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Why HBCUs Matter So Much

If you’re reading this blog, chances are that you’re currently attending an HBCU, graduated from one, or are interested in their future.

But how much do you really know about HBCUs and the history? Our Money Matters, an organization devoted to helping bring free financial wellness tools to HBCU students and surrounding communities, cares deeply about their past, present, and future legacy. And that’s why we think it’s important to understand their significant role in our country’s history. So, we put together this short quiz so you can test your knowledge and learn the facts.

The answers are at the end of the quiz, and you might be surprised at some of them. Let us know if you get them all right!

1. The first HBCU was Stillman College founded in 1837. True or False.

2. The first degree-granting HBCU was Lincoln University. True or False.

3. More men than women attend HBCUs. True or False.

4. HBCUs are located in every state within the U.S. True or False

5. All HBCUs are public institutions. True or False.

6. The HBCU with the largest endowment is Howard University. True or False.

7. 25% of African American college students are enrolled at an HBCU. True or False.

8. HBCUs graduate 50% of all black physicians within the U.S. True or False.

9. If you add up the endowments for all HBCUs, it would be greater than the endowment for Harvard. True or False.

10. Which of the following schools offers free financial wellness tools to their students through the Our Money Matters platform?

A. Dillard

B. Bowie State

C. Claflin University

D. South Carolina State

E. All of the above


1. False. On February 25, 1837, Cheyney University of Pennsylvania became the nation’s first HBCU. The University was established through the bequest of Richard Humphreys, a Quaker philanthropist who bequeathed $10,000 — one-tenth of his estate — to design and establish a school to educate people of African descent and prepare them as teachers.

2. True. On April 29, 1854, Lincoln University, founded by John Miller Dickey and his wife, Sarah Emlen Cresson, received its charter from the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, making it the nation's first degree-granting HBCU. In October 1853, the Presbytery of New Castle approved Dickey’s plan for the establishment of “an institution to be called Ashmun Institute. On April 4, 1866, the Ashmun Institute was re-named Lincoln University in honor of President Abraham Lincoln. Thurgood Marshall, the first Black U.S. Supreme Court justice and civil rights advocate, and the legendary poet and activist Langston Hughes — were classmates and notable graduates of Lincoln University.

3. False. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, female enrollment at HBCUs has been higher than male enrollment in every year since 1976. The percentage of female enrollment at HBCUs increased from 53 percent in 1976 to 64 percent in 2020.

4. False. In 2020, HBCUs were located in 19 states (with the largest percentage in Southern states) as well as the District of Columbia, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

5. False. 52 HBCUs are public institutions and 49 are private nonprofit institutions.

6. True. Howard University has an endowment of over $795 million and Spellman College has the second largest endowment at just over $530 million.

7. False. Only 10 percent of African American college students nationwide are enrolled at an HBCU. Research from the McKinsey Institute for Black Economic Mobility suggests that if HBCUs could enroll more students and graduate a higher share of them, the incomes of Black workers in the United States would increase by $10 billion per year. With higher enrollment, more revenue would come in both the form of tuition, as well as alumni donations. Overall, approximately 11 percent of HBCU alumni give back financially to their institution, according to a U.S. News and World Report survey—likely giving back a greater portion of their household wealth when compared to non-HBCU alumni. Some HBCUs offer a model to other HBCUs because they have achieved much higher levels of giving—reflecting a close bond between the institution and its graduates, coupled with strong institutional fundraising. Claflin University, a small private HBCU in rural South Carolina, has an enviable alumnus giving rate of nearly 48 percent—matching the rate of alumni giving at some elite colleges.

9. False. Unfortunately, if you add up all the endowments of HBCUs, it would still be only a fraction of the endowment of Harvard which is 53 billion dollars. HBCUs have always struggled to receive adequate, equitable funding—including the funding due to them by law—and that struggle continues today. For example, a recent analysis by Forbes magazine found that eighteen public land-grant HBCUs were underfunded by nearly $13 billion between 1987 and 2020, compared to the resources that their states provided predominantly white land-grant universities.

10. The correct answer is E. Currently, a total of 18 HBCUs are partnered with Our Money Matters. Find out if your school is participating here.

If you’re interested in learning how your school or organization can participate with Our Money Matters, click here. If you are interested in learning more about the parent organization, HBCU Community Development Action Coalition, click here.

If you want to read more Our Money Matters blogs, click here.

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