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2023 Best HBCUs With Online Programs

By Holly Johnson | Updated 10/24/2022

HBCU meaning can vary from student to student, yet the importance of these prestigious institutions cannot be overstated. The fact is, historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs) are a source of accomplishment and pride for many in the United States, and especially those with African American heritage.

HBCUs offer smaller student-to-teacher class ratios, various STEM programs, and research opportunities. Black students who attend an HBCU are more likely to get a higher paying position after graduation than non-HBCU students. HBCU graduates with the highest starting salaries majored in Finance and Financial Management Services, Chemical Engineering, and Economics. 

Below, explore our comprehensive list of the best HBCUs, which includes all HBCUs with students enrolled in distance education, as indicated by the U.S. Department of Education. We also include descriptions of each college based on this government data.

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Most Popular Degrees

School Online Enrollment Annual Tuition Acceptance Rate
St Philip's College 3,414 3,414 $14,220 $14,220 NA NA
Fayetteville State University 2,317 $16,882 67.6%
Jackson State University 1,420 $9,445 71.7%
North Carolina Central University 1,331 $19,241 82.8%
Albany State University 1,277 $16,656 90.0%
North Carolina A&T State University 1,193 $20,167 62.2%
Gadsden State Community College 755 $7,032 NA
Winston-Salem State University 694 $16,188 66.6%
Grambling State University 682 $16,706 42.8%
Shelton State Community College 651 $8,471 NA
Texas Southern University 593 $21,833 66.7%
Kentucky State University 563 $11,940 45.3%
Alcorn State University 550 $7,290 78.6%
Hampton University 457 $28,024 36.2%
Tennessee State University 456 $21,732 NA
Southern University at Shreveport 454 $7,650 NA
Coahoma Community College 415 $3,003 NA
West Virginia State University 377 $17,691 97.6%
Norfolk State University 310 $20,790 90.1%
Southern University and A & M College 291 $16,491 45.5%
Prairie View A & M University 251 $25,654 78.9%
Savannah State University 248 $16,204 55.8%
Morgan State University 223 $18,480 63.7%
Bluefield State College 220 $14,352 81.5%
University of the Virgin Islands 183 $14,496 98.4%
Claflin University 179 $17,192 41.2%
Coppin State University 163 $15,361 36.5%
Delaware State University 144 $17,294 45.2%
Wiley College 129 $12,522 NA
Southern University at New Orleans 127 $16,070 24.7%
Oakwood University 123 $19,990 47.1%
Fort Valley State University 108 $16,494 43.7%
Lincoln University - MO 105 $14,898 NA
Bethune-Cookman University 104 $14,814 NA
Alabama A & M University 102 $18,634 90.3%
Talladega College 100 $13,846 NA
Langston University 91 $13,840 NA
Interdenominational Theological Center 90 $14,945 NA
Johnson C Smith University 69 $18,784 38.1%
Alabama State University 57 $19,396 97.9%
Virginia University of Lynchburg 56 $9,000 NA
Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University 49 $17,725 45.6%
Paul Quinn College 38 $9,125 54.3%
Xavier University of Louisiana 35 $25,055 64.1%
Howard University 22 $27,206 41.4%
Philander Smith College 14 $13,014 NA
South Carolina State University 12 $21,750 78.3%

Albany State University

  • Annual Tuition: $16,656
  • Locations: Albany (GA)
  • Accreditation: SACS COC

Albany State University (ASU) is a 4-year, public institution located in Albany, Georgia, with a medium-sized student population. ASU has a 28% graduation rate, and the average cost of tuition is $13,520 per year. ASU offers associate, baccalaureate, masters, and specialist degrees. Some of the programs offered include addiction counseling, medical coding, social work, and nursing.

ASU facilitates in-person and distance learning programs, with over 60 online programs available to prospective students. Student resources include tutoring, a writing center, counseling, an information technology division, and learning centers. The acceptance rate at ASU is 73%, so it's important to submit all admission requirements: an application, official transcripts, immunization records, and a FAFSA application.

Fayetteville State University

  • Annual Tuition: $16,882
  • Locations: Fayetteville (NC)
  • Accreditation: SACS COC

Fayetteville State University (FSU) is a medium-sized, public, four-year institution based in Fayetteville, North Carolina. The university has a graduation rate of 45%, and the average annual cost of tuition is $6,969. FSU has over 800 faculty and offers over 60 degrees to choose from. In addition, the university is accredited by the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE), and it's the #1 HBCU for producing teachers in North Carolina.

At FSU, prospective students may take in-person or distance learning programs, like accounting, computer science, psychology, and mathematics. Student support at FSU covers academic advising, career services, veterans services, and technological assistance. FSU’s general admission requirements are an application and official transcripts. The school's acceptance rate is 79%.

Gadsden State Community College

  • Annual Tuition: $7,032
  • Locations: Gadsden (AL)
  • Accreditation: SACS COC

Gadsden State Community College (Gadsden State) is a 2-year, medium-sized, public institution founded in Gadsden, Alabama. This community college has a graduation rate of 22%, with an annual tuition of $4,538. Gadsden State boasts a 15:1 student-to-teacher ratio, and they also claim that they are 39% more affordable than the national average among public universities.

Gadsden State offers in-person, online, and hybrid degree programs. Students can access tutoring, TRiO programs, a bookstore, an IT helpdesk, disability services, and veterans services. The general admission requirements for GSCC — which has a 100% acceptance rate — are an application and official transcripts.

Grambling State University

  • Annual Tuition: $16,706
  • Locations: Grambling (LA)
  • Accreditation: SACS COC

Grambling State University (Grambling) is a 4-year, medium-sized, public institution in Grambling, Louisiana. Grambling's graduation rate is 42%, and the average tuition cost is $16,964 per year. Grambling is the #1 producer of African American computer science graduates in the U.S., but they offer a host of other programs in specialties like the biological sciences, family and consumer sciences, history, and political science.

At Grambling, prospective students can choose between in-person or online learning. Students can access counseling, student services, career services, and a bookstore. Grambling has a 93% acceptance rate, and the general admission requirements include an application, ACT/SAT scores, official transcripts, and proof of immunizations.

Jackson State University

  • Annual Tuition: $9,445
  • Locations: Jackson (MS)
  • Accreditation: SACS COC

Jackson State University (JSU) is a four-year, medium-sized, public institution in Jackson, Mississippi. The graduation rate at JSU is 45%, with an estimated annual cost of tuition around $18,152 per year. With a 90% acceptance rate for students, the chances of getting into JSU are pretty high. JSUMS’s general admission requirements are an application, official transcripts, and test scores.

JSU offers both in-person and distance learning programs, including 47 undergraduate programs, 50 graduate programs, and 19 online programs. In terms of online offerings through JSU Online, the school has five bachelor's degrees, 11 master's degrees, and three specialist programs. These programs are facilitated through the learning management system, Canvas.

North Carolina A&T State University

  • Annual Tuition: $20,167
  • Locations: Greensboro (NC)
  • Accreditation: SACS COC

North Carolina A&T State University (NC A&T) is a 4-year, medium-sized, public institution in Greensboro, North Carolina. As the largest HBCU in North Carolina, NC A&T has a 50% graduation rate, and the average annual tuition costs $10,563. The land grant doctoral research university boasts a national reputation in STEM education. In addition, NC A&T is considered the #1 public HBCU in the nation.

At NC A&T, in-person and online learning — through A&T Online — are available to prospective students at the bachelor’s and master’s levels. Students can access career services, a library, a bookstore, counseling, and a student center. The general admission requirements include an application, official transcripts, and a high school diploma or GED, but it's important to keep in mind that the acceptance rate is only 57%.

North Carolina Central University

  • Annual Tuition: $19,241
  • Locations: Durham (NC)
  • Accreditation: SACS COC

North Carolina Central University (NCCU) is a 4-year, public institution in Durham, North Carolina, and it has a medium-sized student population. The institution’s graduation rate is 47%, with an average tuition of $14,332 per year. The campus holds two research institutes and collaborates with the Research Triangle Park industries. In addition, NCCU has a Division 1 sports program — which is the highest level of college athletics in the U.S. — and teams that have won the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference championship.

At NCCU, prospective students can choose between in-person and virtual learning programs that are 100% online through the learning management system, Blackboard. Student support includes tutoring, library services, counseling, career services, and a veterans center. NCCU’s general admission requirements include an application, official transcripts, and test scores; the school's acceptance rate is 87%.

Shelton State Community College

  • Annual Tuition: $8,471
  • Locations: Tuscaloosa (AL)
  • Accreditation: SACS COC

Shelton State Community College (Shelton State) is a 2-year, medium-sized, public institution located in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. On average, the annual tuition at Shelton State is $8,010. The institution has over 7,000 students enrolled in associate degree programs. Students have the option of taking in-person and/or virtual classes, and Shelton State has a range of programs, such as anthropology, business, religion, speech communication, and Spanish — to name a few options. Additionally, Shelton State offers career, disability, tutoring, and advising services.

The community college has a graduation rate of 15%, but they also have a 100% acceptance policy. Shelton State's general admission requirements are an application and official transcripts.

St Philip's College

  • Annual Tuition: $14,220
  • Locations: San Antonio (TX)
  • Accreditation: SACS COC

St. Philip’s College (SPC) is a public, two-year institution with a medium-sized student population in San Antonio, Texas. This community college has an average graduation rate of 16%, with the average annual cost estimated at $6,829 per year. In addition to offering associate degrees, prospective students can pursue certificates, continuing education units, and pre-major educational plans. Enrollment is available all year-round in each quarter, and SPC has a 100% acceptance rate.

SPC offers in-person, virtual, and hybrid learning options. In addition, remote students can access a child development center, writing center, bookstore, and library. SPC also offers career services and technical support. General admission requirements at SPC include an application, transcripts, and supporting documents based on a student's chosen major.

Winston-Salem State University

  • Annual Tuition: $16,188
  • Locations: Winston-Salem (NC)
  • Accreditation: SACS COC

Winston-Salem State University (WSSU) is a 4-year, medium-sized, public institution in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. The university’s graduation rate is 61%, and the school has an average annual tuition of $12,415. WSSU is one of the top ten HBCUs in the United States and one of the top ten military-friendly small public schools. Spread over 117 acres, WSSU offers programs like Arts & Entertainment, Communications, Languages & Media, and Business, Leadership & Entrepreneurship.

WSSU offers in-person and online degrees — from bachelor's and master's degrees to the doctorate level — to future students. Student resources cover financial services, academic services, a bookstore, career services, and counseling. WSSU, which has a 73% acceptance rate, requires an application and official transcripts for admission.

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What Is an HBCU?

As the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) notes, HBCUs are "institutions that were established prior to 1964 with the principal mission of educating Black Americans."

As you study the era in which these schools were envisioned and brought to life, you should know that HBCUs were founded when segregation by race was perfectly legal in the United States. By expanding access to higher education to African Americans, HBCUs contributed to the betterment and progress of Black families for decades to come.

How Many HBCUS Are There?

As of 2020, there were 101 HBCUs open in the United States. However, these schools exist in just 19 states, plus Washington D.C. and the Virgin Islands. The NCES also notes that, during the 2019-2020 academic year, HBCUs conferred some 48,200 degrees to graduating students.

The History of HBCUs

The first HBCUs were founded in the early 1800s before the American Civil War. These schools were envisioned as a pathway for Black youth to receive the higher education they were denied at other colleges and universities during times when discrimination was legal and commonplace.

The fact is, anti-literacy laws prevented African Americans from obtaining an education prior to to the end of slavery in 1865. By denying Black people the right to read and learn, slave owners and society were better able to maintain their source of power and control.

According to Louisiana State University, free people of color were allowed to attend traditional colleges and universities in states that had abolished slavery during this time, yet they were unsurprisingly plagued by discrimination and racism at every turn. With this in mind, HBCUs were envisioned as a source of Black education without many of the roadblocks students faced as they tried to attend other schools.

That said, the term HBCU did not come about until the passage of the Higher Education Act of 1965, which expanded funding from the federal government for colleges and universities.

What Was the First HBCU?

Cheyney University of Pennsylvania became the first HBCU on February 25, 1837. Interestingly, the school was originally founded by a Quaker philanthropist named Richard Humphreys who donated $10,000, or 10% of his estate at the time, to establish an institution of higher education that would prepare people with African heritage for a career in teaching.

While originally named the African Institute, Cheyney University was also referred to as the Institute for Colored Youth until 1913, when it moved to George Cheyney’s farm outside of Philadelphia.

The school went on to become a charter member of the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education (PASSHE), and it remains the oldest institution of higher education as well as the only HBCU among 14 member schools.

Why Do Historically Black Colleges Exist?

HBCUs may only make up 3% of institutions of higher education today, but they continue to thrive due to their rich heritage and high standards for excellence.



Millions from diverse backgrounds continue to choose HBCUs due to their high educational standards and inclusive learning environments.

The fact is, these schools provide a place for students of color (and others) to learn and grow without fear of discrimination and racism. It's true that Black students have more options when it comes to higher education since the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, yet millions from diverse backgrounds continue to choose HBCUs due to their high educational standards and inclusive learning environments.

Why Are Historically Black Colleges Important? A Case Study

When you realize the historical relevance of HBCUs, it's hard not to take pride in their rich history and perseverance. HBCUs have become an integral part of the fabric of America since those early days, and the list of historically Black colleges continues to be important today.

The fact is, HBCUs can serve as a refuge for Black students who want to pursue higher education in an environment that makes them feel comfortable and understood.

Expert Contributor

Chenadra Washington, who is the founder of Black Orchids PR, had a strong interest in attending an HBCU because she knew she needed a "village feel" to help her transition into adulthood. Growing up in a predominately African American neighborhood in Houston, Texas, Washington says she has always cherished being around her culture.

Ultimately, she decided to attend Huston-Tillotson University in Austin, Texas, and she credits the school environment for not making her feel out of place. This made all the difference, especially for someone at such a transformative age:

“You are connected to your culture and people that look like you without feeling watched or scrutinized," says Washington. "There was this beautiful community experience that I know I would have not experienced anywhere else.”

Washington also recalls teachers that personally called her to ensure she had gas money and was prepared to make the occasional drives back to Houston.

After graduating with the highest honors, Washington found herself striving to build a corporate career. The stark difference between her beloved HBCU community and the corporate space would leave Washington longing to go back to a place where it felt like she belonged.

She says that if she could go back and do it all over again, an HBCU would still be her choice.

“The history and resiliency of HBCUs will always make me beam with pride. They are cornerstones in our communities, and more [people] should understand their greatness.”

HBCU Admission

Like with all other colleges and universities, admission requirements for HBCUs vary widely. For example, applying to attend college typically requires you to meet minimum requirements, such as a minimum GPA and the completion of college entrance exams

Some HBCUs offer open admission, which means most people who apply will be accepted to the school. Others have regular admission, which means only students who meet minimum academic standards will be allowed to attend.

Ultimately, admission requirements should be a major consideration as you pick a college or university. Other factors to consider include the size of each school, which you can learn by comparing the largest HBCUs by enrollment.

You can also research which HBCU majors have the highest average starting salaries. Our college guide for Black students and guide for underrepresented students can even help you pinpoint exactly what you're looking for in prospective schools, whether that means finding schools with ethnically diverse populations or exploring the best financial aid options.

Do You Have To Be Black To Attend an HBCU?

When many people first learn of HBCUs, they tend to have one important question right off the bat: Can white people attend HBCUs?

The answer to this question is that, yes, white people and individuals of any race or ethnicity are welcome to attend historically Black colleges and universities. In fact, the NCES reports that non-Black students made up 24% of all enrolled students at HBCUs as of 2020.

Bottom Line

If you're comparing schools and wondering if an HBCU could work for your needs, you should know that many of these schools offer an exceptional return-on-value for Black students. You should also know that many HBCUs have a robust online presence, meaning they offer various hybrid and fully online degree programs. Many online degree programs offered by HBCUs are also affordable, especially when you factor in financial aid opportunities you may be eligible for.

What does HBCU stand for? Based on the feedback we've received from current and past students, these schools stand for pride and excellence in every way. As you read over our list of historically Black colleges, it shouldn't take long for you to find a school that offers the degree program and learning environment you crave.