The terms "minority college" or "minority university" are often
associated with institutions with a historical focus on African-American students.
But there are colleges and universities with proportionately large student
enrollment from other ethnic or racial groups, such as Latinos, Asians, Native
Americans or Pacific Islanders.
Government classification includes
the following descriptions and commonly used acronyms: Historically Black
College and University (HBCU), Hispanic Serving Institution (HSI), Tribal
College and University (TCU) and Minority Postsecondary Institution (MPI).
HBCUs are post-secondary schools founded prior to 1964, primarily
for the education of African-Americans, though without an exclusionary charter.
In 1994, 280,000 students attended 103 HBCUs.
Other colleges and
universities currently have a majority of African-American students, but as
they were founded after 1964, they are not considered historically black colleges.
At the same time, some historically black colleges now have non-black majorities.
"HBCUs encompass a variety of institution types including public and
private; single-sex and co-ed; predominately black and predominately white;
two-year and four-year colleges, research universities, professional schools,
as well as small liberal arts colleges," write Charlene M. Hoffman, Thomas
D. Snyder and Bill Sonnenberg in the U.S. Department of Education (DOE) article,
Historically Black Colleges and Universities, 1976-1994.
of HBCUs definitely has a historical context. The first of today's HBCUs started
up before the American Civil War.
"The earliest of these colleges
was formed during the 1830s (Cheyney University of Pennsylvania) to counter
the prevailing practice of limiting or prohibiting the education of blacks,
most of whom were still slaves," write Hoffman, Snyder and Sonnenberg.
Wesley Cash is vice-president for enrollment management at Spelman College
in Atlanta. Taking in its first students in 1881, Spelman is America's oldest
historically black college for women and one of the most highly regarded.
Cash says, "Historically Black Colleges and Universities came into
existence during a time when higher education was not equitably accessible
to students of color. Most came into existence soon after the emancipation
of slaves when freed slaves were able to take part in the education system
as a whole. Many HBCUs started out as normal schools, enrolling students at
every stage of their academic development.... Even during their initial years,
these schools were not exclusive to black students, though it was unlikely
that other students would have wanted to attend a school where they were in
Tribal colleges have a unique history of their own.
According to the report from the American Institute for Higher Education Policy,
Tribal Colleges: An Introduction:
"The history of American Indian
higher education over the past several hundred years is one of compulsory
Western methods of learning, recurring attempts to eradicate tribal culture,
and high dropout rates by American Indian students at mainstream institutions.
In reaction to this history, American Indian leaders built on the success
of the 'self-determination' movement of the 1960s to rethink tribal higher
Tribal colleges were therefore created in the last 30
years to better meet the higher education needs of Native Americans. TCUs
aim particularly to serve geographically isolated populations with no other
means of accessing education beyond high school.
The report continues,
"Tribal colleges ... have become increasingly essential to educational opportunity
for American Indian students, a status they have achieved in a relatively
brief period of time. Tribal colleges are unique institutions that combine
personal attention with cultural relevance, in such a way as to encourage
American Indians -- especially those living on reservations -- to overcome
the barriers in higher education."
Hispanic Serving Institutions are
identified by the Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities (HACU)
as: "A non-profit accredited college, university or system where total Hispanic
enrollment constitutes a minimum of 25 percent of the total enrollment."
the brief, Choosing Hispanic-Serving Institutions: A Closer Look at Latino
Students' College Choices, Deborah A. Santiago writes: "Latino student choices
create HSIs. The classification of a campus as an HSI shows no evidence of
influencing Latino student college choices. However, most HSIs have institutional
characteristics that align with Latino student priorities and needs and explain
why many students choose HSIs."
The HACU, the only national educational
association that represents HSIs and helped them obtain federal funding, argues
that, "Our nation's economic and social success rests on the level of skills
and knowledge attained by Hispanics, now the nation's largest minority population....
Everyone has a stake in HACU's crucial goals: to promote the development of
member colleges and universities; to improve access to and the quality of
post-secondary educational opportunities for Hispanic students; and to meet
the needs of business, industry and government through the development and
sharing of resources, information and expertise."
Why does a student
choose a minority school and what are the benefits? Typically it's due to
family precedent; celebrating historical or ethnic traditions; a comfortable
learning environment; and, living among and learning about other cultures.
There are also reasons such as location, cost and accessibility that lead
students to select an ethnically identified college or university.
Mark Allen Grevious is interim chief of the Division of Plastic and Reconstructive
Surgery at Chicago's John H. Stroger Hospital of Cook County. He is also a
graduate of Morehouse College, a private, all-male, historically black college
in Atlanta, some of whose other alumni are Martin Luther King Jr., Samuel
L. Jackson and Spike Lee.
Grevious says, "The first and most important
reason that I chose to attend [an HBCU] was because that had been the tradition
in my family, starting [with] my father, who attended Morgan State University.
My mother attended the racially diverse Chicago Teachers' College, now Chicago
State University, a primarily black college.
"My older brother Kevin
chose to attend Howard University and another older brother, Steven, chose
Morehouse College. I was closer in age to my brother Steven, and he is an
outstanding leader. He always makes great decisions and so I decided to follow
him to Morehouse.
"For me, it turned out to be the most important
decision of my life. When I look back over my educational career -- this includes
high school -- there was no other time in my life that I was able to learn
without any external pressures and having to compete with others of different
backgrounds who had more or better access to resources than I had. At Morehouse,
I was really able to focus and just learn.
"It was great to go to
an institution of higher learning and see that the president, vice-president
and all the rest of the leaders were strong, intelligent and African-American.
This helped me to feel that I could be successful. There was a dedication
of the faculty to empower the minds of young African-American men. There was
healthy competition, and as classmates, we wanted each other to succeed. Some
of my closest friends are from Morehouse. We stay in close contact even today.
I am grounded and confident in who I am despite what attacks may come my way."
Kevin Gales is director of relationship marketing for HSR Business
to Business in Chicago. He graduated from Hampton University, an HBCU in Hampton,
Gales says, "I chose to attend a historically black college
mainly for a couple of reasons: quality of education and the overall experience
... as well as, that was around the time Hampton started being ranked every
year in the US News and World Report as a top school."
He points out
that the education offered at HBCU schools like Hampton is on par with non-HBCU
schools, while perhaps offering a more encouraging environment for African-American
students: "For example, Hampton graduated more African-American students who
went on to get graduate degrees than any other school in the U.S."
minority colleges will accept students regardless of ethnic or racial group.
Costs may vary and some costs may be lower.
Cash says, "Our doors are open to any student, and in general I think that
you will find costs to be lower at HBCUs. Programs offered are usually about
the same. We all offer study abroad opportunities, internships, solid career
placement programs, special academic programs appropriate to our specific
missions and resources, and seek to enroll students who are academically prepared
"HBCUs are not among the 30 or so colleges or universities
that can afford to scholarship every student from the interest in their endowments.
We offer scholarships as our funds allow, like most colleges and universities.
We see an extraordinary number of Gates Scholars choosing to enroll at HBCUs,
and these are students who can use their scholarship for full payment at the
college of their choice."