Why choose an HBCU?

Published: June 27, 2022

Ask proud students at Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) across the country why they have chosen their institution, and they will share a list of reasons they have chosen to attend these “illustrious” universities. Listening to students, it becomes evident that they love their HBCU because of the sense of belonging, community, identity development, and faculty and staff support they receive. Providing these experiences is at the heart of advising practices on HBCU campuses across the country.

HBCUs – today and since their founding – seek to close equity gaps for minority and low-income students in higher education. These institutions have been doing the heavy lifting for their students with limited resources, yet have not received the recognition in the field that they deserve. The National Resource Center for The First-Year Experience and Students in Transition (the Center) – a core partner of the Advising Success Network – has been engaging HBCUs in conversations exploring their advising practices. This engagement has showcased what so many in the HBCU community know to be true – HBCUs are at the forefront of providing innovative and effective advising strategies that advance student success and equity for Black, Latino/a, and low-income students.

The Center is working on a forthcoming three-part collection of resources from this work, to shine a light on how much higher education can learn from HBCUs on the balancing act of using high-touch approaches to blend development advising with meaningful interventions. Early insights point to the importance of:

  • Intentional relationship building between students, faculty, and staff: Advising at HBCUs helps students feel more connected and feel like they have someone in their corner. In addition, students are more likely to succeed when they feel that the faculty and staff care and respect them. The relationship and support that students receive at HBCUs clarify why students are proud to share why they have chosen their HBCU.
  • Standardized advising procedures and Advisor training: Individual campuses benefit from having standardized advising procedures, so students do not get behind because of inaccurate advising. HBCUs understand that their students do not have time to waste because of insufficient advising, so the many contributors discuss the importance of standardizing campus advising procedures and increasing advisor training.
  • Access to holistic resources and services for students: Holistic advising goes far beyond helping students plan for their time at the institution. It requires helping students think deeper about their goals and personal development. HBCUs have been at the forefront of holistic advising while empowering their students to be successful despite societal stressors and stereotypes.

This work continues every day, and higher education should provide more opportunities to center HBCUs in the literature surrounding advising and student success.

Authored by Kiisha Hilliard, Graduate Assistant for Research and Grants  at the National Resource Center for the First-Year Experience and Students in Transition.