Graduates from these HBCUs have higher earnings than other Black graduates in the same states, according to a recent study

BY Ben Ebuka Oji February 20, 2024 8:21 AM EDT
Spelman College
Spelman College. Photo Credit: United Negro College Fund, Inc. (UNCF)

Apart from their significant role in Black history, Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) have been influential in shaping the American education system. Today, attending an HBCU offers numerous advantages, including inclusive campuses, supportive learning environments, increased employment prospects, and competitive salaries. Notably, these campuses prioritize fostering a strong sense of community, a top consideration for prospective HBCU students, as revealed by a 2023 survey.

Over time, HBCUs have gained attention for providing the greatest return on investment for Black graduates compared to other Black graduates in the same state with equivalent levels of education.

A recent analysis of government data by Online U indicates that Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) have emerged as institutions where alumni typically achieve higher earnings compared to other Black graduates in their states.

To identify which HBCUs provide the greatest financial benefit for Black students, Online U examined median earnings per college and compared them to the state salary threshold. This threshold represents the median salary earned by Black graduates in the same state with equivalent levels of education. This revelation underscores the lasting influence of these institutions on the economic prosperity of their graduates.

The top five performers – Spelman College; Xavier University of Louisiana; Hampton University; Morehouse College, and Tuskegee University – demonstrate significant financial rewards for their alumni, further highlighting the value of attending Historically Black Colleges and Universities.

Spelman College

Spelman College of Atlanta, GA, is the leading HBCU in terms of alumni payoff. Graduates from this esteemed institution earn a median salary that surpasses that of other Black college graduates in Georgia by over $16,000. Furthermore, the median earnings of Spelman College graduates exceed the median for women with bachelor’s degrees in Georgia by $14,600.

Despite being the most expensive HBCU, Spelman’s annual net price has decreased by nearly $5,000, averaging $40,810 after factoring in grants and scholarships. Nonetheless, a vast majority of students at Spelman receive financial aid, with 96% benefiting from grants provided by the institution. The highest-earning majors at Spelman are economics and international studies.

Established in 1881 as the Atlanta Baptist Female Seminar, Spelman is the oldest private historically Black liberal arts institution for women. Throughout its history, Spelman has consistently ranked among the top HBCUs, boasting numerous noteworthy accomplishments. Recently, the prestigious institution of learning made history with a monumental $100 million donation, marking the largest single gift ever received by a Historically Black College or University (HBCU). This historic donation coincides with Spelman’s celebration of its centennial year since its renaming in 1924.

Xavier University

Xavier University of Louisiana comes second with alumni earning a median salary above the median for Black college graduates in the state by $11,667. Xavier held the top spot in 2022. However, there has been a notable increase in the salaries of Black college graduates in Louisiana overall, resulting in a reduced comparative payoff for Xavier graduates. Xavier stands out as the HBCU with the highest proportion of STEM majors, with 52% of students pursuing degrees in STEM fields. The top STEM fields are biology, psychology, and chemistry.

Hampton University

Graduates of Hampton University, Hampton, VA, earn almost $11,000 more than the median income for Black college graduates in the state. Despite this, the annual net price has increased by over $10,000, ranking second after Spelman College. After factoring in grants and scholarships, student fees average $40,351 per year. The highest-paid bachelor’s degrees for Hampton graduates are nursing, accounting, and business administration.

Morehouse College

Ranked fourth, Morehouse College, a men’s liberal arts institution in Atlanta, sees its graduates earning a median salary of $10,322 higher than the state median for other Black graduates with a bachelor’s degree. While the college maintains a relatively accessible admission rate of 65%, its annual net price has increased from $33,000 to slightly over $40,000. Morehouse serves a smaller proportion of low-income students compared to other HBCUs, with 43% of students getting the Pell Grant in the 2021-22 academic year. According to data from College Scorecard, majors in economics, biology, and business yield the highest salaries at Morehouse.

Tuskegee University

Tuskegee University secures its place in the top five with a significant increase in median earnings, elevating it among the leading institutions for the highest payoff. Its median alumni salaries are approximately $7,000 above the median for Black bachelor’s graduates in Alabama. Tuskegee University’s highest-earning majors include mechanical, electrical, and chemical engineering.

With 57% of its students being Pell Grant recipients and grant aid provided for 97% of students in the 2021-22 academic year, Tuskegee University demonstrates a commitment to supporting its student body financially. However, the university’s annual net price of just over $40,000 and an admissions rate of 34% may pose accessibility challenges for some students.

Completing the top 10 are:

6. Florida A&M University: With a median salary of $47,106, surpassing the state salary threshold of $41,952.

7. Howard University: Boasting a median salary of $64,198, exceeding the state salary threshold of $59,518.

8. North Carolina A&T State University: Ranked 8th, with a median salary of $47,942, indicating a $4,448 financial payoff above the state salary threshold of $43,494.

9. Jackson State University: With a median salary of $39,095 above the state salary threshold of $34,959, resulting in a financial payoff of $4,136.

10. Oakwood University: Completed the top 10, with a median salary of $44,518 above the state salary threshold of $40,393, leading to a financial gain of $4,125.

In conclusion, comparing median earnings at HBCUs to those of other Black graduates in the state serves to underscore the unique value each college offers its students while also shedding light on the racial disparities present in the labor market that often result in lower salaries for Black college graduates. This consideration could be pivotal for students during their college search process. By factoring in earnings potential as part of their decision-making criteria, students can make more informed choices about their educational journey, ultimately empowering them to pursue opportunities that align with their goals and aspirations.