio station, is among a few commercial radio stations owned by a university, per the school's website. Howard boasts many notable alumni, including U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris.

1. Spelman College (GA)

Overall rank: 54 (tie), National Liberal Arts Colleges

Undergraduate enrollment: 2,120

Six-year graduation rate for students entering in fall 2013: 75%

Founded as Atlanta Baptist Female Seminary in 1881, Spelman College emerged from its origins in a church basement to the top HBCU in the country. While some of the first students were former slaves learning basic life skills, the college has since produced notable alumnae such as Pulitzer Prize-winning author Alice Walker and Spelman valedictorian Marian Wright Edelman, who founded the Children's Defense Fund.

Learn more about HBCUs.

Thinking about attending an HBCU or seeking a school with a diverse student body? Learn more about why diversity in college matters and why students may want to factor it into their admissions decisions. Follow U.S. News Education on Twitter and Facebook to find advice on researching, applying to and paying for college.

Highest-ranked historically Black colleges and universities

-- 1. Spelman College

-- 2. Howard University

-- 3. Xavier University of Louisiana

-- 4. Tuskegee University

-- 5. Hampton University

-- 6. Morehouse College

-- 7 (tie). Florida A&M University

-- 7 (tie). North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University

-- 9. Claflin University

-- 10. Fisk University