HBCU or Traditionally White Campus?

When all the factors that determine the choice of a college are laid out, the bottom line is what institution best meets a student’s needs, says Thandabantu B. Maceo, Director of Admissions and Interim Financial Aid Director at Central State University in Wilberforce, Ohio. Institutions are the sellers and students are the buyers. It’s up to the students to make the best buy. “For some African-American students, a historically black college or university (HBCU) is the best choice. For others, it’s not,” he states.

Whether HBCU or traditionally white, a college’s job is to make you smart, says Michael Tapscott, Director of the Office of Minority Student Affairs at George Mason University in Washington, D.C. Because African-American students reflect many backgrounds, there is no single decision that is best for everyone. The choice of a college is a personal preference, he observes.

Frank Matthews, Publisher and Editor-in-Chief of Black Issues in Higher Education, is a bit more direct in his advice to African-American parents and their children. “Parents have to be realistic and can’t think that going to an HBCU is nirvana. Nor is a white institution the best choice because they think that’s the place to get the best education.”

Am I making assumptions, or am I looking at
what’s really important to me?

L’Tanya Richmond was educated at a traditionally white institution (TWI) and is currently the Associate Director of Admissions and Director of Minority Affairs at Elon College, a majority institution in Elon College, North Carolina. Working with African-American high school students, she recommends that they put aside the acronyms of HBCU or TWI and look at the reasons why they want a degree and what they want to achieve with it. Because there are so many other components to take into consideration, applicants can’t assume an HBCU is the best option for every student of color, she states.

Why do I want to go to college?

The choice of college starts with taking a close look at yourself, says Lori Wright, Coordinator of Multicultural Student Recruitment at Xavier University in Cincinnati, Ohio. She suggests students ask themselves these questions first:

  • Am I going to college because I want to, or because my parents have always assumed I would go?
  • Is the choice to attend an HBCU mine or my family’s?
  • Do I have a particular field of study I want to pursue?

Though college definitely is a means to a career, those four years also offer personal growth and development. Thus the decision about which college to attend must include a thorough inventory of likes and dislikes on the part of the student. Wright advises students to ask themselves:

  • Do I want a large university or a small, nurturing environment?
  • Do I want an urban or rural setting?
  • How important is the diversity of the campus to me?
  • How important are extracurricular activities to me?

Parents, what are your children’s talents and dreams?

Parents attempting to help their children with the choice of a college should begin with an intimate knowledge of that child’s abilities and aspirations. Sometimes parents think they know what their children want, but they haven’t really talked to them, Richmond cautions. Children are the ones spending four years at an institution, doing the work, and making the grades. In many cases, this is a child’s first step to independence, so it is the child who needs to make the final decision. Once the way has been cleared by honest communication between parents and children, then a list of institutions can be generated.

“It’s all about finding yourself,” says LaVanski D. Meeks, a soon-to-graduate business student at Xavier University in Cincinnati, Ohio. His parents let him make the decision about college. In fact, Meeks started out at an HBCU and transferred to a majority institution because it had a better business department. His parents were behind him all the way.

How will this campus fit my plans for the future?

There’s no substitute for doing your homework about the campuses you’re seriously considering, says Matthews, warning that parents and students can get caught up in the nostalgia of HBCUs. “Know the reputation of those campuses in the community, among employers, and the general population,” he recommends. He urges applicants to do the basic research about graduation, retention, and placement rates.

And curriculum. Nicholson reports that African-American students will sometimes get so caught up in applying to an institution, they don’t realize it doesn’t even offer their major. “I don’t want students to come here just because Howard is an HBCU,” she says.

At this point, students should get into questions such as:

  • How will an HBCU or traditionally white university fit my goals and personal requirements?
  • What is the reputation of each institution I’m considering?
  • How do the curriculums compare between institutions?
  • What is the placement rate of graduates?
  • What exposure will I have to my chosen career field?
  • How do the facilities, labs, and technical capabilities match up?
  • What are the networking opportunities at each institution?

How will my degree be viewed in the workplace?

After you’ve determined what you want to study, Wright tips students to look at the value of the degree in the work force and from the viewpoint of an employer. “What kind of doors will it open for you?” she questions. To determine that, compare facilities and resources and access to current technology.

Does this campus have the facilities and living conditions that suit my comfort level?

Finding a campus where you’re comfortable is a prominent factor in the choice of a college, too, advises Janice L. Nicholson, Associate Vice President for Enrollment Management at Howard University in Washington, D.C. She, too, tells students to start with general questions about what they want to get from college and move toward the specifics of campus facilities and living conditions. For instance, if a student has gone to a private high school where everyone has a private bedroom, drives an expensive car and goes skiing, maybe living on a large urban campus with peers who don’t mirror that kind of background would be a mistake.

Will I be happy with the campus location?

Rudolph Slaughter, Director of High School and Community College Relations at Florida A&M University observes that some students are drawn to his campus because of its location in the fairly small city of Tallahassee. Others who come from urban areas don’t want that kind of environment. Likewise, students from a rural or suburban environment would be wise to ask pointed questions about safety issues when considering urban campuses. Wright observes that many African-American teens today grow up in suburbia and have never really encountered the tougher realities of living in a city. To get a true perspective of how location will affect the college experience, Wright suggests talking with current students and alumni to see what it’s really like on a day-to-day basis.

What level of support will I get on campus?

Students considering traditionally white campuses are wise to take a look at the support systems available for them. “It takes more than just an office on campus,” warns Richmond. “Students on majority campuses must have someone with whom they can identify and someone who will make them feel wanted.” It puts students and parents particularly at ease if they see people of color in administrative positions or working in a minority affairs office, observes Richmond. Parents need to feel comfortable with the contact person on campus. “You never know when an incident can happen, and for that reason African-American students need a home base,” she says.

Richmond speaks from her own experience. While attending a traditionally white university, she was able to create her own HBCU experience with the other African-American students on campus. They sought out opportunities for collective experiences such as meeting at a black student union, sororities and fraternities, and off-campus parties. Richmond says this provided them with an insulated and secure world that gave them the ability to deal with occasional racial incidents.

How will a visit to the campus affect my choices?

Students can make up extensive checklists. Ask hundreds of questions. Research dozens of Web sites and talk on the phone to admissions people throughout the country. But if they don’t set foot on the campuses they’re considering, they’re in for big trouble. “Always visit any institution you’re interested in,” cautions Juliet Johnson, Interim Director of Admissions and Orientation Services at Spelman College in Atlanta. “Selecting a college is a big investment. You’re looking at four years of life that will mold you. You’ve got to see if that institution has the right fit.” Tapscott strongly advises students to stay overnight so they can make an informed decision that isn’t based on first impressions. “It’s absolutely critical,” he says.

“While on campus, ask questions. As many as you want, and don’t think any question is stupid,” says Johnson. She suggests students ask other students and admissions directors:

  • How does the college match their expectations?
  • What was the deciding factor that made them decide to come to that institution?
  • What is residential life like on this campus?
  • What is the student-professor ratio?
  • Will my professor know me and be concerned about me?
  • Will I be able to get a good internship?

“Both HBCUs and traditionally white institutions have great things to offer,” Tapscott says. “A majority college may not offer the same experience as an HBCU, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be as effective.”

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College Choice for African Americans

As far as Janice L. Nicholson was concerned, there was only one university she wanted to attend. “Anything other than Howard University was a waste of time,” she reflects. Her sole choice turned out to be a good one. She was accepted at Howard, graduated, and now is its Associate Vice President for Enrollment Management.

LaVanski D. Meeks, on the other hand, didn’t care where he went to college as long as it was a small campus, had a curriculum that emphasized medicine, and, coming from Michigan, was someplace warm. He applied to eight institutions and was accepted at all of them, but Xavier University of Louisiana in New Orleans matched his criteria. Initially, the fact that it was a historically black university (HBCU) was not really a factor, Meeks says. But coming from a predominantly white high school and at the urging of friends, the black experience that Xavier offered made it the top contender.

Yet after one year, Meeks transferred to predominantly white Xavier University in Cincinnati. Again, his decision was not made on the basis of either university being a black or white institution. Instead, Meeks changed his major. During his freshman year, he realized that medicine was not for him. Business had always been in the back of his mind, so he took another look at institutions he’d initially considered. He knew Xavier University in Cincinnati had a strong minority support system and a business department with a solid reputation. Also the University offered him a good financial package. Cold weather notwithstanding, Meeks moved to Cincinnati and will soon graduate from Xavier’s business department.

The decision is a personal one

As these examples illustrate, the choice to attend an HBCU or a traditionally white institution (TWI) is a decidedly personal decision for African-American college applicants. “Every student wrestles with this issue–some more than others,” comments Frank Matthews, Publisher and Editor-in-Chief of Black Issues in Higher Education. When his daughter was deciding among institutions “everyone had opinions,” he says, noting that the quandary she faced was a positive dilemma. “Any time you have options and choices, that’s good,” he observes.

Choosing which college to attend is usually difficult for anyone to make once location, public or private status, campus size, environment, curriculum, and tuition are factored into the final analysis. But when an African-American student is looking at HBCUs, a whole other set of family and cultural issues are raised, says Lori Wright, Coordinator of Multicultural Student Recruitment at Xavier University in Cincinnati, Ohio.

Factor in family opinions

Parental and family expectations often are key elements that African-American students must take into consideration. For instance, Nicholson contends that most of today’s college applicants come from a population of parents who could go to any institution after the late 1960s and thus chose to attend traditionally white institutions. Today, those parents encourage their children to attend HBCUs because they realize what they missed. Or, she says, parents who chose HBCUs want their children to share in what they had.

Conversely, Michael Tapscott, Director of the Office of Minority Student Affairs at George Mason University in Washington, D.C., adds that some parents who attended majority institutions were influenced by the prevailing assumption at that time that achieving the American dream was more accessible in majority institutions. Now when their children are choosing colleges, some discourage them from HBCUs for that reason.

Students and their parents see college from different perspectives

Whatever the background of parents, L’Tanya Richmond, Associate Director of Admissions and Director of Minority Affairs at Elon College in the town of Elon College, North Carolina, observes that many African-American high school students see the choice of a college in a far different context.

Wright agrees, noting that the African-American applicants she talks to are looking at both HBCUs and TWIs and points to her own experience. Even though all of her family had gone to historically black colleges, Wright says she wanted a smaller institution that was traditionally white, “My mother went to an HBCU, and I wanted to be different,” she confides. She had come from a high school that was 40 percent black and 60 percent white and knew she could excel in a white environment.

Whatever the reasons for choosing or not choosing HBCUs, Antoine M. Garibaldi, Provost and Chief Academic Officer at Howard University, notes a 30 percent increase in HBCU enrollment over the last ten years, with 28 percent of all African-American students who get bachelor’s degrees graduating from HBCUs. These numbers reflect a notable departure from the prediction made by educators some years ago that the need for HBCUs would decline when majority institutions first opened their admissions to African Americans. That opinion has changed due in part to the impact of affirmative action and diversity awareness, Garibaldi asserts.


One of the reasons why the choice of HBCU or TWI is complicated is because there are many valid reasons that favor one or the other. Some are obvious differences. Others are subtle, embodying a whole subcategory of cultural concerns.

But it’s not the real world.

For many students, the desire to attend a majority institution stems from the perception that HBCUs might not adequately prepare them for the real world that awaits after graduation. There are two sides to this opinion, states Matthews. If a student sees college as a starting ground for life, then the nurturing environment of an HBCU is the obvious choice. But if college is seen as a toughening-up process, then a TWI makes more sense for a student. “Some see higher education as a time to be free. Others see it as an opportunity to be challenged and faced with some real things,” counsels Matthews. Nabulungi Mack-Williams, who will soon graduate from Spelman College and wants to continue on in premed studies, characterizes HBCUs as sanctuaries for African-American students. “It’s empowering,” she says, of her four years at Spelman, adding that her time there has prepared her to face the world.

Nicholson often addresses this subject when talking to prospective Howard students. Her counter to the “real world is white” concern is that African-American students at majority institutions aren’t going to get much utilitarian advice from white faculty members about what it will take to make it in the corporate world. At black institutions, they will.

At majority institutions, black students often don’t mix with white students very much anyway, points out Matthews. According to him, the fact that there really isn’t a substantive cross-cultural environment on many TWI campuses is something administrators haven’t come to grips with. “African-American students at majority institutions often segregate themselves to find a safe harbor,” he elaborates.

The black presence on white campuses.

Parents and their children have to be honest with themselves and take a long, hard, pragmatic look at the needs of the student and how the campus environment can fulfill them. Many top-tier institutions aren’t into nurturing, Matthews remarks. They figure since you’re there, you’ll have to make it through on your own. Yet, he also reports that some majority campuses do make a genuine effort to include African-American students and ensure they have a good college experience.

As an example, Michael Tapscott, Director of the Office of Minority Student Affairs at George Mason University, recalls a conference he recently attended at a majority university. Within minutes of setting foot on campus he perceived a black presence there. “It was difficult to describe. I could see it in the art, the speakers, and musicians on posters and flyers, yet I hadn’t seen a soul,” he recollects. Tapscott remembers when he was choosing a college, he, too, considered HBCUs, but made the decision to go to Tufts after he visited the campus and saw there was a strong commitment to African-American students like himself.

However, not all majority institutions offer that level of support for nonwhite students. Unfortunately, many of today’s applicants don’t fully research that aspect of campus life. Matthews, who was one of the first black students to attend Clemson University in South Carolina, says that African Americans in the 1960s and 1970s were acutely aware that they were walking into a hostile environment on majority campuses. He contends that many of today’s high school students have been, for the most part, protected from racism and don’t realize what they might encounter. “We, the black boomers, sheltered our kids from racist behavior, and they’re having trouble coping these days,” Matthews states.

To address this concern, Richmond, who has built a successful minority program at Elon College, bluntly informs African-American freshmen during orientation about the subtle and not-so-subtle challenges they could face on the mostly white campus.

HBCUs and the students attending them are all the same.

In addition to the realities of cultural differences on majority campuses, parents and students might be waylaid by persistent myths about HBCUs–even a lack of awareness that HBCUs exist, says Thandabantu B. Maceo, Director of Admissions and Interim Financial Aid Director at Central State University in Wilberforce, Ohio. As most HBCUs are located in the south, students in the west are the least aware of them. However, that’s quickly changing with the advent of the Internet and college Web sites.

Without adequate information, parents and students often think HBCUs are all the same and have all black faculty and staff members. Nicholson knows differently. Her freshman advisor at Howard was white. In fact, 16 percent of Howard’s current faculty members are white.

There’s also no typical HBCU student. Says Maceo, “We get students who come from all rungs of the socioeconomic ladder.” Garibaldi concurs that Howard students are from every state in the nation and more than 120 countries. Juliet Johnson, Interim Director of Admissions and Orientation Services at Spelman College, notes that a lot of students ask about the diversity at Spelman. She’s quick to tell them that Spelman’s student profile reflects students of single-parent homes to young women from the top private schools. Wright says the same thing about the diversity at HBCUs in general. There’s a broad cross-representation of people in HBCUs from every state and many foreign countries as well as from students coming out of poverty situations to the children of wealthy and famous parents.

The debate about skills to succeed.

Even though some parents feel strongly about how their African-American heritage is reflected at HBCUs, they discourage their children from attending because they fear graduates don’t have satisfactory skills to succeed in a competitive workplace. “That’s a problem that’s systemic and difficult to battle,” Tapscott counters. “But the quality of education at HBCUs is at least as competitive.” Wright agrees that HBCUs went through a lot of bad press, but with increased endowments and resources being made available to them, they are now showing a greater stability.

No one right answer

With all the input that’s needed to choose a college, African-American parents and children could be overwhelmed with the issues on either side of the decision between an HBCU or TWI. Unfortunately, you can’t assume an HBCU is best for every student of color, says Richmond. But she is impressed that this generation of students, whom she talks to and meets with every day, are thoughtful about the decision before them and look beyond racial affairs. “Ten years ago, students were concerned about black and white issues,” she says. “Today they’re interested in study abroad and the strength of a particular curriculum. They’re very different.”

The same can be said of their choices in higher education.

For more information about selecting a historically black college university or traditionally white institution, read the following articles

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How to Kick Off Your Campus Visit

Wasn’t that the third or fourth person you’ve asked so far, and you still haven’t found the admissions building? You hate to ask yet another student for directions. That big old clock booms the hour, and you realize you’re late for the meeting that was scheduled to start your campus visit. Your parents, tagging along behind you, look as frustrated as you are because it took them half an hour to find parking.

This day isn’t starting out well at all, you sigh.

This isn’t Denise Wellman’s idea of a pleasant college visit either. In fact, she’s doing everything in her power as president of the Collegiate Information and Visitor Services Association to make sure a similar scenario doesn’t happen to anyone on a campus visit. If you were to come to a visitor’s center like the one she directs at the University of South Carolina, in Columbia, you would have had directions to parking ahead of time, a campus map indicating the buildings you asked to see, and a lot of your questions already answered.

Better to go through the front door first

“College campuses are sprawling entities,” Wellman sympathizes. “Many of them are in the middle of large cities with tentacles that go everywhere and streets that stop and start.” Colleges are beginning to realize that their visitor’s centers are their front doors and have a lot to do with how their campuses are viewed. Taking their cue from tourism centers, visitor’s center staffs are learning how best to welcome people to their campus, give them the information they need, and connect them to the people and services that will help them have a successful visit.

Wellman finds that parents and students come to a college visit with a lot of general information they’ve already learned through the college’s Web page. Now they want to know the details. “We have to be ready with answers because visitors are coming more prepared than ever before,” she observes.

Why waste time in the parking lot?

Though each visitor’s center is unique to that institution, the one quality all have in common is making sure you have what you need while on campus. The staff realizes that you have a limited amount of time there and using part of it to find parking is not productive. Says Wellman, “We help students and their families identify what they need for the visit and what they want to accomplish on our campus.”

Campus visitor’s centers are ready to help with just about any request. It could be an opportunity to meet with an admissions counselor or a faculty member, setting up a night’s stay at the residence halls, or getting a guest pass to work out in the school’s recreation center. “The experience we have is that families who start with a visitor center don’t feel overwhelmed,” says Wellman. “They are in control because they have information.” She realizes that a campus visit is one of the most crucial aspects of the decision process in choosing a college. “Our goal is to have visitors leave with more information than they thought they wanted,” she explains.

Let’s keep in touch

Families who use the center also have the benefit of being connected to that campus by a person they’ve met and who will continue to help them. The staff welcomes calls from families who might have even more questions after the visit is over. Even though parents and students can easily find out about a college on the Internet or in college guide books, those avenues will never be a replacement for a face-to-face meeting with someone — especially if you’re a parent sending your child hundreds of miles from home, observes Wellman.

“The bottom line is that visitors want information, and we want them to have it so that they can make the right decision about a campus,” says Wellman.

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Two Students One Campus Tons of Opinions

One of the main reasons why campus visits are so critical is that there’s no predicting what kind of an impression any given campus will make on a student. Many students know the instant they’ve walked on a campus if they love it or hate it.

Amber Dowdell and Dan Escovitz, who were still seniors at Palmer High School in Colorado Springs, CO, visited the University of Chicago during the same weekend. Each came away with very different impressions.

For Amber the University was one of three campus visits. Her reason for coming to this particular institution was because it was set in the middle of Chicago. She wanted to take advantage of the attractions and benefits of the city. She also didn’t have a declared major and knew a big university gave her plenty of flexibility to explore options.

Dan’s criteria for the six campuses he visited also included geographic location, but he was going to major in biology, so that was a factor in his decision process.

Dan: The campus tour was really well-organized.

His first impression of the University of Chicago was about the way the visitor’s weekend was set up. “It was really well thought out and planned. I hadn’t seen anything like it elsewhere,” recalls Dan, noting that it mirrored his opinion of the university as a whole.

Amber: I just loved the ivy-covered walls.

As for Amber, she fell in love with Chicago just from looking out the taxi window on the way to the University. She was happy to exchange the mountains of Colorado for the nearby lake. She loved the campus setting, too. “I was impressed with the ivy-covered buildings that made the campus look like an old English school,” says Amber.

Dan: Those ivy-covered walls would get to me after a while.

Dan didn’t feel entirely comfortable with the urban setting of the University. “It put me off a bit,” he says, not having experienced living in a big city. He, too, thought the campus was beautiful at first, but then realized that all the Gothic buildings would probably get to him. “I would start longing for modern architecture,” he admits.

Amber: We sat by the lake and talked about everything.

Both Amber and Dan spent a night in the dorms with student hosts. Amber reports that, “We watched TV and then went down to the shore side and watched the clouds drift over the lake.” She and her host talked about everything — meeting people, what students did on weekends, professors, and where to buy clothes.

Dan: What’s with these guys? Doesn’t anyone have a good time around here?

Dan had a different take. Though he liked the diversity of students he saw walking around the campus, the two guys he stayed with in the dorm indicated by their actions that the University was a pretty serious place academically. His roommates were up at the crack of dawn pounding away on their computers before Dan even had his eyes open. Not that Dan is really into partying, but his roommates seemed totally concentrated on their studies to the exclusion of a social life. “People seemed more introverted there. They weren’t interested in going out and having a good time,” he observes. As it turned out Dan did go out with some other students to check out the city, who told him that if he wanted to have a good time on the weekends he could find it.

Amber: I felt really comfortable there.

In contrast, Amber sensed a close-knit feeling that made her feel comfortable and at home. However, because of the University’s location in Chicago, she and her parents were a bit worried about the crime rate. Amber didn’t hesitate to ask admissions about it. “Any college you go to wants to show you happy things,” notes Amber. “They told us what we needed to know.”

Dan: The biology labs were great, but I wasn’t impressed with the gym.

As a biology major, one of Dan’s concerns was the labs and here the University of Chicago shone. He was very impressed with the biology department’s academic credentials and prestige, as well as the well-equipped and highly technical labs. “That had a big impact,” he reports. What did not impress him was the University’s athletic facilities. They were clean and in good condition, but he was comparing them to those at University of Colorado Boulder, which he liked a lot more.

What impact did the visit have on Amber and Dan? Both went to other colleges but not because they didn’t like the University of Chicago. Finances were the determining factor for each. Dan was weighing the biotechnology departments at the University at Boulder and Chicago and came away deciding that while Chicago had the edge academically, financially, it would have been a push. Plus, factoring in the urban environment of Chicago and Boulder, he decided to stay in Colorado.

Amber, on the other hand, loved the city atmosphere and the campus, but saw no reason to graduate from college $30,000 in debt. She decided on Colorado State University in Fort Collins. “For the difference in price, why should I go to Chicago?” she questioned.

Amber and Dan came away from their college visit experience with a few suggestions for others.

  • Start early and be organized about your search.
  • If you can, visit a campus more than once.
  • Visit a campus when the college has a program planned especially for visitors.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask questions when you think of them. Don’t file them away thinking that you’ll ask later.
  • Explore the environment around the campus.
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The Unique Facets of HBCUs

Today’s African-American students can attend college anywhere that their grades, talents, and interests will take them. Increasingly, they’re looking at historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) because they want the unique experience that only such institutions offer. In fact, the last few years have seen a resurgence in HBCU enrollment, comments Lori Wright, Coordinator of Multicultural Student Recruitment at Xavier University in Cincinnati, Ohio. In that capacity, she talks to many African-American high school students. Often they tell her they are considering HBCUs not so much because of racial issues, but because they want to share in their cultural heritage with students like themselves.

Links to their legacy

According to Antoine M. Garibaldi, Provost and Chief Academic Officer at Howard University in Washington, D.C., a majority of African-American students today attend high schools where they are in the minority and are used to excelling in that environment. For them, an HBCU or traditionally white institution are both viable choices. But Garibaldi, who is a Howard graduate himself and has been involved in higher education for the last twenty years, hears that they came there because many want to spend four years in a college environment that is predominantly black, even though they’re comfortable in primarily white surroundings.

Nabulungi Mack-Williams agrees. Having lived all over the United States with her parents, who are college professors, she is used to quickly adjusting to unfamiliar surroundings, most of them predominantly white. Though attending an HBCU was a lifelong dream for her, she applied to a diverse range of schools, from ivy league to HBCUs to southern institutions.

There were many reasons why she chose Spelman College in Atlanta, but a primary motivation was the knowledge that she’d be surrounded by people of her own culture who were successful in their fields. On a more personal level, she likes the family closeness that Spelman gives her. Reflecting on her years there, she says she particularly enjoys being able to relate to financial aid advisers and professors as if they were wise aunts and uncles.

Reasons of the heart

“Being an HBCU student is a deeply emotional experience,” reflects Michael Tapscott, Director of the Office of Minority Student Affairs at George Mason University in Washington, D.C. “For many black students who went to a majority high school and then come to an HBCU, it’s a real awakening.”

Janice L. Nicholson, Associate Vice President for Enrollment Management at Howard and a Howard graduate, recalls a conversation she had with a young man who told her he hadn’t realized there were so many people of color who were so talented. He came from Canada, and so was always regarded as the solitary example of what blacks could do. “When he came to Howard, he found lots of others like himself,” Nicholson says. Juliet Johnson, Interim Director of Admissions and Orientation Services at Spelman College, remembers how important it was for her to have African-American professors at the HBCU she attended because looking at them, she was seeing her future.

Mentors all along the way

The connections that students make with their professors is part of the extensive mentoring facilitated by HBCUs. This, says Garibaldi, is a factor in the high percentage of HBCU graduates who go on for their doctorates. Students see role models all around them and know that faculty members will assist them to get internships and prepare them for careers, Garibaldi elaborates.

Citing an example of how simple this mentoring can be yet how profound an effect it can have on a student’s future, Nicholson tells another anecdote of a young woman at Howard who got a C as a final grade. Her professor didn’t let her off the hook, but told her he knew she could do better because he’d seen her quiz scores. His assumption was that she would succeed rather than fail. “That kind of expectation leads to students who are more confident,” Nicholson says.

The heritage endures

Some students come from families where several generations are HBCU graduates, which, Thandabantu B. Maceo, Director of Admissions and Interim Financial Aid Director at Central State University, reports is often a big incentive for young people to want to experience an HBCU for themselves. “They see the value in continuing the tradition. There’s a feeling of pride and association with an institution that your own people created and helped develop. They know there’s a rich fraternal presence at HBCUs that can’t be experienced on a traditionally white campus,” says Maceo. Nicholson notes the sense of ownership that HBCU students have of their institutions and pointedly asks, “Are there African Americans who believe Harvard belongs to them? Quite frankly, more believe that Howard belongs to them.”

Concludes Frank Matthews, Publisher and Editor-in-Chief of Black Issues in Higher Education, “HBCUs must continue to be a viable option for us. But that’s not the only reason for their existence. They must continue to exist because they’re good.”

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Alabama Agricultural And Mechanical University

4900 N. Meridian Street
Huntsville, AL 35811
PO Box 908
Normal, AL 35762
Phone: (256) 851-5000 or (256) 851-5245
Toll-free: 800-553-0816
Fax: (256) 851-5249

Total Enrollment: 5,475

Level of Selectivity: Slightly competitive

Motto: Service is Sovereignty

Location: Huntsville, Alabama, is a city of 170,000 people. Located 100 miles north of Birmingham, Huntsville is the home of the U.S. Space and Rocket Center and the US Space Camp, and is served by major airlines and bus companies. Social and cultural activities and entertainment are easily accessible to Alabama A&M students on campus and in the nearby city. The campus is located in a suburb just two miles from downtown Huntsville.


Alabama A&M is a four-year, state-supported, coed, liberal arts institution. Organized through the passage of a bill by the Alabama State Legislature, Alabama A&M opened as the Huntsville Normal School in 1875. The first president was William Hooper Councill, a former slave. The name was changed to State Normal Industrial School at Huntsville in 1878.

An appropriation from the Morrill Act, the second land grant act that Congress passed in 1890, gave the school the status of a land grant institution. It was renamed The State Agricultural and Mechanical College for Negroes in 1891, and its present campus was established at Normal, Alabama, where it has grown from 200 acres to more than 2,000.

The attainment of junior college status in 1919 resulted in a new name, The State Agricultural and Mechanical Institute for Negroes. Authorized to offer senior college work in 1939, the first bachelor’s degrees were conferred in 1941. The name changed again in 1948 to Alabama Agricultural and Mechanical College, and the present name, Alabama Agricultural and Mechanical University, was established in 1969.

Alabama A&M University’s mission is to serve as a land grant institution, providing a setting for the formation of scholars, leaders, and others who can contribute to society. It operates in the three-fold function of teaching, research, and public service, including extension.

The 2,000-acre hillside campus has 30 major buildings including a new 21,000-seat stadium and 11 dormitories.

  • Tuition: $2,400 (in-state); $4,800 (out-of-state)
  • Room and board: $2,600 (room); $2,000 (board)
  • Special fees: $400
  • Books: $700
  • Estimated total cost: $8,100 (instate); $10,500 (out-of-state)
  • Percent of the student body that received financial aid:62%
  • Number of scholarships and grants: 429
  • Total amount of scholarships and grants: $706,854
  • Range of scholarships and grants: $500 – $1,600

Financial Aid Specific to the School

  • American Legion Auxiliary Programs pays tuition, fees and board for families of veterans of World Wars I or II, Korean and Vietnam Wars. Contact the Legion, PO Box 10009, Montgomery, AL 36192.
  • Army ROTC provides two to three year scholarships that pay tuition, fees, books, and a monthly stipend.
  • Athletic scholarships in football, golf, baseball, soccer, softball, tennis, track and field, and volleyball.
  • Computational science scholarships from the Department of Energy for $3,000 each year in program.
  • Louis Stokes Award: Computer Science, Biology, Chemistry, Physics, Engineering or Environmental Science.
  • Consumer Science Abigail K. Hobson Memorial Scholarship Cash Award for $500.
  • Family & Consumer Sciences Mozelle Davis Cash Award for $200. Contact Merchandise & Design Department.
  • Family & Consumer Sciences Eliza P. Patton Memorial Award of $125 twice annually.
  • Human Development Award for two students in Human Development Department.
  • Food and Agricultural Science Multicultural Scholarship. Must have high school GPA of 3.0 and average ACT score of 21. Must have letter or recommendation and write an essay.
  • Food Science General Mills Award. Must have a 3.0 GPA in Food Sciences.
  • Mathematics Scholarship to qualifying freshmen in Science Engineering and Mathematics. Covers full tuition, books, room & board. Additional $750 during summer program.
  • Musicianship grants awarded in choir and band.
  • Police and Firefighters’ Survivors Educational Assistance grants pay tuition, fees, books and supplies to dependents and eligible spouses of firefighters killed while on duty.
  • Physics Crest Award. Contact Physics Department
  • Performing arts exemplary students award provides four-year scholarships that pay tuition, fees, room and board through the Thurgood Marshal Black Education Fund. Must have a GPA of 3.0 or better and SAT score of 1,000 or ACT score of 24 or more. Recommendation required.
  • Nutrition and Hospitality Management Wayne Hendrick Award of $1000 annually.
  • Transportation-related degree award from Eisenhower Transportation Fellowship. Must be upper level student. Contact Community Planning Department.
  • Urban Planning L.L. Crump Scholarship. Must write essay stating reasons for Urban Planning Major. Contact department.
  • Wallace Folsom Prepaid College Tuition Program awards a four-year fully paid tuition scholarship.
  • Work-study HUD Award pays full tuition for two years in exchange for two-year internship. Scholarship based on merit, leadership potential, and good citizenship.

Financial Aid Deadline: March 1 (for fall admissions)

Financial Aid Contact:
Director of Student Financial Aid,
Alabama A&M,
Normal, AL 35762
(256) 851-5400 (undergraduate)
(256)-851-5266 (graduate)
(256)-851-5407 (fax)
Financialaid@aamu.edu (e-mail)


Open admissions.

Entrance Requirements: A high school graduate (or equivalent ) with a 2.0 GPA and completion of the following 20 units: 4 English, 2 mathematics, 2 science (including biology), 3 social science, and 9 electives; history, and political science required. $25 nonrefundable application fee. SAT or ACT required.

Admission Application Deadline: Undergraduate: July 15th (fall); December 1 (spring); May 15 (summer). Rolling admission.

Admission Contact: Director of Admissions, Alabama A&M University, PO Box 908, Normal, AL 35762; (256) 851-5245 or 800-553-0816 or fax (256) 851-5249

Graduation Requirements: Completion of the school’s curriculum with a minimum 2.00 GPA. Candidate must earn half or more of the credits toward his/her major at Alabama A&M University. No more than 25 semester hours of work from other institutions will apply. Last two semesters of classes must be taken from Alabama A&M. Some courses of study may require completion of the National Teacher Examination or the Graduate Record Examination during the senior year. Attendance at commencement exercises is mandatory.

Total enrollment (male/female): 2,567/2,930
Instate: 3,408
Full-time undergraduates (male/female): 1,934/2,002
Part-time undergraduates (male/female): 143/173
Graduate students (male/female): 490/755
Ethnic/Racial Makeup: African American, 4,477; Caucasians, 656; Hispanic, 16; Native American, 14; Internationals, 305;
Others/Unclassified, 8
Number of applicants: 3,376
Number accepted: 1,954
Number enrolled: 1,098
Median SAT score:
Median ACT score: 17.4
Average high school GPA: 2.5
Transfer applicants: 578
Transfers accepted: 284
Transfers enrolled: 185
Number of faculty: 372
Student-teacher ratio: 16:1
Full-time faculty: 299
Part-time faculty: 73
Tenured faculty: 187
Faculty with doctorates or other terminal degrees: 60%
Commencement and conferring of degrees: May
One summer session.

Degrees Offered

AA Certification: Agribusiness education, educational specialist

Bachelor of Arts: English, French, History, Music, Political Science, Psychology, Social Work, Sociology

Bachelor of Science: Accounting, agribusiness, agribusiness education, agribusiness management, agricultural economics, agricultural science, animal science, art education, biology, botany, business administration, business marketing, business-general, chemistry, child development associate, city/urban community planning, civil engineering, civil engineering technology, clothing apparel, commercial and advertising art, computer and information science, dietetics, early childhood education, economics, electrical engineering technology, elementary education, engineering technology, environmental science, family resource management, fashion design, fashion merchandising, finance, food and nutrition studies, food science and technology, forest operations management, graphic and printing equipment operator, graphic design, home economics education, home economics-general, horticulture, hospitality food systems, industrial manufacturing technology, industrial technology education, instrumental music, interior design, logistics, management, marketing, mathematics, mechanical engineering related technology, mechanical engineering technology, medical technology, middle school education, military science, multidisciplinary studies, music education, office systems management, physical education, physics, plant science, political science, printing production management, radio and television broadcasting technology, secondary education, soil science, special education, speech pathology, technical studies, telecommunications, trade and industrial education, urban planning, zoology

Master’s Degree: Agricultural business, agriculture education, animal industries, art education, biology, business administration, business education, business management economics, city/urban community planning, clinical psychology, computer and information science, counseling psychology, early childhood education, economics, education, administration and supervision, elementary education, food science technology, home economics education, home economics-general, industrial and organizational psychology, industrial manufacturing technology, industrial technology education, music education, physical education, physics, plant science, reading teacher, secondary education, social work, sociology, soil science, special education, speech pathology

Preprofessional: Nursing, veterinary medicine

Doctorate: Agricultural sciences, education-administration and supervision, food science technology, physics, plant and soil science

Athletics and Student Life


Alabama A&M is a member of the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA, Division I), National Athletic Intercollegiate Association (NAIA), and Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SIAC).

Intercollegiate Sports: men’s baseball, basketball, cross-country, football, soccer, and track; women’s basketball, tennis, track and volleyball.

Intramural Sports: basketball, tennis, track & field, and volleyball.

Athletic Contact: Vann Pettaway, Alabama A&M University, Normal, AL 35762; (205) 851-5360.


Campus Regulations: Class attendance required. Boarding freshmen cannot have cars on campus. All boarding students must purchase a meal card. Mandatory health protection plan is necessary for all full-time undergraduate students. Mandatory ROTC enrollment is required during first two semesters of freshman year.

Campus Services: Health center, personal/psychological counseling, career planning and placement, career awareness laboratory, writing laboratory, reading laboratory, mathematics laboratory, special education center, and testing services for LSAT, NTE, ACT, CLEP, NSA, DOT, and TOEFL.

Campus Activities: Group activities include concert, theater, band, and choir. Students can get involved in the student-run newspaper or the yearbook. The campus has a student-run radio station. Leadership opportunities can be found in the more than 21 departmental organizations including the Malcolm X Historical Society. Greek-letter societies include Alpha Kappa Alpha, Delta Sigma Theta, Sigma Gamma Rho, and Zeta Phi Beta sororities, as well as Alpha Phi Alpha, Kappa Alpha Psi, Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, and Phi Beta Sigma fraternities. Honor societies include Alpha Kappa Mu, Beta Kappa Chi National Scientific Honor Society, and Kappa Delta Pi Educational Honor Society. Social and service organizations are governed by the Inter-Club Council and the La Congo Council.

Housing Availability: 2,500 housing spaces; freshman housing guaranteed; 47% of the students choose to live on campus.

Handicapped Services: Wheelchair accessibility and services for the visually impaired.

Website: http://www.aamu.edu

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Fashion Institute of Technology

The Industry Connection

For FIT students, New York City is the resource that can turn creative
ideas into real-world opportunities. And FIT is the rare institution where education and work overlap so seamlessly that what happens in our classrooms, computer labs, and studios reflects what is going on in industry. So, while you’re in college, you’ll never lose sight of the business world. And industry, recognizing the college’s well-deserved reputation, has become FIT’s partner in education.

Taught by industry experts who serve as faculty members, guest lecturers, critics, and curriculum advisers, students learn to solve current workplace problems in the classroom. They get hands-on experiences through such projects as a partnership with Woolite® Fabric Wash, which recently challenged textile/surface design students to create a signature print for the product. Fashion design students took part in a competition offered by Mademoiselle magazine and Mickey Unlimited, Disney’s brand of sportswear. The competition required entrants to create two lines of casual wear capturing the Mickey spirit. And the 34th Street Partnership and display and exhibit design students teamed up to present holiday store windows along Manhattan’s 34th Street. More than 60 students lent their creative design skills to merchants along the famed shopping strip, gaining real-world experience while helping stores maximize their visual merchandising efforts. Phillips–Van Heusen recruited advertising and marketing communications students to compete in repositioning the Izod brand. The results were judged by Phillips–Van Heusen executives and FIT faculty members.

To get a firsthand look at the industry on its own turf, students take field trips to a variety of settings, including Tommy Hilfiger’s workroom and showroom; the offices of Harper’s Bazaar; the SoHo headquarters of Donghia, where furniture and textiles are created; backstage at the Metropolitan Opera House; and “top to bottom” at department stores. Some students have worked as dressers at fashion shows and at other special events in the city. Students get to meet and hear from the industry elite during the college’s weekly special lecture series. Guest lecturers have included such major figures as couture designers Pauline Trigère and Oscar de la Renta; John Loring, vice president of design for Tiffany & Co.; Massimo Ferragamo, president of Salvatore Ferragamo U.S.A.; designers Norma Kamali*, Han Feng, John Bartlett*, Anna Sui, John Anthony*, Victor Alfaro*, and Alexander Julian; Paul Charron, president of Liz Claiborne; jewelry designer Kenneth J. Lane; Linda Gaunt*, executive vice president of U.S. communications for Giorgio Armani; and Stan Herman, president of the Council of Fashion Designers of America.
* FIT alumni

Internships: Industry in Perspective

Internships are an integral part of the FIT experience. As a student intern, you can gain firsthand experience and insight into your chosen field—and make your transition from classroom to workplace an easier one. An internship may even provide you with a direct pipeline to your initial job. More than 40 percent of our eligible students convert their internships into full- or part-time jobs upon graduation.

In many majors at FIT, you are required to take an internship for credit. In programs where an internship is not a requirement, students can become interns on a supplemental credit basis. Internships are carefully assigned, structured, and monitored to give you the most appropriate and valuable experience. The Internship Center currently has a roster of more than 2,500 participating sponsors, including MTV, Bloomingdale’s, J. Crew, Calvin Klein, Donna Karan, Young and Rubicam, London Fog, Arista Records, Ralph Lauren, Seventeen magazine, Tommy Hilfiger, Inside Edition, and A/X Armani Exchange.

Career Services
Sharpen your career focus while you’re attending FIT by utilizing the rich and varied resources available at our college. Our Career Services Department is staffed by professional career counselors to assist students and alumni in all aspects of career development, from career assessment to job search skills and strategies. The department sponsors an annual series of seminars involving speakers from various companies such as Giorgio Armani, GURL, Fubu, and Donna Karan International.

We also hold job fairs, career days, and an on-campus recruitment program each spring. Throughout the year, our counselors work with you to develop job opportunities in industry for full-time, part-time, freelance, and summer employment positions. The bottom line is impressive: Our Career Services Department has a placement rate of nearly 90 percent for students who register for services; 95 percent of them are in the New York City area.


FIT Alumni Speak

“Ever since I was a child, I knew I wanted to be a designer. I taught myself how to sketch and sew. FIT gave me the skills I needed.” Calvin Klein, President, Calvin Klein Industries

“I’m from the middle of nowhere up in the Adirondacks, and when I came to FIT, I wanted to study advertising design. The screening process worked, though, and I went into fine arts instead. I decided, at my mom’s suggestion, to enter the Restoration Program. After graduation, I worked for someone else for a year and started my own business in 1992. I always knew the only option was to have my own business.” Matthew Hanlon, President and Owner, Matthew Hanlon Restorations

“I looked at postings at FIT’s Job Bank, signed up for interviews, and two weeks later was hired. FIT’s industry connections really came through for me. I use what I learned at FIT every day in my work.” Mayra Perez, Textile Researcher, Elisabeth Division of Liz Claiborne

“When I took a summer drawing course at FIT, I focused on how the human figure moved and felt most comfortable. My professors recognized my skills and led me to a career in fashion.” David Chu, Founder, CEO, and Chief Designer, Nautica International, Inc.

“I started at NBC in 1976, primarily as a graphic designer. The computer came in 1983. Everything we were doing before is now done on computers without moving from one spot.” Roy Ruan, Graphic Designer, Broadcast Creative Services, NBC, New York

“I earned my first bachelor’s degree from FIT in fashion design. I still enjoy doing it, but I believe you need different satisfaction at every stage of your life. It took me two years to give up my job and come back to school full-time, but I have no regrets.” Chalin Yu, Toy Designer, Fisher-Price

“At FIT I found a strong commitment to the commercial arts. The faculty was energetic and passionate about developing each student’s creative skills.” Carlos Torres, Senior Partner/Creative Director, OgilvyOne Worldwide

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Adelphi University – School of Nursing

The School of Nursing

The School of Nursing has a history rich in achievement. Founded in 1943 as a cadet nurse corps program, it was the first professional school at Adelphi University and the first collegiate nursing program on Long Island. In 1949, Adelphi became one of a small number of schools to offer a master’s degree in nursing. The School offers a post-master’s nurse practitioner certificate program as well as other programs designed to meet the needs of practicing nurses in today’s health-care environment.

Recognizing the growing complexity of health care and the high cost of nursing education, the School has developed a new curriculum designed to prepare traditional and nontraditional students efficiently and expertly. This curriculum emphasizes clinical nursing competence using a wide array of learning resources.

The Adelphi University School of Nursing remains on the cutting edge as it moves into a new era of health care. In keeping with Adelphi University’s commitment to intellect, the School of Nursing emphasizes the principles and processes of nursing care through programs that integrate humanistic foundations, theoretical inquiry, and clinical practice. The School believes that only by means of such thorough preparation can the nursing profession respond to the challenges that confront the health-care system as it moves into the next century.

Programs of Study

The School of Nursing offers a Bachelor of Science program with a major in nursing for basic students whose educational objective is to obtain the degree and become eligible to take the licensing examination for Registered Professional Nurse. The School also offers a program for registered nurses from associate degree or diploma nursing programs who wish to obtain the Bachelor of Science degree. An accelerated B.S./M.S. program is offered for qualified RN students. The Master of Science is offered for nurses seeking advanced education in professional nursing. Post-master’s certificate programs are available for adult nurse practitioner and nursing service administration.

The Bachelor of Science program for basic students is based on a planned progression of courses arranged to build upon previous knowledge and to develop skills and performance at an increasing level of competence. Students are required to complete 124 credits to receive the degree. These include credits in the University’s general education distribution courses supportive to the nursing major, and professional courses. Throughout the curriculum, concepts relating to promotion of health, care during illness, and rehabilitation in relation to the patient, the family, and the community are developed. Dynamics of practice in the health-care delivery system of the twenty-first century are emphasized.

The focus of the curriculum for registered nurses is on developing an expanded body of knowledge encompassing primary (patients entering the health-care system) and tertiary (patients with long-term illnesses) care. Emphasis is also placed on expanded assessment abilities, strategies for planning for future nursing care delivery modes, and ability to solve complex problems and to effect change.

The accelerated B.S./M.S. program allows qualified RN students to register for 12 credits in the master’s program, which are used to fulfill degree requirements in both programs.

The M.S. program prepares nurses for advanced practice as nursing service administrators and advanced practice nurses in adult health. The M.S. is awarded at the completion of 42 credits and a master’s project for nursing service administration and 48 credits plus a project for master’s-level nurse practitioner students.


Garden City, a suburban residential community in Nassau County, Long Island, is less than an hour from midtown Manhattan by car or train. Both the county and nearby New York City offer a wide variety of athletic, cultural, and social resources to meet the many needs of a large and diverse population.

The Nursing Student Group

In spring 1998, the School of Nursing enrolled more than 540 undergraduate and graduate students.


Applicants for the basic Bachelor of Science program must meet the general conditions of admission to the University. High school chemistry, physics, and 2½ years of mathematics are recommended. Transfer applicants must have a minimum GPA of 2.8. The acceptable grade in science courses is C+ or better. Transfer applicants must interview. RN applicants must hold a current registered nurse license in one of the fifty states or territories; must meet general University requirements for admission; must have graduated from an associate degree program accredited by the NLNAC or, if a graduate of a nonaccredited or diploma program, must have completed the Regents College Examinations; and must have a minimum GPA of 2.5.

Applicants to the master’s and post-master’s programs are required to have a current license as a registered nurse in one of the fifty states or territories, to hold an earned B.S. or M.S. degree in nursing from a professionally accredited school, to have a minimum GPA of 3.0 on a 4.0 point scale, and to provide letters of reference.

Correspondence and Information:
Office of Undergraduate Admissions
Adelphi University
Garden City, New York 11530
Telephone: 800-ADELPHI (toll-free)

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