HBCUs Are Just as Beneficial as PWIs

Zaire A. Davis

Historically black colleges and institutions are universities that promote diversity and serve as a safe place for minority students to learn and excel. The mission of almost all of these schools is to have their students thrive.


A picture of Cheyney University, the first HBCU.

While gaining valuable knowledge, students can come to these schools with the assurance that they will be surrounded by individuals who can relate to themselves in certain aspects. The first HBCU is Cheyney University of Pennsylvania which was established in 1837. According to the article, The First HBCU: Remembering the Oldest Black Colleges in the Nation, founder Richard Humphreys donated his money to build up the school so that blacks could go somewhere to get development for the job market.

The first HBCU to give out degrees to its students is Lincoln University, which was founded in 1854. These institutions were created for black students. In the 1800s and 1900s, it was difficult for blacks to gain an education, not due to their lack of understanding and comprehensive skills, but due to the inequalities that years of slavery and segregations had resulted in. Predominantly white institutions, or otherwise known as PWIs, are universities that are made up of mostly Caucasians. The article, HBCU vs. PWI: A Different Perspective, claims that “up until 1963, which is when Clemson University in South Carolina was finally integrated, black students weren’t allowed to attend PWIs – hence the creation of HBCUs in the 1800s.”


A majority of PWIs were not segregated when they were first established. Black attendance was not an option. HBCUs were not created to be racist. These schools were made to give African Americans opportunities.

At HBCUs, students have the opportunity to take diversity credits and learn about African American history, something that is not prioritized at PWIs. At Delaware State University, a traditional HBCU founded in 1861 and located in the state capitol, Dover, attendees of the university can take courses such as African American Literature, African American History, and African American Music. Being able to enroll in such courses is not a privilege that all black collegiate students have or will ever get.



A graph that represents the average diversity in faculty at HBCUs.

HBCUs provide their students with the right to use their platform for themselves. At PWIs, there are usually not enough people to voice the opinions and matters of the minority students. Black students are often overshadowed in these classrooms. However, at HBCUs, students can bring out the confidence that is rooted inside themselves. HBCUs provide handfuls of black professors, advisors, and classmates. 

These institutions were not created to instill segregation, however, they were established to give these students a safe haven and provide the comfort of being around likeminded individuals who they can relate to and learn from. Graduates from historically black colleges and universities are more likely to succeed in their futures when compared to black graduates from other institutions.

HBCU students have more resources available for black students such as scholarships. “HBCUs remain at the forefront of opening doors that had previously been closed to so many,” said Education Secretary Betsy DeVos. “You made higher education accessible to students who otherwise would have been denied the opportunity.” HBCUs give young people an outlet to maneuver and create their own success.


Popular universities represented on each state.

At PWIs, it is less likely for a black student to graduate on time when being compared to a white student. In the article, HBCUs Graduate More Poor Black Students than White Students, graduation rates were analyzed and compared. “At the 676 public and private nonprofit institutions included in The Education Trust survey (not including HBCUs), the six-year graduation rate for black students was 45.4 percent — 19.3 points lower than the 64.7 percent graduation rate for white students.” HBCU black students are more likely to graduate than if they were to go to a PWI institution.

However, it is a common belief that degrees earned at PWIs hold more weight since the courses and curriculum is deemed to be harder.  In the article, Ending the HBCU Vs. PWI Debate Once and for All, author Julian Randall claims that some people “believe that PWI’s makes them more acclimated to “the real world” and in corporate settings, which see white people as the racial majority.” Though this may be a true conception, HBCUs give students a chance to learn in a safe, diverse space before having to deal with the “real world”.


An image representation of the organizations that make up of the Divine 9.

HBCUs usually have organizations on their campuses that minorities might prefer to be apart of rather than the lack of diversity clubs that are offered at PWIs. The “Divine 9” is the term used to reference the collaborative black sororities and fraternities that have prioritized scholarship, service, and black excellence since the early 1900s. It is very common for these organizations to be hosted at HBCUs. Upperclassmen students are able to attempt to join but must have excellent academic standing and a background in community service.  Being a member of one of these prestigious sororities and fraternities is an accomplishment. Martin Luther King, Coretta Scott King, Thurgall Marshall, Michael Jordan, Angela Bassett, Aretha Franklin, Phylicia Rashad, Alicia Keys, Jada Pinkett Smith, and so many more are members of the Divine 9.


At HBCUs, there is a sense of community. Most HBCUs are smaller than PWIs. Students have the opportunity to get to know their professors on a personal level rather than just seeing them as a person who lectures at them for fifty minutes a couple times throughout the week. There is a sense of uplifting on HBCU campuses. Students might come from similar upbringings and be able to relate to others rather than students who are nothing like them.

Graduates celebrate during 2014 graduation ceremonies at Howard University in Washington

Excited graduates of Brookings Institution waving and smiling.

HBCUs have been deemed to not be as challenging as PWIs. Some might say that there are many disadvantages in regards to attending an HBCU. However, colleges and universities that were established for blacks have produced many successful alumni. These schools send graduates into the “real world” after giving them as much preparation as possible.


These schools make the success of the black student a priority and many have shown as results. In the article, 5 Reasons to Attend a Historically Black College and University (HBCU), the author, Chanté Griffin claims that black culture, connection to black history, outstanding programs, supportive environment, and unique networking connections are why students should consider attending am HBCU.

Though all universities should be focused on the academic process a student makes, HBCUs tend to be more focused on the student itself than at PWIs. Diversity will be found at HBCUs, something that is not guaranteed at PWIs. Being able to feel comfortable on a college campus while feeling comfortable in your own skin is something that each and every student should and want to be ensured when choosing a university to earn a degree from.










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