HBCUs, like many of the colleges discussed more frequently on CC, are not all the same with respect to campus culture and student vibes. Many people on the board talk about how the feel of one college can be very different from another even if the stats of the student population are largely similar (pre-professional, preppy, athletic, artsy, etc). This thread is designed as an opportunity for posters to share their impressions of the vibe of any and all HBCUs that they have any experience with, as a school’s vibe/feel is also a key piece of the fit puzzle when students are looking for a college.
Great topic! I’m excited about the topics popping up in the HBCU forum and the insight of contributors.
As far as the vibes at the HBCUs, the depictions on TV and movies are all that some people know so I look forward to real world perspectives. (Note: The link is meant in good natured fun and to kick off conversation and hopefully does not bother anyone.)
I have visited quite a few HBCUs in the last 5 years (at least 10) and probably been on 20 HBCU campuses overall… Here is my 1st review and I will come out with a list of more HBCUs soon.
North Carolina Agricultural & Technical State University NCAT (Greensboro, NC)
NCAT was the school that is a revelation for me personally. I did not know of North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University when I was college aged, but the impression they made on me recently is immense. The campus and new student center is amazing, and the students were bar none the nicest student body that I have ever interacted with. My entire family fell in love with NCAT and I always recommend students taking a look if you are considering HBCUs.
Morehouse College (Atlanta, GA)
My family has visited Morehouse many times over the years, but the Accepted Student Day was on Valentine’s Day in 2020 and reminded me about my own time at Morehouse. There is just something about seeing young black men dressed up in suits (Business majors at the House dress up every Friday) and the campus was buzzing with students from all over the AUC giving gifts and enjoying the beautiful February day. Although my son ended up choosing a different HBCU, I just believe that there is no place for a young Black man wanting to be educated like Morehouse. I think about going through Morehouse traditions and think about some of the Morehouse Men before me who went through the same thing and I can not believe that I am part of that family.
Howard University (Washington, D.C.)
Howard University has changed a lot over the years. The area around campus has gone through quite a bit of gentrification which has change the vibe somewhat from my late 90’s college days. Both of my kids chose to attend Howard (recent HU22 graduate and HU24 student) and their generous financial aid to my family and spending more time on that campus has given me an appreciation of Howard and it’s history (the history of the Divine 9 flows through the campus, Howard Law School’s immense contribution to Civil Rights, etc.). Howard’s surrounding area has always been a little bit too much of the big city for me personally, but it is hard to be bored with all that is going on (Hands down the best Homecoming out of HBCU Homecomings that I have attended). Out of all of the HBCUs that I have visited, Howard student body may be the most “competitive” or “slightly cutthroat” but I believe that it is the students and that “Howard Hustle” that make Howard alumni so valuable out in the workforce. One thing to watch out for is the imbalanced male to female ratio (28 males: 72 females overall)…
Tuskegee University (Tuskegee, AL)
Tuskegee University is in an area where its campus is the only thing around, but the campus is absolutely gorgeous to me (Top 3 in my book), with nice dorms and is a well kept campus. The history of the campus and the legacy of Booker T. Washington and George Washington Carver are all through the campus and the small museum on campus just made me proud of the many accomplishments achieved at Tuskegee. We toured during the summer session, so there where not many students on campus, but the tour guide was a senior from Los Angeles and he may have been the tour guide out of all of the schools that I have ever visited who just loved his school (that always means something to me).
Clark Atlanta University (Atlanta, GA)
Clark Atlanta always holds a special place for me (my wife is an alumnus and visiting her in her very nice campus apartment was one of my favorite things to do). The campus and student body is much smaller today than it was when I lived in the AUC, but I have always believed that Clark Atlanta students are the heart of AUC and I can tell that is still the case today. Clark Atlanta’s campus is in the city of Atlanta more than Morehouse and Spelman so it gives a different vibe. One thing that still irks my wife today is that Clark Atlanta students had a curfew her entire freshman year (11pm on weekdays and midnight on Friday and Saturday) or you were locked out of your dorm or got in trouble. I wonder what they do today?
Xavier University of Louisiana (New Orleans, LA)
I normally put Xavier near the bottom of my campus rankings because the campus is in a residential neighborhood with no gates in the middle of New Orleans. But the school and the academics at XULA are intense, especially for the students planning on going into any medical based field. My oldest did a summer program after her junior year in high school at XULA for 3 weeks and they worked those students almost all day, every weekday that they were in town. The amount of work that those students went through in 3 weeks was shocking and my student was exhausted when she came home, but she saw what college could be like and absolutely “manhandled” her early college classes just based on the work ethic that the XULA program was trying to instill in students. XULA does not have a football team so the vibe is a little different from the HBCU schools with football team based homecomings. That campus has maybe the most “serious” HBCU students because XULA expects excellence.
Hampton University (Hampton, VA)
What a beautiful campus (Top 1 in my book) Hampton University is right off of the Chesapeake Bay and it is just so beautiful. It is not a particular large campus and Hampton is one of the last “old school” HBCUs that doesn’t allow freshman to have visitation most years until Homecoming week (if they are good or sometime after Homecoming if they are not) and freshmen have a curfew which always angers freshmen every year. There are not a lot of things to do off campus, so off campus parties at students apartments was one of the few ways for students to let loose. Some of the freshman dorms needed to be remodeled when we visited, but I personally like seeing students not always living in luxury.
So I want to include HBCUs on my teen’s college list. Teen is an aspiring Chemical Engineer. I have North Carolina A&T, Howard & FAMU on the list. I am worried about the housing issues that I hear about at HBCUs as well as issues with financial aid coming through and the like.
Are there any HBCUs with solid engineering programs that are known to be especially efficient administratively, particularly when it comes to housing and financial aid for their students?
I will give a shout out to Tuskegee who has a nice engineering program and is above average to excellent with housing and financial aid. The 1 issue that my kids could not get over was how secluded and “in the middle of nowhere” the school is, but the dorms were very nice, the student body was friendly and the resources were good. I would have loved to shout out my home base (AUC schools Morehouse, Spelman, and Clark-Atlanta), but doing the 3/2 dual degree program is more expensive with that 5th year of schooling.
Are you looking for on campus housing for all 4 years? My coworker’s kids both go to North Carolina A&T. She really seems happy with it, but I know her eldest lived in an apartment junior and senior year.
Adding here that Tuskegee is part of National Student Exchange. NSE is a program that allows up to 2 semesters of domestic exchange at no additional cost. It can be a nice option for Engineering majors in particular, because unlike in “study abroad”, credits transfer pretty seamlessly as long as the other program is also ABET accredited. I recommend it a lot to students in my state who want to experience an HBCU but aren’t ready to sign on for 4 years so far away from home (there are no HBCU’s in our state.) https://nse.org/
ETA: The other HBCUs that are part of NSE are Alabama State, North Carolina Central, Southern University, Bowie State, Prairie View A&M, Florida A&M, Virginia State, South Carolina State, and UVI St. Croix and St. Thomas
I think I am looking for potential housing all 4 years. Is that normal or do most get apartments the later years?
I have to give Tuskegee a look. You are the second person this week to have mentioned the school in a favorable way. The only thing I am worried about is I don’t think my teen wants to be that far away. Teen wants to be within a 5-6 hour drive from home state but we are expanding the search to include states where I have a loved one I trust, which is why we included North Carolina and Florida. But I am going to research Tuskegee.
It is normal at many or most colleges (not limited to HBCUs) for many or most residential students to live nearby off campus in later years.
If the college has a common data set available, you can look in section F1 to see the percentage of frosh living in campus housing (a reasonable proxy for percentage of residential students at most colleges, though it may underestimate residential students at campuses with independent dorms marketed to incoming frosh, and some residential students have “suitcase” behavior, going back to the family home on most weekends) versus the percentage of all undergraduates living in campus housing.
For example, Howard’s common data set for 2021-2022 says that 95% of frosh live in campus housing, but 56% of all undergraduates live in campus housing.
Tuskegee also advertises attractive scholarships, if money is a concern: Freshman Scholarships | Tuskegee University
That tends not to be normal to be on-campus 4 years at most schools, but every HBCU that my kids received cost of attendance full rides offered 4 years of guaranteed on-campus housing (Howard and Tuskegee were 2 schools that did this).
Howard only guarantees 2 years of on-campus housing for students (unless you are an athlete or on certain scholarships that put a housing guarantee in writing). A lot of parents struggle every year with finding affordable housing in Washington DC for their upperclassmen students.
Interesting that the University of the Virgin Islands is listed as a HBCU. Is that because, when it was set up, it was specifically meant to serve black students, or is it an HBCU by default because most residents of the Virgin Islands are black, and that’s reflected in the school demographics?
I’m not exactly sure. Its history is unlike most HBCUs which were founded shortly after the Civil War. UVI is young-- it was founded in the 1960s and was granted official HBCU status in the 1980s.
Florida A&M shares facilities with FSU, and I believe there are also shared apartment buildings that are like dorms/suites. A private company rents the rooms to individual students so the student is only responsible for his own rent for his own room, but shares a living room and kitchen. They allow 4 students who are friends to live together, but if one moves out or leaves school, the company can put another student in the apt. (really no different than a shared dorm room, except there is no RA to settle disputes.
They also share an engineering division. Could be an arbitrage opportunity for an aspiring engineer interested in either school – apply to both and see which one offers the lower net price after financial aid and scholarships.