HBCU Grads Have Higher Sense of Well-Being Than Black Non-HBCU Grads

While attending the National Urban League National Higher Education Summit in Washington, D.C., this week, some of us around the lunch table were scratching our heads after reading the results of the new Gallup poll that examined five areas of well-being that graduates of four-year colleges were experiencing.

[RELATED: The HBCU Debate: Are Black Colleges & Universities Still Needed?]

Black, white, Hispanic, and Asian American graduates were polled, but black respondents who had graduated from historically black colleges and those who had graduated from predominantly white institutions reported significantly different levels of well-being.

The HBCU grads had a markedly higher sense of well-being in all five areas (purpose, social, financial, community, and physical) than grads who had not attended HBCUs. Interestingly, this differential did not exist between Hispanic students who had attended Hispanic-serving institutions and those who had not; and American Indians were not included in the poll.

Reading the poll results, I wondered, had I done the right thing to steer my children toward schools that, frankly, offered them the best financial aid package? A young man at the summit, a graduate of Williams College who grew up in Newark, New Jersey, wondered the same thing: Had he made the right choice to turn down Howard, after spending a summer program there as a high schooler?

Another woman at our table spent one semester at Howard and, unhappy with her experience, returned to school in Hawaii.

Had we all missed out on the HBCU differential?

It’s difficult to say. No one type of college is right for everyone, and because the data isn’t quantitative, it’s hard to argue with.

Some other interesting tidbits from the data:

  • College grads of all races and ethnic backgrounds are more likely than the national average of all U.S. adults to have great jobs in which they are engaged at work.
  • Black females lag behind their peers in having a sense of purpose well-being.
  • Black graduates of HBCUs are more than twice as likely as black grads of non-HBCUs to recall experiencing all three support measures at school (having at least one professor who made them excited about learning; having professors who cared about them; having a mentor who encouraged them to pursue their goals).
  • Black female grads and Asian male grads are least likely to be thriving in community well-being.
  • Asian and black college grads are least likely to be engaged in their work.

At the summit, many agreed that HBCUs must be doing something right, and that other schools could learn from their approach.

Here’s what the Atlantic has to say about the poll:

Anyone who has spoken with alums of a historically black college or university (HBCU) can attest, they really love their schools. Whether it’s the swarms of current and former students who travel to attend homecomings year after year, the (mostly) friendly competition among schools, or just the ferociousness with which grads defend and promote their alma maters, there’s something about most HBCUs that inspires intense loyalty.

A new poll from Gallup and Purdue University might help explain why.

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