Top Historically Black Colleges & Universities (HBCUs) for Online School
Find the best HBCUs offering online degree programs and learn how to choose the college that makes sense for you.
Last Updated: 02/24/2021
You’re getting ready to apply to college. You know you want to attend a school with a rich history of supporting Black Americans, but you also need the flexibility that comes with an online program. If this sounds like you, historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs) can offer the unique student experience you want and the online learning options you need. HBCUs also have a reputation for affordability and celebrating Black culture throughout their curriculum and within their campus culture.
HBCUs played a major role in expanding access to education for Black Americans before the Civil Rights movement. And while Black students in the U.S. today have their choice when it comes to higher education, there are plenty of solid reasons to consider an HBCU. Learn why attending an HBCU for your online program can be so valuable and find the school that best suits your needs.
The Value of a Historically Black College or University
HBCUs, most of which were founded in the first decades after the Civil War, provided educational opportunities to Black Americans who were denied enrollment at traditionally white colleges and universities. Over the subsequent decades, they’ve continued to be main post-secondary institutions for African Americans in the U.S.
Today, there are over 100 public and private colleges and universities identified by the Department of Education as HBCUs, all playing important and valuable roles, not only in the lives of their student bodies, but also in their communities and throughout the nation. Among their many contributions, HBCUs have:
- Helped narrow the underemployment gap between African Americans and the rest of the American population.
- Helped narrow the racial wealth gap in the U.S.
- Supported low-income, first-generation college students in meeting their post-secondary education goals.
- Helped to fill the continuing need for more African American STEM professionals.
- Added billions of dollars to their regional and local economies.
Now, through their distance education programs, HBCUs are expanding their reach to improve the lives of students who cannot afford or are otherwise unable to attend college on campus.
Why Choose an HBCU for Your Online Education?
Earning a college degree online is appealing to you and you understand that the value of HBCUs is strong. However, you’re not quite convinced that an online degree from an HBCU is the right choice. Here are five big benefits of an online HBCU education to help you decide:
All HBCUs today are fully and properly accredited institutions offering high-quality degrees and certificates. And according to the National Science Foundation, HBCUs are particularly successful in graduating African Americans with degrees in STEM majors. They also represent seven of the top eight schools graduating the highest number of African American undergraduates who continue on to earn doctorates.
College is expensive no matter which school you choose or whether you choose an online or a traditional campus setting. HBCUs are among the most affordable institutions you can attend, with tuition rates that run nearly on average than similar schools.
HBCUs have long provided a decidedly welcoming and supportive environment to minority students, resulting in greater academic effectiveness and success. According to survey data reported by the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, African American students at HBCUs enjoy higher levels of engagement, contact with faculty, and a greater likelihood to be involved in faculty research projects than African American students at non-HBCUs.
Diverse student bodies and faculties are a strength for any school, including HBCUs. You might be surprised to learn that, while HBCUs continue to be a primary source of postsecondary education for Black people, they are not exclusively minority-serving institutions. In fact, a study by the Education Resources Information Center found that about 76% of HBCU students were Black, with the other 24% made up of students of other ethnicities and races.
HBCUs understand the tremendous power of networking for career development and professional success. That’s why they maintain strong lifelong ties with their graduates through their alumni associations and other school-related organizations. They’re also especially active in sponsoring mentoring programs and networking events that bring together current students with successful graduates.
10 Top HBCUs for Online School
While most HBCUs today offer some level of distance learning, the depth and breadth of these offerings vary substantially from school to school. The ten schools listed below are among the top HBCUs when it comes to online degree programs and related services for distance learning. Keep reading to get an idea of what to look for in the HBCU programs you consider.
Albany State University
Albany State University is the 10th largest HBCU in the nation and the largest HBCU in Georgia. It’s also home to one of the most robust distance education programs of any HBCU. Students can choose from 19 degrees and 2 certificates, all of which can be completed fully online. Albany State offers a wide range of degrees. There are eight online associate degrees in majors such as computer science, psychology, sociology, criminal justice, and health information technology. Bachelor’s degrees are offered in information systems and technology, organizational leadership, and nursing. Master’s degrees are available in eight fields, including nursing, social work, business administration, and several in education.
Founded in 1869, Claflin University, a private HBCU located in Orangeburg, South Carolina, is the first university in the state to be open to students of all races. Claflin currently offers seven online degree programs, including bachelor’s degrees in criminal justice, organizational management, psychology, and nursing (RN to BSN). Online master’s programs include business administration, criminal justice, and education (curriculum and instruction). All programs are available entirely online, with the one exception of the nursing program that requires an on-campus intensive session one Saturday each month. Online Claflin students have access to a range of virtual support services, including the library, bookstore, and Writing Center.
Delaware State University
Established in 1891 as the State College for Colored Students, Delaware State University (DSU) takes pride in being one of the first land-grant educational institutions in the nation. Through its DSU Online programs, DSU offers bachelor’s degrees in six majors, including accounting, human resource management, liberal studies, management (general concentration), psychology, and public health. Master’s degrees can be earned online in business administration, nursing, public administration, social work, and sports administration. An undergraduate Certificate in Alcohol and Drug Counseling is additionally available. DSU boasts a particularly strong package of support services to its online students, including academic and career advisement; personal counseling; bookstore and library services; online tutoring and supplemental instruction; and writing assistance.
Hampton University (HU), a private HBCU located in Hampton, Virginia, was founded in 1868 as the Hampton Normal and Agricultural Institute with funds from the American Missionary Association. Through its Hampton Online division, HU offers degree programs on all degree levels, from associate to doctorate, in subjects such as education, nursing, counseling, business, public administration, and criminal justice. Unique offerings include an undergraduate degree in religious studies and one in aviation management (airport administration). Online students at HU have access to a variety of potential federal, state, and university financial aid resources, including the OSHER Reentry Scholarship program, which is open to students who have been out of college for 5 or more years and are now returning to undergraduate school to complete to earn a bachelor’s degree.
Located in Washington, D.C., Howard University is arguably the most prestigious of all HBCUs. Its long and impressive list of graduates includes Congressman Elijah Cummings, novelist Toni Morrison, Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall, and Vice President Kamala Harris. Howard University’s flourishing distance learning program offers a number of degrees that can be completed either fully or partially online, including multiple nursing degrees, and both an MBA and an Executive MBA. Also available is a Non-Traditional Doctor of Pharmacy degree that can be completed in two years and requires one three-day campus visit.
Jackson State University
With its campus located in Hinds County, Mississippi, Jackson State University (JSU) is a comprehensive, urban research university and one of the largest HBCUs in the nation. Jackson State also features one of the largest selections of online degrees of any HBCU, with five bachelor’s, eleven master’s, and three specialist programs available. JSU’s selection of online graduate degrees in education includes teaching, early childhood education, education administration, physical education, reading, and special education, as well as education concentration options in psychometry, social work, and special education. Tuition rates for online undergraduate and graduate degree programs are the same for both Mississippi and out-of-state residents.
Kentucky State University
Founded in 1886 as the State Normal School for Colored Persons, Kentucky State University (KSU) is a land-grant institution located in Frankfurt with a diverse student body of 2,200. Through its Office of Distance Education, KSU offers three bachelor’s (two in criminal justice, one in psychology), four master’s (behavioral science, environmental studies, public administration, special education), and one doctoral degree (nursing practice). These programs can be completed either fully or partially online. Several online certificate programs are also offered in the fields of cybersecurity, environmental studies, IT networking, psychology, and aquaculture/aquatic sciences. KSU online students have access to the same comprehensive package of support services as their on-campus counterparts. They include online library and bookstore services, and the Smarthinking tutorial program that’s available online 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Morgan State University
Morgan State University (MSU), located in Baltimore, Maryland, is a Carnegie-classified doctoral research institution and the state’s designated Preeminent Public Urban Research University. MSU’s Morgan Online department delivers more than 100 online courses and sponsors six online graduate degree programs, including master’s in business administration, advanced computing, project management, public health, social work, and community college administration and instruction, as well as a doctorate in community college leadership. Also available are bachelor’s degrees in cloud computing and applied liberal studies, and a post-baccalaureate certificate in sustainable urban communities. MSU additionally offers over 400 fully online career training and non-credit courses through its Center for Continuing and Professional Studies. Support services for online students include library and technology services; advising and career counseling; tutoring; and technical and help desk support.
North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University
Located in Greensboro, North Carolina A&T State University (NC A&T) has a student population of over 12,000, making it the largest HBCU in the nation and biggest producer of degrees awarded to African Americans in the state. NC A&T is also home to one of the largest selections of online degree and certificate programs of all HBCUs. Online students can choose from over two dozen undergraduate degrees, graduate degrees, and certificates in a broad range of fields, with a particular emphasis on business, education, and STEM majors. NC A&T online programs feature surprisingly affordable tuition rates for North Carolina residents.
Texas Southern University
With a student population of over 10,000, Texas Southern University is the largest HBCU in Texas and ranks first among all Texas colleges and universities in degrees awarded to African Americans. Bachelor’s degrees are available online in administration of justice, healthcare administration, history, and emergency management and homeland security. An online bachelor’s in general studies is also available to allow students to tailor studies to meet their individual educational and professional goals. Online master’s degree programs are offered in administration of justice, business administration, public administration, education, and English. All coursework, including tests and exams, is delivered entirely online with no campus visits required.
Choosing the Right HBCU for Your Online Degree
Now that you know HBCUs offer quality, affordable education, the next question to ask is, “Which HBCU is the right school for me?” There are many factors to consider in determining your ultimate school. Here are six of the most important considerations:
Generally speaking, HBCUs are among the most affordable colleges in the nation. However, that doesn’t mean their price tags are all the same. In fact, tuition prices can vary significantly among HBCUs, especially between public and private institutions. It’s also important to be aware of additional program costs beyond tuition, like lab fees, admissions fees, online course surcharges, etc. So, be sure to research all costs carefully before enrolling in any HBCU online degree program.
In-state vs. out-of-state
Tuition costs may be substantially higher for students who are not residents of the school’s home state. These higher rates are because public colleges and universities are subsidized by their state governments (meaning, the state’s taxpayers) and subsidies are meant to support only the educations of state residents. All other factors being equal, therefore, you may want to go with the more affordable online program from a home-state HBCU if in-state tuition is less expensive.
Help with funding
Funding your education is clearly a critical element to consider when going to college. Fortunately, there are lots of financial aid options available to students regardless of their school of choice. Additionally, every HBCU offers unique in-house financial-aid opportunities. These include work-study programs, assistantships and fellowships (primarily for grad students), and most importantly, scholarships and grants exclusively for students enrolled in specific degree programs. So, before you enroll at any HBCU, contact the school’s financial aid office to find out about in-house funding opportunities for which you’d be eligible.
The costs associated with an HBCU are, of course, irrelevant if the HBCU doesn’t offer an online degree program in which you’re interested. Look into each program to see what types of courses it offers. Students looking forward to continuing their academic pursuits to earn an advanced degree may also consider the availability of advanced degrees at each school. When looking at the master’s degrees, compare the specializations to find one that best suits your interests.
The geographic location of your school’s campus can be an important consideration even when pursuing your degree online if the school requires any on-campus visits. This is obvious for hybrid degree programs that include both online and on-campus classes. And, as discussed above, in-state and out-of-state residency can play a major role in the program’s cost. In addition to these matters, close proximity to your school’s campus allows for the opportunity to participate in on-campus activities, like sporting, cultural, and social events, as well as career-related networking opportunities. You may also be able to join a campus-based fraternity or sorority.
One benefit of HBCUs, generally speaking, is that they tend to have smaller student populations and class sizes, which can mean more personalized interaction with instructors and fellow students. Like many of the other factors, class size varies from school to school, as well as from program to program. Most online HBCUs will provide you with instructor-to-student ratio figures for their programs. If ratio information isn’t given on the program website, however, you can always contact the school and ask.