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What are the Largest HBCUs?

The 10 largest historically black colleges account for 33% of HBCU students and are located in seven states throughout the Southeast.

Taylor Nichols Written By: Taylor Nichols
Published: October 12, 2022

Historically Black colleges and universities have played a critical role in higher education and driven economic mobility for Black Americans for the last 150 years. Most were established in the late 1800s and early 1900s in the Southeast to educate African Americans after the Civil War. Some started as teaching schools, while others trained future ministers or seamstresses.

Today, 20% of Black college graduates earn their degree at an HBCU, and 10% of the Black student population attends an HBCU. The most recent data from the U.S. Department of Education shows that 338,339 students were enrolled at HBCUs in the 2020-21 school year.

One in three HBCU students attended one of the top 10 largest HBCUs in the country for the 2020-21 school year. Most of the largest HBCUs are public institutions in southern and southeastern states like Texas and North Carolina. Our list below highlights the 10 largest HBCUs based on the most recent enrollment data available. 

Enrollment numbers include undergraduate, graduate, and first professional students for the 2020-21 school year and are sourced from the U.S. Department of Education through the IPEDS system. Admissions rates and Pell recipient rates come from the Postsecondary Value Commission. Federal earnings data and published tuition and fees also come from the U.S. Department of Education.

What are the 10 Largest HBCUs by Enrollment?

School State Total Enrollment (2020-21) In-state tuition and fees (2021-22) Out-of-state tuition and fees (2021-22)
St Philip’s College TX 21,431 $6,592 $14,122
North Carolina A&T State University NC 14,121 $6,733 $20,243
Howard University DC 11,633 $28,916 $28,916
Prairie View A & M University TX 10,303 $11,299 $26,874
Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University FL 10,221 $5,785 $17,725
North Carolina Central University NC 9,000 $6,644 $19,351
Southern University and A & M College LA 8,749 $9,842 $17,192
Fayetteville State University NC 8,658 $5,379 $16,987
Virginia State University VA 8,654 $9,154 $20,909
Tennessee State University TN 8,424 $8,336 $21,692

HBCUs see enrollment growth during COVID-19

According to data from the National Center for Education Statistics, HBCUs have seen an 11% increase in Black enrollment since 1976. That trend has continued during the pandemic despite overall college enrollment declines since 2020. HBCUs continued to see a significant increase in applications and enrollment numbers in many cases. Previous articles have highlighted a number of causes that have driven interest in HBCUs. The Black Lives Matter movement, racial tensions, safety concerns for Black students, high profile alumni in the spotlight, and significant donations in recent years have all played a part, according to reporting from Inside Higher Ed and Forbes

HBCUs are uniquely equipped to support Black college students in navigating the barriers they often face in higher education, which predominantly white schools have historically struggled to address. Financial considerations are also often a factor for students applying to HBCUs, which are typically more affordable than other colleges.

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