Small HBCUs that Punch Above Their Weight
One of the best things about HBCUs is their diversity--diversity in location, student body, academic offerings and size. HBCUs are highlighted for their ability to provide a family environment, with smaller class sizes where students can get to know their professors. Study after study shows that HBCUs lift beyond their weight- they do a better job at educating African-Americans and lifting students out of poverty than their counterparts.
The following list of HBCUs are small colleges (less than 2000 students) that are also heavy hitters. Their leadership, academics and other offerings make them outstanding choices for anyone seeking a top-notch HBCU education on a smaller scale. (And as an interesting aside, many of these smaller #HBCUs field men’s soccer teams, while many larger colleges do not)
All colleges selected have been ranked in at least 20 different listings and have received positive news coverage n 2019 for their academics, innovation, leadership or growth.
(Colleges are listed alphabetically)
Published: December 2019
What makes Bennett great: One of only 2 African-American women’s colleges, Bennett College offers bachelor’s degrees and concentrations in over 25 areas. Bennett College has established 5 areas of focus: Leadership, Civic Engagement, Global Citizenship, Innovation/Entrepreneurship and Communications with a vision of creating “phenomenal women scholars and global leaders.” Students at Bennett benefit from the Greater Greensboro Consortium which allows them to take courses at other colleges in the area including UNC-G, North Carolina A&T, Elon University and High Point University. Bennett also participates in a 3-2 engineering degree program with North Carolina A&T and a Direct Entry Nursing Program with Simmons College. Other opportunities include summer research programs with Michigan State, Indiana University and the VA-NC Alliance Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation. Since 2009, the Center for Global Studies has sent more than 200 students to nearly 30 countries on almost every continent. It is
consistently one of the top HBCUs for alumni giving, ranked one of the nation’s safest college campuses and receives high marks for social mobility and value/affordability. Bennett was also named a Fulbright HBCU Institutional Leader for 2018-19.
(Image: United Methodist Church)
What makes Dillard great: Highly ranked for affordability and value, Dillard is the 2nd highest producer of African-Americans who go on to earn PhDs in physics, as well as one of the top 15 programs in America; though small it has produced 12% of black women PhDs in Physics. Its other signature programs include a budding pre-law program that offers LSAT prep, mentors and the opportunity to participate in top ranked mock trial program and a film program that offers full scholarships funded by Denzel Washington. Dillard Film students have worked on more than 30 productions, including Lee Daniel’s “The Butler” and Spike Lee’s “Old Boy.” Additionally, its Theatre Department is the oldest among HBCUs. Not enough? Dillard was the launching pad of the Deep South Center for Environmental Justice, an organization “dedicated to improving the lives of children and families harmed by pollution and vulnerable to climate change in the Gulf Coast Region.” Dillard and 5 other HBCUs partner with the DSCEJ to meet this goal. Dillard is also home to the Ray Charles Program in African American Material Culture which includes a focus on the culture of New Orleans. Finally, students can participate in the ‘Brain Food Presidential Lecture Series which has brought people like writer Lena Waith, legal scholar James Forman Jr and actress Gabrielle Union to the campus.
What makes ECSU great: Appearing on more than 60 different rankings since 2015, Elizabeth City State University is a small college that has it all. Its marching band was recently named the #1 Division II HBCU Band by The Undefeated. It offers a wide variety of academic programs including traditional programs like Education and Psychology along with Aviation Science, Emergency Management, Unmanned Aircraft Systems and Pharmaceutical Sciences. It recently opened a new STEM facility to house several of these programs. Additionally, the university recently reopened its Khan Planetarium, the only planetarium in the state of North Carolina with a Digistar 6 Projection System. ECSU fields numerous sports teams including football, tennis, bowling, golf and volleyball. The college was also ranked in the nation’s top five military friendly schools for small public universities. Other great news? At the end of the 2019 fiscal year, ECSU received 32 awards/grants totaling more than $5 million to fund research projects. Not only is Elizabeth City State University the #1 most affordable public HBCU in the nation, it is one of the nation’s most affordable: out-of-state tuition is only $5k per year.
What makes Fisk great: The oldest institution of higher learning in Nashville, Fisk was the 1st HBCU with a Phi Beta Kappa Chapter and recently had 2 students named as Rhodes Scholarship Finalists. It is considered one of the best liberal arts colleges in the country, receiving high marks for social mobility, innovation, undergraduate teaching and research. In fact, Fisk remains the only HBCU to ever win the prestigious R&D 100 award and has done so four times. It is the nation’s top producer of underrepresented minority master's in physics degrees and its Fisk-Vanderbilt Master’s to PhD Bridge Program has produced an average of 3-4 doctorates in physics, astronomy and materials science per year. Not simply a STEM school, Fisk is home to a world-class collection of artwork and a fantastic music program that produced not only the Jubilee Singers, but has graduated successful opera, jazz and gospel artists. Fisk students are engaged students as well, having been leaders in the sit-in movement and continuing forward to pushing for increased health care access for all to protesting police brutality in Ferguson, Missouri. Fisk was won of 19 colleges named a Fulbright HBCU Institutional Leader for 2018-19.
What makes Huston-Tillotson great: The first institution of higher learning in Austin, H-T is also taking the lead on environmental issues. Its Center for Sustainability and Environmental Justice hosts an annual Building Green Justice Forum. The college has introduced an Environmental Studies major, has solar panels installed on several campus buildings, an organic campus food garden, research greenhouse, and rain garden. H-T’s award-winning campus organization Green is the New Black holds events, raises funds, and advocates for environmental awareness on campus. Students have participated in the United Nations COP21 climate conference in Paris. Huston-Tillotson provides a solid academic program with 2 dozen academic offerings including a dual degree engineering program with Prairie View A&M University as well as programs in Kinesiology, Professional Writing and Computer Information Systems. The Music program has graduated numerous successful jazz musicians and has seen its students perform in Aida with the Ausin Opera. Cool fact: Jackie Robinson served as a coach and athletic director at the college. H-TU was one of 3 'Tiny Titans' named a Fulbright HBCU Institutional Leader for 2018-19.
What makes J C Smith great: In addition to having several students and alumni participate in the past two Olympics, JCSU is one of the top colleges in the country for producing African-Americans with bachelor’s degrees in Computer and Information Systems. It is the only HBCU to offer a Computer Science Summer Institute offered by Google and one of less than 1% of US colleges to offer an undergraduate program in Data Science. JCSU offers a strong program for science students with 60% of biology undergrads presenting scientific research at conferences before they graduate. Its Smith Institute for Applied Research operates four Centers for Excellence including one for Global Education which offers student opportunities to travel and study abroad. Its small, nurturing environment has been recognized for the PTSD services it provides veterans and for its program to support students in the foster care system. Additionally, the number of students who graduate with debt has decreased by 11%.
Cool fact: Johnson C. Smith is the 1st HBCU to offer a Lactation Consultant training program
What makes Miles great: Over the past decade, Miles has seen significant growth-in enrollment, academic offerings and campus infrastructure. Increased fundraising led to the expansion of the campus and the construction of three new buildings: a welcome center, a 208-bed dormitory and a student center that features a cafeteria, game room and theater. Academic highlights include its Intelligence Community Center for Academic Excellence which provides individualized counseling, support for internships, specially designed academic programs, and international study abroad experiences participating students. The Jump Start Academic Readiness program for recently graduated high school students allows them to experience college life, get a solid foundation for college academics and earn up to 11 college credit hours during a 6-week summer program. An Honors Program is also available for high-achieving, hard working students. The college also has a partnership with the University of Alabama at Birmingham, offering eligible students the opportunity to earn an accelerated Master’s degree in Health Informatics. Miles is becoming an athletic powerhouse in the SIAC. It is the football champion 2 years in a row and its men’s basketball, golf and baseball teams are highly ranked as well. The Purple Marching Machine band has been ranked the best DII band by the Undefeated and HBCU Sports Band of the Year in 2017.
What makes Oakwood great? The nation’s only Seventh-Day Adventist HBCU, Oakwood has one of the highest retention and graduation rates among HBCUs. Offering nearly 60 academic majors, Oakwood shines in preparing students for careers in the health and music professions. It is one of the top producers of African-American medical students. Its music program has produced award-winning opera, R&B, hip hop and gospel performers. In 2018, Oakwood’s Aeolians choir won 3 gold medals at the World Choir Games. Oakwood also operates a farm and farmer’s market providing fresh produce for Huntsville residents. In 2020, the market will have a permanent building to call home. Oakwood is a Christ-centered college and students who are interested in international travel can participate in mission trips that are sponsored each year. Oakwood also boasts the USCAA 4x National Champs in Men’s Basketball. Cool fact: Oakwood sponsors ‘OperationSafe Travels, Safe Return’ program which provides safety inspections for students’ cars before they travel home for long breaks.
What makes Paul Quinn great? The oldest HBCU west of the Mississippi River is also the nation’s first urban work college. Students work between 300 and 400 hours per academic year in order to earn the full tuition assistance grant of $5,000 and receive a payment of between $1,000 and $1,500. Through this program students can graduate with less than $10,000 in student loan debt. Online courses are offered as well as its newly-established Plano campus, which houses the women’s soccer team. The college also launched a mental health initiative that begins with an information session and meeting with a counselor to assess their personal needs. There is an on-campus mental health clinic available free of charge. In 2018, PQC broke ground on its first building in over 40 years- The Trammell S. Crow Living and Learning Center, a LEED-certified facility that will feature residential, classroom and office space. The building will also include a dance studio and a 1,500-person capacity gym. One of the most notable programs is the We Over Me Farm, which was built on the space of the formal football field. The organic farm has produced more than 30,000 pounds of produce that has been donated or sold to support the community, the college, restaurants and grocers throughout Dallas. Its innovation has led to millions of dollars in donations to continue to grow its programs.
What makes Talladega great: While small in size, Alabama’s oldest HBCU is growing. The past two years have had record-high enrollments and, thanks to sizeable donations (including from alum and long-serving Hampton University president Dr. William Harvey),there has been new construction. One of those buildings is an art museum that will house Hale Woodruff's acclaimed Amistad Murals. There will also be a student center with a 2,000-seat arena, banquet hall, restaurant, convocation center, computer lab, health care clinic, coffee lounge and convenience store. A new dorm opened in January 2019. Talladega’s sports, band and financial aid have all been highly-ranked; Talladega has been named the Most Affordable College in Alabama,one of the top colleges in the country for receiving scholarships and for graduating students with the least amount of debt. Talladega continues to focus on its students: recently the college received a grant to launch an ‘Liberal Arts Innovation Center,’ a weekend college for non-traditional students was established and two dozen students received an all-expense paid trip to Japan. Talladega’s baseball teams, as well as its mens’ and womens’ basketball teams, have been conference champs and nationally ranked.
What makes Tougaloo great: Despite having the lowest enrollment of all of Mississippi’s HBCUs, Tougaloo has produced over 40% of the state's African-American physicians and dentists and more than 33% of it’s attorneys. Tougaloo ranks among the top 25 institutions in the nation whose graduates earn their PhDs in STEM disciplines and among the top 15 HBCUs in graduating women with undergraduate degrees in the physical sciences. For more than 50 years, Tougaloo mas maintained a partnership with Brown University that includes research and an exchange program. Other special programs include its Honors Program and the Institute for the Study of Modern Day Slavery, a first for any college. It is one of three colleges to participate in the Jackson Heart Study, the largest single site prospective epidemiologic investigation of cardiovascular disease among African Americans. Annually, the Tougaloo Art Colony brings nationally and internationally renowned artists to the campus for a week-long, hands-on immersion in the visual arts. Tougaloo also houses one of the most significant college art collections in the region, featuring over 1,150 works. The Medgar Evers house is owned by the college, which operates it as a museum. For sports enthusiasts, the college fields 8 varsity sports and is the reigning conference champs in Mens’ Basketball and is nationally ranked.
What makes Wiley great: It recently launched the “Wiley Cares” initiative which reduced tuition and room and board by nearly $4000, set up a food pantry and created microgrants for students in need and created a Career Closet to provide appropriate clothing for students participating in job interviews. Wiley has long been known for its ‘Great Debaters’ and for good reason. Since reviving its program (thanks to a donation from Denzel Washington) the college has twice been crowned the Pi Kappa Delta national debate team winner, won two other national championships and about 2,500 other awards. Over the past few years 100% of its members have received scholarships to graduate schools. In addition to its traditional academic programs, Wiley has online degree programs, an adult degree completion program and a debt forgiveness program for former students who wish to return and complete their degree. The Nate Parker Film and Theatre Conservatory, held during the summer, is an intensive week-long program for young, aspiring artists to learn the art of filmmaking from scholars and film industry professionals. The athletics programs are also top-notch: the women’s volleyball team advanced to the national tournament after winning its conference, the mens’ basketball team is nationally ranked and the men’s track and field teach won the national championship in 2018.