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Inside the Best HBCUs for Online Master’s Degrees

Check out these historically Black colleges and universities, the programs they offer, and the benefits that HBCUs are uniquely qualified to deliver.

Author: Shannon Lee

Editor: Staff Editor

Search hundreds of schools for the master’s YOU want……

Historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs) have had a major impact on higher learning for Black students. According to the UNCF, HBCUs make up roughly 3% of colleges and universities in the United States, yet enroll 10% of all Black students and produce almost one-fifth of all Black graduates.

To be considered an HBCU, the school must have been established before 1964 with the primary mission of educating Black students. Each school must also be accredited by a recognized agency or association to qualify as an HBCU. It’s important to not that HBCUs educate all students, regardless of ethnicity. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, in 2021 25% of students at HBCUs were not Black.

Like most schools, HBCUs have ramped up their online programs.While most degrees awarded by HBCUs are at the bachelor’s level, about 14% are master’s degrees. The ability to learn remotely is especially helpful to graduate students, as many have family and professional obligations that make taking classes on campus difficult.

If you’re interested in earning an advanced degree, read on to learn more about HBCUs and the host of benefits they offer—benefits that aren’t easily replicated at other schools.

Ranking the Best HBCUs with Online Master’s Degrees

Explore colleges rooted in rich traditions and cultural diversity with our guide to online master’s programs offered by historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs). Each institution ranked below was chosen not only for its historical significance, but was also recognized for the quality, accessibility, and excellence of its graduate-level education. See which HBCUs earned top honors in 2024 for their online master’s degree programs.

About the ranking
1
Jackson, Mississippi
Type:
Public
Cost:
$

As the largest HBCU in Mississippi, Jacksonville State University (JSU) offers a diverse range of options for aspiring graduate students. Students can choose from 13 fully online graduate programs in the arts, the sciences, or business. Regardless of discipline, JSU designs its programs to offer quality academics on a flexible schedule to expand access to higher education without being limited by geography. JSU is committed to an interdisciplinary approach to education that encourages students to explore their interests, develop a holistic understanding of their field, and incorporate their lived experiences into their work. Small class sizes and extensive student support integrate students into the school community and ensure many opportunities for mentorship.

Program Highlights:

Business Administration, MBA

  • Credits: 30
  • Length: 1 year
  • Mode: Online
  • Accreditation: AACSB

School Services & Accreditation

Career Services Yes
Academic Counseling Yes
Accreditation SACSCOC
2
Alcorn State, Mississippi
Type:
Public
Cost:
$

Alcorn State University is the oldest publicly funded HBCU in the country. For centuries it has been preparing future leaders and empowering Black students to develop their intellectual passions. Alcorn demonstrates a strong emphasis on equity and inclusion across fields through projects like The Socially Disadvantaged Farmers and Ranchers Policy Research Center and their mission to center diversity, identity, and interdisciplinarity in each of their programs. Online students at Alcorn can choose between seven different programs in STEM, health sciences, and education. All of these programs can be completed fully online or with a mix of in-person and online learning.

Program Highlights:

Master of Science in Workforce Education Leadership

  • Credits: 36
  • Length: Varies
  • Mode: Online
  • Accreditation: SACSCOC

School Services & Accreditation

Career Services Yes
Academic Counseling Yes
Accreditation SACSCOC
3
Fayetteville, North Carolina
Type:
Public
Cost:
$

Fayetteville State University’s (FSU) mission is to expand access to higher education for a diverse range of students, including students of color, students from rural areas, and military students. The school’s curriculum is developed around a commitment to advancing knowledge and promoting leadership through “the integration of teaching, learning, research, and public service.” Online graduate students can expect thorough, affordable, flexible, and interdisciplinary programs that prepare them to excel in their chosen careers. FSU offers five online master’s programs in criminal justice, business administration, nursing, psychology, and sociology. To promote student success in its online programs, FSU offers extensive technical support, resources for distance learning, and access to support services like academic advising and career coaching.

Program Highlights:

Criminal Justice MS

  • Credits: 33
  • Length: Varies
  • Mode: Online
  • Accreditation: ACJS

School Services & Accreditation

Career Services Yes
Academic Counseling Yes
Accreditation SACSCOC
4
Huntsville, Alabama
Type:
Private not-for-profit
Cost:
$$

School Services & Accreditation

Career Services Yes
Academic Counseling Yes
Accreditation SACSCOC
5
Grambling, Louisiana
Type:
Public
Cost:
$

School Services & Accreditation

Career Services Yes
Academic Counseling Yes
Accreditation SACSCOC
6
Durham, North Carolina
Type:
Public
Cost:
$

School Services & Accreditation

Career Services Yes
Academic Counseling Yes
Accreditation SACSCOC

Spotlighting Three Top HBCUs for Online Master’s Students

If you’re looking to earn a master’s degree online from an HBCU, there are plenty of schools and programs to choose from. In fact, you might be overwhelmed with the options. We’re here to help by identifying several spotlight schools that stand out in terms of academic quality, affordability, and student support services. We identified notable master’s degree programs and what you can expect from them in terms of cost, learning format, and the time required to complete the program.

Howard University is one of the most well-known HBCUs, and the program offerings show it. Choose from more than a dozen online programs, six of which are at the master’s level—the master’s degree in nursing, accounting, finance, business administration, executive business administration, and social work. The bulk of course requirements are completed online, although some programs, such as nursing, have some in-person requirements for hands-on training. Programs may also have optional experiential learning opportunities, such as the international immersion opportunity in the online MBA program.

Master of Business Administration

  • Number of credits: 48
  • Program length: About 30 months
  • Cost per credit: $1,896/credit
  • Mode: Partially online
  • Accreditation: AACSB

Master of Accountancy

  • Number of credits: 30
  • Program length: One year
  • Cost per credit: $2,266.13/credit
  • Mode: Partially online
  • Accreditation: AACSB

Master of Science in Nursing – Family Nurse Practitioner

  • Number of credits: 46
  • Program length: Varies
  • Cost per credit: $2,488.53/credit
  • Mode: Partially online
  • Accreditation: CCNE

School Services and Accreditation

  • Career Services: Yes
  • Academic Counseling: Yes
  • Accreditation: MSCHE

Students interested in earning a degree online have seven degrees to choose from at Tuskegee University. Three are master of science programs—in animal science, environmental science, and environmental management—and the other four are bachelor’s degrees. All online programs are available asynchronously, allowing students to complete course requirements any time that’s convenient for them. This makes these programs ideal for students who work full-time while in school. The programs have a bit of flexibility built in, as students can tailor their coursework with electives, a research project, or selecting a thesis or nonthesis track.

Master of Science in Animal Science

  • Number of credits: 32
  • Program length: 12 to 24 months
  • Cost per credit: $717/credit
  • Mode: Partially online
  • Accreditation: N/A

Master of Science in Environmental Science

  • Number of credits: 32
  • Program length: 12 to 18 months
  • Cost per credit: $717/credit
  • Mode: Partially online
  • Accreditation: N/A

Master of Science in Environmental Management

  • Number of credits: 32
  • Program length: 12 to 24 months
  • Cost per credit: $717/credit
  • Mode: Partially online
  • Accreditation: N/A

School Services and Accreditation

  • Career Services: Yes
  • Academic Counseling: Yes
  • Accreditation: SACSCOC

Florida A&M University offers 13 online degree programs; six of these are online master’s degree programs in areas including public health, general nursing, social science, adult gerontology nursing, women’s health nursing, and business administration. Many offer specialization opportunities to customize the degree.

Depending on the program, students complete the required coursework with both synchronous and asynchronous formats. This gives as much learning flexibility as possible to accommodate busy schedules while also providing an interactive learning experience. To further enhance the experience, many of the online programs have in-person requirements, such as residencies or clinicals.

Master of Business Administration

  • Number of credits: 44
  • Program length: Two to three years
  • Cost per credit: $792/credit
  • Mode: Partially online
  • Accreditation: N/A

Master of Science in Nursing

  • Number of credits: 42
  • Program length: Two to three years
  • Cost per credit: $732/credit
  • Mode: Partially online
  • Accreditation: ACEN

Master of Public Health

  • Number of credits: 50
  • Program length: About three years
  • Cost per credit: $650/credit
  • Mode: Partially online
  • Accreditation: CEPH

School Services and Accreditation

  • Career Services: Yes
  • Academic Counseling: Yes
  • Accreditation: SACSCOC

The Benefits of Earning a Master’s from an HBCU

If you are a person of color, earning your master’s degree from an HBCU provides a great opportunity to learn with classmates who have similar racial and/or cultural experiences, as well as students you might not otherwise interact with at a more traditional university or college. But inclusive learning isn’t the only benefit of attending an HBCU. Here are a few more of the benefits of earning your master’s at an HBCU.

Affordability

HBCUs encompass about 100 schools with a roughly equal split among private and public institutions. In general, HBCUs are more affordable, with 30% lower tuition rates than comparable schools. Students who attend more selective private HBCUs can expect to pay higher tuition rates. But those who enroll in a public HBCU and enjoy in-state residency status can save a lot of money compared with similar in-state students at non-HBCUs.

Uniquely Qualified to Help First Generation and Low-income Students

HBCUs have admissions policies tailored to accept students who come from low-income and/or first-generation households. The UNCF defines “access rate” as the percentage of students at a school that come from a low-income home. HBCUs have an average access rate of 51.3%, while the national average for all schools is 22.5%. HBCUs are also twice as likely as non-HBCUsto enroll students eligible for Pell Grants. About 33% of college students for all schools are first-generation, but at HBCUs this percentage is 52%.

Supportive Environment for POC

HBCUs have larger nonwhite student populations, meaning that it’s more likely a person of color (POC) will find classmates who are familiar with their background, culture, and experiences. This includes upbringing, economic struggles, being first in the family to get a college or graduate degree, and experiences with discrimination, stereotyping, or being ostracized.

Unique Programing & Class Options

HBCUs are known for helping students earn degrees in STEM, which is science, technology, engineering, and math. From 2008 to 2012, eight of the top 20 postsecondary institutions awarding science and engineering bachelor’s degrees were HBCUs.

But HBCUs aren’t just about graduating students who have degrees in fields intended for high-demand jobs. They also provide unique courses and programs, including finding ways to prepare graduates for life after school. For instance, HBCUs have especially strong alumni networks and extracurricular activities that provide learning and enrichment opportunities outside the classroom.

This extra emphasis pays off, as 55% of HBCU graduates feel they’re ready for life after college. In comparison, the rate for minority graduates from non-HBCU institutions is just 29%.

Scholarship and Funding Opportunities

Most colleges and universities have endowments and funding sources to provide financial aid. HBCUs are no different. However, some HBCUs have taken special steps to reduce student loan balances. These schools include Morehouse College, Paul Quinn College, Miles College, and Florida A&M University.

Additionally, many scholarships and grants are specifically tailored for HBCU students. Because HBCU students comprise a relatively small number of graduate students, these forms of gift-based financial aid can be a bit less competitive than those open to all students.

Impact of HBCUs on Communities of Color

HBCUs have had a positive impact on the Black community. HBCUs make earning a college or graduate degree more accessible, which can then lead to greater earning potential and opportunities for professional advancement. But there’s more that HBCUs do.

For example, about 80% of HBCUs are located in areas that have below-average median incomes. The HBCU therefore provides local residents with job and education opportunities that might not otherwise exist. Below are some other ways HBCUs have a positive influence on their students and the country as a whole.

A Brief History of HBCUs

Even after the abolition of slavery and the Civil War, Black people had great difficulty obtaining a formal education, especially at the postsecondary level. Many colleges and universities refused to admit Black students and, if they did, they limited the number of they would accept and/or treated them with indifference once on campus. As a result, HBCUs starting forming, especially in the South and Mid-Atlantic areas of the United States. Most of these HBCUs formed between 1865 and 1900.

By definition, colleges and universities created primarily to serve the education needs of Black students before 1964 are HBCUs. Schools with similar missions established after 1964 are PBIs, or predominantly Black institutions. Generally speaking, the term HBCU is used to include both HBCUs and PBIs. Currently, there are about 100 HBCUs and PBIs in the United States,with enrollment peaking around 2010 with about 327,000 students.

Economic Impact of HBCUs

Higher education leads to greater income and wealth accumulation. HBCUs have narrowed the racial wealth gap by making a college or graduate degree more accessible. To put things in perspective, HBCUs account for roughly 75% of all doctorate degrees awarded to Black students, helped train about 75% of Black military officers, and served as an alma mater for 60% of all Black federal judges. Additionally, two HBCUs, Meharry Medical University and Howard University, are responsible for 80% of all Black doctors and dentists in the United States.

HBCUs have made higher education more accessible by making it more affordable. Per the UNCF, 39% of whites aged 25 to 40 have student loan debt. However, this rate grows to 54% for Blacks of the same age. The affordability of an HBCU education makes it easier for Black students to obtain this education and reduce the racial wealth gap.

Creation of Strong, Inclusive Communities

HBCUs were founded in response to students being excluded. Therefore, HBCUs work hard to make their students feel accepted by their peers. Students of color are more likely to have classmates and professors who have comparable backgrounds and cultures. HBCUs also tend to have smaller student bodies and class sizes. This can create a more intimate learning and support environment.

Resources for Students Attending HBCUs

Getting a graduate degree is a major investment—and a major challenge—no matter where you go to school. To help you make the most of your time in school, check out the following resources.

  • The HBCU Career Center: This organization’s primary goal is to work with HBCU students and alumni to facilitate the transition from academic life to the working world. Some of the provided services include career workshops, info sessions, and job fairs.
  • HBCU Connect: This online social network focuses on creating professional connections for its membership. HBCU Connect also informs its members about educational opportunities.
  • HBCU First: HBCU First creates relationships between HBCUs and Black students to help them achieve their career goals through various types of internship and mentoring programs.
  • HBCU Lifestyle: If it relates to the Black college living and learning experience, this website covers it. Besides facilitating the social lives of students, HBCU Lifestyle has a job search tool, information guides, and special alumni services including a podcast.
  • HBCU Today: This is a collection of online articles for all things HBCU. Articles cover topics such as athletics, educational resources, Greek life, student profiles, and news relating to prominent Black individuals.
  • HBCUcareers.com: This site offers a central location where HBCU students can find employers for post-graduate positions. Career resources include virtual and in-person career fairs, blogs, and a job search tool.
  • Houston HBCU Alumni Association: This nonprofit organization is an association of HBCU alumni based in Houston, Texas, who work to enhance members’ professional development. Services and programs offered include mentorships, internships, scholarships, networking events, and college fairs.
  • Thurgood Marshall College Fund: The Thurgood Marshall College Fund works toward improving academic access for Black students, especially at the post-secondary level. This organization administers various scholarships, facilitates partnerships, and promotes policies to improve the availability of higher education for students, especially those interested in an HBCU.
  • UNCF (United Negro College Fund): This is one of the most well-known and influential organizations to promote the interests of minorities, in particular helping Black and minority students earn a degree. Resources from the UNCF include scholarships, coordinating a network of 37 HBCUs, and advocating on behalf of minority students.
  • U.S. Department of Education – What Is an HBCU?:Besides briefly explaining what an HBCU is, this webpage lists all HBCUs that have accreditation recognized by the U.S. Department of Education. The list includes information such as the school’s website and institution type.

HBCU Scholarship Opportunities

Enrolling in an HBCU to earn a master’s degree has plenty of benefits, including affordable tuition and ample opportunities for financial aid. This includes many HBCUs offering exclusive scholarships and grants. Here are some forms of gift-based aid from other organizations that can help you pay for your education.

Apple HBCU Scholarship Program

  • Scholarship Amount: $15,000
  • Scholarship Deadline: 10/2023
  • Eligibility Requirements: This scholarship is open to both graduate and undergraduate students attending an HBCU. Students can be in either a technical or nontechnical program. Special preference will be given to those with prior team, leadership, or internship experience.

Hennessy Fellows Program

  • Scholarship Amount: $20,000
  • Scholarship Deadline: Varies
  • Eligibility Requirements: In addition to being enrolled in a graduate program at an HBCU, applicants must also have at least a 3.25 GPA, be a U.S. citizen or legal permanent resident, demonstrate a desire for a positive impact on their community, and be at least 21 years of age.

NBA HBCU Fellowship

  • Scholarship Amount: Varies
  • Scholarship Deadline: 2/2024
  • Eligibility Requirements: Applicants should be currently enrolled at an HBCU in an undergraduate or graduate program and show an interest in the NBA. Additional requirements or award preferences will be based on the particular position within the NBA.

Novartis U.S. Foundation HBCU Scholarship Program

  • Scholarship Amount: $10,000
  • Scholarship Deadline: 3/2024
  • Eligibility Requirements: Applicant must be a full-time student at an HBCU medical school or healthcare-related graduate program, demonstrate financial need, have at least a 3.0 GPA, and be a U.S. citizen or legal permanent resident.

Ray Charles Foundation Scholarship

  • Scholarship Amount: Varies
  • Scholarship Deadline: 4/2024
  • Eligibility Requirements: Undergraduate (juniors or seniors) and graduate students are all eligible to apply, including students who are already enrolled in or accepted into a medical school or residency program. While not required, there is a strong preference for applicants to be enrolled in an HBCU. Recipients spend one year at Cedars-Sinai learning from neuroscience leaders and mentors.