50 Top Colleges for African Americans

Additional reporting by Michelle J. Nealy, Tennille M. Robinson, Tykisha N. Lundy & Stephanie Young

For a kid growing up in the inner city, visiting a college campus can be an eye-opening experience. At any given moment, you may find yourself on a winding path with large sycamores, fallen pine cones, and ivy-covered buildings, leaving behind a life of loud streets and overcrowded schools.

The experience was no different for Michael E. Adams, a Princeton University student, originally from Chicago. “I applied to the school for an early decision because I went on a tour during the spring of my junior year,” says Adams, a 19-year-old sophomore studying economics. “I did an Ivy League tour, and Princeton was one of the friendliest campuses. And it was the most welcoming.”

That wasn’t the only reason Princeton caught Adams’ eye. “It’s great for academics, obviously, and the social life. I don’t feel like you have to be popular or in the social scene to have fun.” There were just 116 African Americans in his freshman class, but that doesn’t bother Adams in the least: “When there are African American get-togethers, it seems like a lot of people. It’s not huge, but it’s not minute.”

Choosing the right college is anything but minute. It’s one of the most important decisions a young adult can make. How to finance that education is just as much a concern to many parents. To help you make the right choice, black enterprise offers our ranking of the 50 Top Colleges for African Americans. In addition, we’ve included a financing guide in which you’ll find everything you need to know about grants, loans, and scholarships.

This year, our team of writers, editors, and researchers updated and improved the selection process for the list, which was last compiled in 2004. First, we expanded our pool of survey reviewers, which now includes more than 500 higher education professionals. These professionals reviewed more than 1,400 schools, whereas previous reviewers were sent a list of schools specific to their region. In addition, we conducted the survey online, yielding a better, faster response.

The new approach — combined with giving more weight to graduation rates and other necessary adjustments to the criteria — bumped some longstanding schools off the list. Nevertheless, all of the top 10 schools returned. Perennials such as Stanford and Howard universities, which are lauded for their academic and social environments, continue to do well.

Seventeen schools that made the list this year didn’t appear in 2004, including Mills College and Northwestern University. Morehouse, which had been the top school on the last two listings, slipped 44 spots, from No. 1 to No. 45, primarily because its graduation rate fell from 56% to 49% over the last two years. Several of the newcomers, such as Dickinson and Babson colleges, have black graduation rates of 90% or higher, so schools with rates below 50% were pushed farther down or off the list completely. However, larger HBCUs like Florida A&M University did well, even though they had black graduation rates