Historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) originated to serve the educational needs of African Americans at a time in U.S. history when minority students had difficulty gaining admission to traditionally white institutions. Today, thousands of students choose to enroll in HBCU colleges not only to be a part of that legacy but also because of all the opportunities these institutions present. And of the more than 100 schools designated as HBCUs throughout the country, the state with the most is Alabama.
Just how important are these HBCUs to the Yellowhammer State? A study commissioned by the United Negro College Fund (UNCF) estimates a total economic impact of $1.5 billion. Of considerable note, Alabama’s HBCUs generate more than 15,000 jobs for their local and regional economies.
Might an HBCU in Alabama suit your educational goals? Here, we look at the top 10 HBCUs in Alabama:
Best HBCUs in Alabama
One look at the rich history of this university, and it’s easy to see why Tuskegee was the first black college to be designated as a Registered National Historical Landmark (1966). Booker T. Washington founded the institution on July 4, 1881. George Washington Carver later served on the faculty. The Tuskegee Airman, America’s first black pilots, trained there. Today, the university continues its tradition of excellence through more than 50 degree programs, including a doctoral program in veterinary medicine that has produced over 75% of the African-American veterinarians in the world.
Owned and operated by the Seventh-day Adventist Church, this institution in Huntsville focuses on providing a quality Christian education. Strong moral principles and service to others are an integral part of the student experience throughout Oakwood’s five schools and 58 different majors. As for the university’s name, it comes from the towering oak trees found on this former plantation that has grown through the years into a campus spanning 1,186 acres.
Named for the Reverend Dr. Charles Allen Stillman, this Presbyterian liberal arts college in Tuscaloosa held its first classes in 1876. Today, the institution is especially noted for outstanding programs in biological sciences, business administration, and teacher education. However all students continue to take four religion classes as part of their major, and Thursdays are reserved for chapel and religious-themed guest speaker presentations.
Nine former slaves founded this institution in 1867, making it one of the nation’s oldest HBCUs. This public university treasures its location in the state capital of Montgomery, the birthplace of the modern civil rights movement. While carrying on its rich history of teacher education, ‘Bama State has expanded through the years to offer nearly 50 majors, including new high-demand programs in health sciences. And any summary of ASU would not be complete without mentioning the Mighty Marching Hornets, the university’s nationally acclaimed marching band.
Do the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains sound like an ideal place to focus on studying? If so, this private, liberal arts school offering more than 15 majors may be just your cup of sweet tea. But don’t think the scenery is the only attraction: Talladega ranks very well in low average graduating debt. The college also recently launched its first graduate program – an online Master of Science in Computer Information Systems.
This land-grant institution offers more than 60 undergraduate, graduate, and certificate programs through its colleges:
- Agricultural, Life, and Natural Sciences
- Engineering, Technology, and Physical Sciences
- Education, Humanities, and Behavioral Sciences
- Business and Public Affairs
But, the 6,100 students enrolled certainly aren’t the only ones active on “The Hill” in Huntsville. With roughly 1,100 employees, Alabama A & M ranks among the Top 20 largest employers in the Tennessee Valley region.
With 1,700 students, Miles College is large enough to offer a variety of majors yet small enough to ensure faculty and staff can provide individual attention. This private, liberal arts college in Fairfield has roots in the Christian Methodist Episcopal Church and a long history of student activism. In keeping with its commitment to diversity and global awareness, at least 30 percent of the Miles faculty are from Asian and African countries.
An institution needn’t offer four-year degrees to earn the distinction of HBCU. This two-campus community college (Birmingham and Bessemer) features an academic division and a career/technical division to serve the variety of educational and training needs of its students. In 2011, the White House recognized Lawson State as a “Champion of Change” for its efforts to create an educated workforce for the community. And in 2015, the school was selected to host a visit by President Barack Obama.
This open-admission urban community college operates four campuses to serve the needs of people in Mobile and Washington counties in southwest Alabama. The institution’s name honors Dr. Sanford D. Bishop, Sr., who served as an English and music instructor, dean, and eventually president. Founded in 1927 to offer courses to African American elementary and secondary teachers, the college now conducts a variety of academic and technical programs leading to associate degrees or certificates.
The River Region of Alabama benefits from this open-admission, multi-campus institution founded in 1966. Some students take general education classes leading to an associate degree or to transferring to a four-year college. Others prepare directly for careers in allied health or skilled trades. Trenholm further serves the community through GED preparation and free ESL classes for non-English-speaking adults.
Many methods exist to rate colleges and universities. Universities.com analyzes the data with the goal of creating an objective list based of colleges. We weigh factors such as admissions, retention rate, student-faculty ratio, percentage of tenured instructors, graduation rate, and financial resources. Students can take a more intricate look at our methodology here.
How Do I Pay for College?
Think of a college education as today’s investment in tomorrow. A degree increases earning potential and qualifies you for a greater range of jobs.
Fortunately, sources exist to help pay for that brighter future. Start by filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). This document serves as the basis for determining your eligibility for various grants, loans, scholarships, and work-study positions.
Consider holding a part-time college job while attending school or perhaps work full-time during the summer to save for tuition. Reach out to financial aid professionals at your school of interest for further suggestions on overcoming financial obstacles.
Scholarships for Black Students
Scholarships are a wonderful way to help finance college because you do not need to pay back the money. Some scholarships welcome any student to apply; others seek candidates based on set criteria. African American students may want to explore the following five scholarships:
High school seniors of African descent who are interested in technology can apply for one of the more than 25 scholarships offered by this industry giant. While the application requires a bit of work – resume, two essays, letters of recommendation, and transcript – the possible outcome is worth the effort. Scholarship amounts include $20,000 distributed over 4 years, $10,000 over 2 years, and $1,000 one-time awards.
If you aspire to a career in healthcare, scholarships of varying prize amounts from this charitable educational non-profit can assist in fulfilling your goal. Students should display academic excellence and financial need. Judges note that they particularly value essays that exhibit passion, creativity, and a desire to help others.
Named for the late Secretary of Commerce, these scholarships support African American high school seniors who share Ron Brown’s dedication to individual excellence, leadership, and public service. The competition awards 45-50 four-year $40,000 scholarships ($10,000 each year) to talented but economically-challenged students pursuing higher education.
Since 1964, this fund has been awarding scholarships in honor of a former governor and U.S. senator dedicated to numerous civil rights causes. Each scholarship totals $8,000 ($2,000 per year). Candidates should demonstrate financial need, academic achievement, and commitment to public service.
This $2,500 scholarship supports an undergraduate studying journalism or mass communications at an accredited U.S. college or university. The award honors a man who was a journalist for The United Methodist Church for nearly 30 years, and applicants should be committed members of that church.
Looking for more opportunities? Check out our scholarships search tool that can help pinpoint additional scholarships for which you might be eligible.