Best HBCU Colleges in North Carolina

Find out the details about HBCU colleges in North Carolina and which ones are the best.

Best HBCU Colleges in North Carolina
Askas Jeremy

Historically black colleges and universities, or HBCUs, are colleges and universities that were established before the Civil Rights Act of 1964, with their main mission being to provide higher education to the African American community, which, until the Civil Rights Movement, were usually excluded from many colleges. Many HBCU institutions were founded in the years and decades after the American Civil War, thus many HBCUs tend to be concentrated in the U.S. South.

North Carolina is home to nearly 70 four-year colleges and universities, both public and private, not-for-profit institutions. Among these many colleges, there are 11 HBCU colleges in North Carolina. Out of the 11 HBCU colleges in North Carolina, the oldest is Shaw University, which was founded in 1865, the year the Civil War ended. The 11 HBCU colleges in North Carolina include the following: 

A common question when it comes to HBCU colleges is, which HBCU colleges in North Carolina are the best? BrokeScholar conducted a study in order to identify the best HBCU colleges in North Carolina. Read on to find out more about the best HBCU colleges in North Carolina.

Best HBCU Colleges in North Carolina

When it comes to the best HBCU colleges in North Carolina, there are 11 colleges and universities. However, for this study, we used data sourced from the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), which does not have data on Barber-Scotia College because it is an unaccredited institution. Thus, for our study, only 10 HBCU colleges in North Carolina could be analyzed in this study. Utilizing this data, we were able to compile a list of the best HBCU colleges in North Carolina academically. 

It should be noted that some data was limited for these HBCU colleges in North Carolina, such as SAT and ACT scores, so we also analyzed graduation rates and admission rates. All HBCU colleges in North Carolina award bachelor’s degrees, and several award degrees of higher levels, such as master’s degrees and doctoral degrees. Here’s a look at the best HBCU colleges in North Carolina:

North Carolina A&T State University

4-year, public institution

Types of degrees:

  • Bachelor's degree
  • Postbaccalaureate certificate
  • Master's degree
  • Doctor's degree - research/scholarship 

North Carolina A&T State University is located in Greensboro, North Carolina, and was founded in 1891. Among the 11 HBCU colleges in North Carolina, North Carolina agricultural & Technical State University boasts the highest graduation rate at 53%. This HBCU institution has an undergraduate student population of approximately 11,596, with a total student population of 13,322. North Carolina A&T has a fairly competitive acceptance rate when it comes to applicants, having an admission rate of 57%; this makes it one of the more selective HBCU colleges in North Carolina. In addition, North Carolina A&T University has very solid SAT and ACT scores. The college’s 75th percentile SAT Reading and Writing score was 590; its 75th percentile Math score was 580; and its 75th percentile ACT Composite score was 22; all of these scores are the highest out of the 10 HBCU colleges in North Carolina we analyzed for our study. In terms of the enrolled student population, 83% are Black or African American, according to the NCES.

Because North Carolina A&T University is a public institution, it has different rates of tuition for in-state students versus out-of-state students. According to NCES data, the tuition and required fees are approximately $6,733 for in-state students and $20,243 for out-of-state students.

North Carolina Central University

4-year, public institution

Types of degrees:

  • Bachelor's degree
  • Master's degree
  • Doctor's degree - research/scholarship
  • Doctor's degree - professional practice

Founded in 1910, North Carolina Central University is located in Durham, North Carolina, and is the only HBCU college in North Carolina established in the 20th century. North Carolina Central University (NCCU) has an undergraduate student population of an estimated 5,892, with a total student population of nearly 8,000; this makes NCCU the second largest HBCU college in North Carolina, behind only North Carolina A&T University. North Carolina Central University boasts the second highest graduation rate of the HBCU colleges in North Carolina, at 51%. The admission rate at NCCU is 76%, which is higher than the average for all HBCU colleges in North Carolina (69%). According to NCES data, 78% of the student population is Black or African American. 

North Carolina Central University boasts excellent SAT scores and ACT Composite scores. Its 75th percentile SAT Reading and Writing score was 600, while its 75th percentile SAT Math score was 550; its 75th percentile ACT Composite score was 20, being bested here only by North Carolina A&T. As a public institution, North Carolina Central University charges different rates of tuition depending on the student’s residency: For an in-state student, the cost of tuition and required fees is approximately $6,644, while for out-of-state students, it is an estimated $19,351.

Winston-Salem State University

4-year, public institution

Types of degrees:

  • Bachelor's degree
  • Postbaccalaureate certificate
  • Master's degree
  • Post-master's certificate
  • Doctor's degree - professional practice

Founded in 1892, Winston-Salem State University is located in, unsurprisingly, Winston-Salem, North Carolina. Out of the 11 HBCU colleges in North Carolina, Winston-Salem State University (WSSU) has an undergraduate population of a little over 4,700, and a total student population of over 5,200. Like North Carolina A&T University and North Carolina Central University, Winston-Salem State University offers a wide range of degrees, from a bachelor’s degree up to a doctoral degree for professional practice. Winston-Salem State University also has solid SAT and ACT scores, with both its 75th percentile SAT Reading and Writing and SAT Math scores being 520; the university’s 75th percentile ACT Composite score was 19. The admission rate at WSSU is 81% and its graduation rate is the third highest of the HBCU colleges in North Carolina, at 46%.

According to NCES data, the estimated cost of tuition and required fees for an in-state student is $6,247; for out-of-state students, the cost is approximately $16,903. In terms of the enrolled student body, 78% are Black or African American. Winston-Salem State University has four overall colleges and departments: The College of Arts, Sciences, Business and Education; School of Health Sciences; Graduate and Professional Programs; and University College.

Elizabeth City State University

4-year, public institution

Types of degrees:

  • Bachelor's degree
  • Master's degree

Founded in 1891, Elizabeth City State University is located, as its name suggests, in Elizabeth City, North Carolina. For a public institution, the student population at Elizabeth City State University is on the smaller side. It has an estimated 1,956 undergraduate students and a total student population of a little over 2,050. The admission rate at Elizabeth City State University is 77%, which is higher than the average for all HBCU colleges in North Carolina. At the same time, however, Elizabeth City State University has the fourth highest graduation rate at 40%. What’s more, of the 10 HBCU colleges in North Carolina analyzed in this study, Elizabeth City State University has some of the best SAT and ACT scores. The school’s 75th percentile SAT Reading and Writing score was 550, its 75th percentile SAT Math score was 520, and its 75th percentile ACT Composite score was 19. As a public university, Elizabeth City State University charges the different rates of tuition for an in-state or out-of-state student. According to NCES data, the approximate costs of tuition and required fees are $3,326 per academic year for in-state students and $7,326 for out-of-state students, making it the most affordable of all HBCU colleges in North Carolina.

Johnson C. Smith University

4-year, private not-for-profit institution

Types of degrees:

  • Bachelor's degree
  • Master's degree

Founded in 1867, Johnson C. Smith University is located in Charlotte, North Carolina. Johnson C. Smith University is the most selective of the 10 HBCU colleges in North Carolina analyzed in our study, with an admission rate of 45%. The university has a sizable student population considering it is a private, not-for-profit institution. There are approximately 1,122 undergraduate students and 1,166 students in total. In terms of enrollment, 72% of the student population is Black or African American, according to NCES data. Johnson C. Smith University has the fifth highest graduation rate of all HBCU colleges in North Carolina, at 39%, and a very low transfer-out rate of 10%. Since Johnson C. Smith University is a private, not-for-profit institution, its cost of tuition and required fees is the same for in-state students and out-of-state students, being approximately $18,944 per academic year.

Fayetteville State University

4-year, public institution

Types of degrees:

  • Bachelor's degree
  • Postbaccalaureate certificate
  • Master's degree
  • Doctor's degree - research/scholarship

Fayetteville State University is located, naturally, in Fayetteville, North Carolina and was founded in 1867, making it one of the oldest HBCU colleges in North Carolina. Of the 10 HBCU colleges in North Carolina considered in our study, Fayetteville State University is on the larger side, having a total student population of approximately 6,748, with 5,557 being undergraduate students. Fayetteville State University has the highest admission rate in our study, at 82%. In terms of its graduation rate, Fayetteville State University has the sixth highest graduation rate, at 37%. In terms of its enrolled student population, 59% are Black or African American, according to the NCES. 

Fayetteville State University offers numerous programs and degrees. It has several colleges and departments under its umbrella, including: The Broadwell College of Business and Economics; the College of Education; the Lloyd College of Health, Science, and Technology; the College of Humanities and Social Sciences; and the Graduate School. The university also offers online education and a program for continuing education, called the Office for Adult Learners. Being a public college, Fayetteville State University has different costs of tuition and required fees depending on whether the student is in-state and out-of-state. However, its costs of tuition and required fees are more affordable than many of the HBCU colleges in North Carolina, with an estimated $5,379 per academic year for in-state students and $16,987 for out-of-state students, according to the NCES.

Livingstone College

4-year, private not-for-profit institution

Types of degrees:

  • One but less than two years certificate
  • Associate's degree
  • Bachelor's degree

Founded in 1879, Livingstone College is located in Salisbury, North Carolina. Livingstone College only offers degrees up to the bachelor-level, no graduate programs. Since the highest level degree it awards is a bachelor’s degree, Livingstone College only has undergraduate students, which is approximately 890, which makes it the second smallest of HBCU colleges in North Carolina. Livingstone College is one of the more selective HBCU colleges in North Carolina, with an admission rate of 51%. Only Johnson C. Smith University has an admission rate that is lower. In terms of graduation rate, Livingstone College has the seventh highest rate, at 23%. The college’s SAT and ACT scores aren’t bad, but they’re not as strong as other HBCU colleges in North Carolina like North Carolina A&T, North Carolina Central University, Winston-Salem State, or Elizabeth City State. 

Livingston College is comprised of four main departments: The Division of Mathematics and Sciences; Division of Business; Division of Education, Psychology and Social Work; and Division of Liberal Arts and Humanities. As a private, not-for-profit HBCU college, Livingstone College charges the same rate of tuition and required fees for both in-state and out-of-state students, which is an estimated $18,296.

Bennett College

4-year, private not-for-profit institution

Types of degrees:

  • Bachelor's degree

Founded in 1873, Bennett College is located in Greensboro, North Carolina, where North Carolina A&T University is also located. Bennett College only offers bachelor’s degrees, having no graduate programs. Thus, Bennett College only has undergraduate students, with a population of approximately 207, which makes it the smallest of HBCU colleges in North Carolina. Bennett College is one of the more competitive HBCU colleges in North Carolina to get in to, with an admission rate of 68%. In terms of graduation rate, Bennett College is tied for the eighth highest rate, at 22%. What’s more, Bennett College was ranked as No. 1 for social mobility by U.S. News, according to the college’s website. 

Bennett College is comprised of two academic programs: The Division of Arts and Sciences, which includes areas of study such as STEM, Humanities, Social and Behavioral Sciences, and Global and Interdisciplinary Studies; and the Division of Professional Studies, which includes areas of studies such as Business, Economics and Entrepreneurship, Curriculum and Instruction, Journalism and Media Studies, and Social Work. As a private, not-for-profit HBCU college, Bennett College charges the same rate of tuition and required fees for both in-state and out-of-state students, which is an estimated $18,550 per academic year.

Saint Augustine's University

4-year, private not-for-profit institution

Types of degrees:

  • Bachelor's degree
  • Master's degree

Founded in 1867, Saint Augustine's University is one of the oldest HBCU colleges in North Carolina. Like a number of other HBCU colleges in North Carolina, this institution is located in Raleigh. Out of the 10 HBCU colleges in North Carolina analyzed in our study, Saint Augustine’s University is tied with Bennett College with the eighth highest graduation rate of 22%. Saint Augustine’s University has an admission rate of 75%, which is slightly above the average for all HBCU colleges in North Carolina. As a private, not-for-profit HBCU college, Saint Augustine’s University has a student population that is less than public HBCU colleges in North Carolina, yet its student population is on the larger side among private institutions. According to NCES data, approximately 1,239 students are undergraduates, while the total student population is only slightly higher, at 1,261. As a private, not-for-profit university, Saint Augustine’s University charges the same rate of tuition and required fees for both in-state students and out-of-state students: Approximately $16,896 per academic year, according to NCES data.

Shaw University

4-year, private not-for-profit institution

Types of degrees:

  • Bachelor’s degree
  • Master's degree

Established in 1865, Shaw University is the oldest of the HBCU colleges in North Carolina and is located in Raleigh. Since Shaw University is a private, not-for-profit university, its student population is much less than public HBCU colleges in North Carolina. The undergraduate student population at Shaw University is approximately 998, with a total student population of 1,141. Although the graduation rate at Shaw University is only 16%, its admission rate is more selective than average, at 65%. According to NCES data, 62% of enrolled students are Black or African American. 

Shaw University offers a broad range of areas of study, on both the undergraduate and graduate level. Shaw University has three schools within it: The School of Arts, Sciences, and Humanities; School of Business and Professional Studies; and the Shaw University Divinity School. These schools offer a robust array of programs. For instance, within the School of Arts, Sciences and Humanities alone, there are four different departments: The Department of Humanities, Arts, and Interdisciplinary Studies; Department of Health, Human and Life Sciences; Department of Mass Communication and Digital Technology; and Department of Social Work, Sociology and Justice Studies.

The Bottom Line on the Best HBCU Colleges in North Carolina

Every single one of these HBCU colleges in North Carolina offer at least a bachelor’s degree program, while many more offer graduate-level programs. Notably, it is the public HBCU colleges that possess the most robust academic programs, with degrees ranging from a bachelor’s degree to a doctoral degree. North Carolina A&T University, North Carolina Central University, and Winston-Salem State University especially stand out for their broad range of programs and levels of degrees awarded. 

Most of these HBCU colleges in North Carolina accept scholarships or provide their own scholarship programs. Thus, if you’re interested in any of these HBCU colleges in North Carolina, you should check out BrokeScholar’s huge library of scholarships and grants and see if any of them apply to you.

Andrew DePietro

Author: Andrew DePietro

Senior Researcher, and Content Strategist

Andrew DePietro is a finance writer covering topics such as entrepreneurship, investing, real estate and college for BrokeScholar, Forbes, CreditKarma, and more.