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Most of you know that I am a big supporter of HBCUs. I believe that the experience of attending a historically Black college or university is a valuable asset to any scholar's education. Nearly all HBCU alum agree that these institutions have high value, as do a growing number of PWI grads. Unfortunately, even those of us who love and value HBCUs don't know much about many of these schools because of how little they are talked about. We all know about Howard, the AUC, FAMU and a few others, but to expand our knowledge of HBCUs this month I want to highlight a few lesser known HBCUs. So buckle up, because we're going on a digital tour of six HBCUs across the country to see what claims to fame these schools have. Who knows, maybe you high school students or recent grads will find a school that draws you in.
I'll start off the tour of HBCUs close to home at Rust College. Rust is a private HBCU in Holly Springs, MS. Despite being about 30 minutes from Oxford and an hour from Memphis, TN, lots of education happens at this small liberal arts college. Many of its students pursue degrees in biology and other sciences and use their education to give back to the institution and their communities. Rust is particularly good at preparing it's students for graduate study, as it is one of the three HBCUs in the state partnered with the Ronald E. McNair Post-Baccalaureate Program to help students of color get doctorate degrees. Rust College tuition currently sits at just under $9,300 and with the number of various scholarships available, Rust gives you a deal you can't beat. If you enjoy small classes (about 900 students attend Rust currently), a close knit environment all united under the Methodist church, be sure to give Rust a chance! I mean, if Ida B. Wells could, surely everyone else can as well.
Let's go now to the southeast to that good old problematic state of Florida. We all know about FAMU and its many accolades, many know about Bethune-Cookman since it is the only HBCU founded by a Black woman, and the band heads know about Edward Waters College, but not many know about the fourth HBCU in the state: Florida Memorial University. You would think that the school ranked second in Florida and ninth in the nation for graduating Black teachers would be more well known, but regardless, this school in the Miami Gardens will get some recognition here. Florida Memorial stands out not only as the only HBCU in south Florida but also for its top notch Aviation program, which trains future pilots. Florida Memorial's tuition ranges depending on your housing situation (as do many of these schools), but doesn't climb above $20,000 a year. Couple that price with a partnership with the United Negro College Fund and it won't be hard to fund your education here.
Over the ocean and about 1200 miles from the Miami Gardens is the University of the Virgin Islands. This school very likely holds the honor of being the only American HBCU not in the continental USA, but that doesn't mean that it's missing out on any HBCU culture. It certainly adds to the HBCU culture with the highest alumni giving rate of any HBCU and its world renowned Marine Biology program. Sitting right on John Brewers Bay gives the school an unprecedented closeness with aquatic life that is both absolutely beautiful and ripe for scientific research. UVI strongly supports a number of STEM fields, but also supports the literary arts with its well respected literary journal The Caribbean Writer. It, like many of the schools on this list, is also a university with several graduate programs, a very affordable tuition for its location (under $14,000 for undergraduate), and plenty of diversity for those who look for that. Plus, when you walk around the campus you can say that you have been somewhere the reality show College Hill was filmed.
Speaking of locations for College Hill, back in the states we'll find Langston University. Langston holds the title of the most western HBCU by sitting in the Oklahoma city of the same name, giving west coast high school students a close option for HBCU education. This school also has a list of notable alumni from my namesake Marques Haynes to Dr. Henry Ponder, as well as nationally known choirs and bands. Langston offers a sought after Doctor of Physical Therapy degree and though it is a little larger and a little more expensive (Langston has a little under 4,000 students and out of state tuition that can be as high as $26,000 a year), the vast number of academic programs and the success rate of Langston (several of their departments, including education and the aforementioned Physical Therapy boast 100% graduation and employment rates) make that extra change and those extra people worthwhile.
We head a little north and a lot west of Oklahoma now to Jefferson City, Missouri. Lincoln University in Missouri may share its name with another HBCU in Pennsylvania, but it has quite a few claims to fame to distinguish it. Firstly, it is one the most diverse colleges in the Midwest, ranked at #5 for campus ethnic diversity and #9 for total International students (for perspective, there are only 4 HBCUs in the Midwest and over 40 PWIs. Who said HBCUs weren't diverse again?). It is also one of the schools partnered with the state of California to give community college students from there a chance at the HBCU experience. A host of notable alumni and instructors have come through Lincoln in MO, including tennis legend and coach Althea Gibson (who herself was an HBCU graduate). Lincoln University also has a whopping 50+ bachelor degree programs, all nine NPHC organizations, and a number of notable sports championships, making the $21,500 tuition more than worthwhile to be a part of such a legendary institution.
But of course you can't get much more legendary than the oldest HBCU in America. Although another northern HBCU awarded degrees before Cheyney, this institution was around for nearly twenty years before Lincoln in Pennsylvania. Maybe the battle for the distinction of "First HBCU" is why these schools have a rivalry as legendary as Howard and Hampton, Alabama State and Alabama A&M, Southern and Grambling, or Alcorn and JSU. The storied basketball team, alumni like Bayard Rustin, and tuition even cheaper than Rust's (Cheyney tuition is around $9,100), however, prove that Cheyney deserves its own respect. By focusing on only two schools (Arts & Sciences and Education and Professional Studies) Cheyney is also able to direct its about 1,500 students to the pathway of success. Cheyney has survived for 178 years by giving quality education, unforgettable experiences and a safe space for students both Black and not, despite the abundance of anti-blackness that threatens it and all HBCUs. As we end our tour, we must remember the existence of not only these six but the other 100 HBCUs as well, and realize that even when we don't learn about them these schools exist and deserve our attention.