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Written by Amanda Push via Student Loan Hero

For some students, attending a historically Black college or university (HBCU) in the U.S. aligns with their personal and professional goals. However, as both the inflation rate and cost-of-living expenses increase, affording rising tuition can be a challenge for many students and families.

To learn more about the affordability of HBCUs, Student Loan Hero researchers dug into U.S. Department of Education College Scorecard data, using average annual net cost to determine which schools are the most and least affordable. Net cost includes expenses such as tuition, room, board and books, while accounting for grants and scholarships.

Coahoma Community College in Mississippi is the cheapest HBCU, while Spelman College in Atlanta is the least affordable, according to the findings. Here’s more about the cost of HBCUs.

Key findings

  • Coahoma Community College is the most affordable HBCU. The average annual net cost to attend the two-year public school in Clarksdale, Miss., is $1,004. The No. 2 college — Elizabeth City State University, a four-year public school in North Carolina — has a net cost more than double that, at $2,350.
  • Spelman College is the least affordable HBCU. The average annual net cost to attend the four-year private Atlanta school is $43,843. Only one other school — Howard University, a four-year private school in Washington, D.C. — has a net cost above $40,000.
  • Denmark Technical College graduates have the lowest median student loan debt among HBCUs. Students graduate from the two-year public South Carolina school with an average of $9,000 in debt. Meanwhile, students at American Baptist College — a four-year private school in Nashville, Tenn. — leave school with the highest median student loan debt at $41,000.
  • Only two HBCUs — Clinton College and Spelman College — see at least 75% of their students graduate within 150% of normal time. For Clinton College — a two-year private school in Rock Hill, S.C. — that typically means graduating within three years. At Spelman, that usually means graduating within six years.

Most and least affordable HBCUs

Coahoma Community College in Clarksdale, Miss., is the most affordable HBCU in the U.S. This two-year public school has a net cost of $1,004, less than half that of the next college — Elizabeth City State University, a four-year public school in North Carolina — at $2,350.

Among the five most affordable HBCUs, four are public institutions. Of those five, four are two-year schools, while just one is a four-year college. In fact, most of the institutions at the top of the list are public schools — a mix of two-year and four-year colleges — with private ones appearing periodically. Meanwhile, private schools dominate the bottom of the list.

In particular, Spelman College, a four-year private institute in Atlanta, is the least affordable HBCU, with a net cost of $43,843. Spelman was followed closely by Howard University in Washington, D.C. Howard — also a four-year private institute — has a net cost of $41,289.

The most expensive two-year institution is Virginia University of Lynchburg. This private school has a net cost of $22,042.

Most — and least — affordable HBCUs
RankHBCUCityStateInstitution typeNet cost
1Coahoma Community CollegeClarksdaleMS2-year public$1,004
2Elizabeth City State UniversityElizabeth CityNC4-year public$2,350
3Simmons College of KentuckyLouisvilleKY2-year private$3,394
4J.F. Drake State Community and Technical CollegeHuntsvilleAL2-year public$3,589
5Gadsden State Community CollegeGadsdenAL2-year public$4,427
6Bishop State Community CollegeMobileAL2-year public$4,976
7Fayetteville State UniversityFayettevilleNC4-year public$5,899
8Shelton State Community CollegeTuscaloosaAL2-year public$6,217
9St. Philip’s CollegeSan AntonioTX2-year public$6,250
10H. Councill Trenholm State Community CollegeMontgomeryAL2-year public$6,723
11Kentucky State UniversityFrankfortKY4-year public$7,076
12Southern University at New OrleansNew OrleansLA4-year public$7,632
13Cheyney University of PennsylvaniaCheyneyPA4-year public$7,656
14Lincoln UniversityJefferson CityMO4-year public$7,830
15Southwestern Christian CollegeTerrellTX4-year private$7,928
16Lawson State Community CollegeBirminghamAL2-year public$8,039
17Bluefield State CollegeBluefieldWV4-year public$8,367
18Southern University at ShreveportShreveportLA2-year public$8,878
19LeMoyne-Owen CollegeMemphisTN4-year private$9,109
20Selma UniversitySelmaAL4-year private$9,229
21Savannah State UniversitySavannahGA4-year public$10,220
22North Carolina A&T State UniversityGreensboroNC4-year public$10,274
23Central State UniversityWilberforceOH4-year public$10,451
24University of the Virgin IslandsCharlotte AmalieVI4-year public$10,489
25Harris-Stowe State UniversitySaint LouisMO4-year public$10,551
26Rust CollegeHolly SpringsMS4-year private$11,317
27Coppin State UniversityBaltimoreMD4-year public$11,686
28Langston UniversityLangstonOK4-year public$12,131
29Winston-Salem State UniversityWinston-SalemNC4-year public$12,286
30University of Arkansas at Pine BluffPine BluffAR4-year public$12,320
31Tennessee State UniversityNashvilleTN4-year public$12,443
32Norfolk State UniversityNorfolkVA4-year public$12,645
33Edward Waters CollegeJacksonvilleFL4-year private$12,653
34Lane CollegeJacksonTN4-year private$12,966
35Albany State UniversityAlbanyGA4-year public$12,992
36Delaware State UniversityDoverDE4-year public$12,995
37Paine CollegeAugustaGA4-year private$13,072
38Denmark Technical CollegeDenmarkSC2-year public$13,440
39Fort Valley State UniversityFort ValleyGA4-year public$13,650
40Alabama State UniversityMontgomeryAL4-year public$13,650
41Shorter CollegeNorth Little RockAR2-year private$13,747
42Paul Quinn CollegeDallasTX4-year private$13,951
43Texas CollegeTylerTX4-year private$14,088
44Philander Smith CollegeLittle RockAR4-year private$14,141
45Jarvis Christian CollegeHawkinsTX4-year private$14,152
46Benedict CollegeColumbiaSC4-year private$14,291
47Miles CollegeFairfieldAL4-year private$14,303
48Allen UniversityColumbiaSC4-year private$14,306
49West Virginia State UniversityInstituteWV4-year public$14,408
50Jackson State UniversityJacksonMS4-year public$14,484
51Prairie View A&M UniversityPrairie ViewTX4-year public$14,582
52Tougaloo CollegeTougalooMS4-year private$14,609
53North Carolina Central UniversityDurhamNC4-year public$14,732
54Alcorn State UniversityAlcorn StateMS4-year public$14,836
55Alabama A&M UniversityNormalAL4-year public$14,990
56Florida Agricultural and Mechanical UniversityTallahasseeFL4-year public$15,060
57Clinton CollegeRock HillSC4-year private$15,393
58Talladega CollegeTalladegaAL4-year private$15,661
59Wilberforce UniversityWilberforceOH4-year private$15,684
60University of the District of ColumbiaWashingtonDC4-year public$15,894
61Bowie State UniversityBowieMD4-year public$15,934
62Morris CollegeSumterSC4-year private$16,105
63Southern University and A&M CollegeBaton RougeLA4-year public$16,312
64Mississippi Valley State UniversityItta BenaMS4-year public$16,394
65Huston-Tillotson UniversityAustinTX4-year private$16,775
66Virginia State UniversityPetersburgVA4-year public$16,970
67University of Maryland Eastern ShorePrincess AnneMD4-year public$16,980
68Bethune-Cookman UniversityDaytona BeachFL4-year private$16,995
69Voorhees CollegeDenmarkSC4-year private$17,113
70Dillard UniversityNew OrleansLA4-year private$17,128
71Morgan State UniversityBaltimoreMD4-year public$17,619
72Florida Memorial UniversityMiami GardensFL4-year private$17,625
73Wiley CollegeMarshallTX4-year private$17,666
74Lincoln UniversityLincoln UniversityPA4-year public$17,731
75Livingstone CollegeSalisburyNC4-year private$18,006
76Claflin UniversityOrangeburgSC4-year private$18,136
77Stillman CollegeTuscaloosaAL4-year private$18,352
78Grambling State UniversityGramblingLA4-year public$18,516
79Saint Augustine’s UniversityRaleighNC4-year private$18,596
80Arkansas Baptist CollegeLittle RockAR4-year private$19,029
81Johnson C. Smith UniversityCharlotteNC4-year private$19,220
82Shaw UniversityRaleighNC4-year private$19,244
83Texas Southern UniversityHoustonTX4-year public$19,430
84American Baptist CollegeNashvilleTN4-year private$19,581
85Xavier University of LouisianaNew OrleansLA4-year private$19,715
86South Carolina State UniversityOrangeburgSC4-year public$20,795
87Bennett CollegeGreensboroNC4-year private$21,356
88Virginia Union UniversityRichmondVA4-year private$21,813
89Virginia University of LynchburgLynchburgVA2-year private$22,042
90Fisk UniversityNashvilleTN4-year private$24,225
91Oakwood UniversityHuntsvilleAL4-year private$24,274
92Hampton UniversityHamptonVA4-year private$31,307
93Morehouse CollegeAtlantaGA4-year private$31,327
94Clark Atlanta UniversityAtlantaGA4-year private$34,263
95Tuskegee UniversityTuskegeeAL4-year private$34,575
96Howard UniversityWashingtonDC4-year private$41,289
97Spelman CollegeAtlantaGA4-year private$43,843
Source: U.S. Department of Education College Scorecard.

Looking to leave school with less than $20,000 in debt? Consider these 5 HBCUs

According to our latest student loan debt statistics update, students in the class of 2020 graduated with an average of $28,400 in federal and private debtHowever, attending an HBCU and walking away with less than $20,000 in debt is possible.

Five HBCUs have a median student loan debt among graduates of less than $20,000:

  • Denmark Technical College
    • Median debt: $9,000
    • Net cost: $13,440
    • Institution type: 2-year public
  • Southwestern Christian College
    • Median debt: $9,561
    • Net cost: $7,928
    • Institution type: 4-year private
  • St. Philip’s College
    • Median debt: $10,500
    • Net cost: $6,250
    • Institution type: 2-year public
  • University of the Virgin Islands
    • Median debt: $15,750
    • Net cost: $10,489
    • Institution type: 4-year public
  • Southern University at Shreveport
    • Median debt: $17,250
    • Net cost: $8,878
    • Institution type: 2-year public

On the other hand, many HBCUs have students who graduate with rather large median debts. Across the 88 HBCUs researchers examined (based on available data), 50 had students graduate with a median debt greater than the average across the schools of $28,288.

American Baptist College — a four-year private school in Nashville, Tenn. — and Virginia University of Lynchburg — a two-year private school — had the largest median debt totals among the HBCUs. Both schools are also among the 14 with the highest net cost.

  • American Baptist College
    • Median debt: $41,000
    • Net cost: $19,581
    • Institution type: 4-year private
  • Virginia University of Lynchburg
    • Median debt: $40,429
    • Net cost: $22,042
    • Institution type: 2-year private

When choosing between a public and private school, Student Loan Hero senior writer Andrew Pentis recommends that students consider the factors that vary the most between the two.

Variables such as tuition, class, campus size and academic program options can swing widely. For instance, a public college is typically much less expensive to attend than a private university. And while a private school might have smaller class sizes, it might also feature less diversity on campus.

“Students who aren’t sure what they want to study might like the idea of attending a larger school, whether it’s public or private, to give them a wider array of degree programs to consider, plus a larger faculty and staff to lean on for support,” Pentis says. “At the end of the day, students should find out which schools suit them best instead of limiting their search to either public or private.”

Median student loan debt among graduates at HBCUs
RankHBCUMedian debtRankHBCUMedian debt
1Denmark Technical College$9,00045Jarvis Christian College$29,406
2Southwestern Christian College$9,56146Morgan State University$29,473
3St. Philip’s College$10,50047Texas Southern University$29,531
4University of the Virgin Islands$15,75048Lincoln University (Missouri)$29,750
5Southern University at Shreveport$17,25049Alcorn State University$30,385
6Bluefield State College$20,50050Miles College$30,444
7Clinton College$20,75051Jackson State University$30,488
8Wilberforce University$21,12952Virginia Union University$30,500
9Bowie State University$22,75053North Carolina Central University$30,569
10Fayetteville State University$23,20854Oakwood University$30,676
11West Virginia State University$23,26955Lincoln University (Pennsylvania)$30,855
12University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff$23,55356Claflin University$30,931
13Coppin State University$24,07657Savannah State University$31,000
14LeMoyne-Owen College$24,25058Southern University and A&M College$31,000
15Xavier University of Louisiana$24,50059Mississippi Valley State University$31,000
16Philander Smith College$25,00060Bennett College$31,000
17Howard University$25,00061Johnson C. Smith University$31,000
18Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University$25,00062Central State University$31,000
19Elizabeth City State University$25,00063South Carolina State University$31,000
20Winston-Salem State University$25,00064Texas College$31,000
21Wiley College$25,00065Norfolk State University$31,000
22Arkansas Baptist College$25,25066Southern University at New Orleans$31,031
23Shorter College$25,25067Harris-Stowe State University$31,688
24Morehouse College$25,25068Morris College$31,775
25Cheyney University of Pennsylvania$25,50069Talladega College$31,990
26University of the District of Columbia$25,88970Alabama State University$32,000
27Delaware State University$26,00071Dillard University$32,000
28Spelman College$26,00072Stillman College$32,500
29Fisk University$26,00073Allen University$32,530
30Hampton University$26,00074Bethune-Cookman University$32,750
31Albany State University$27,00075Florida Memorial University$33,000
32Clark Atlanta University$27,00076Alabama A&M University$33,375
33University of Maryland Eastern Shore$27,00077Fort Valley State University$33,560
34Rust College$27,00078Tougaloo College$34,037
35Voorhees College$27,00079Selma University$34,300
36Tennessee State University$27,00080Shaw University$34,315
37North Carolina A&T State University$27,70681Paine College$34,949
38Langston University$27,94982Livingstone College$35,000
39Huston-Tillotson University$28,45683Saint Augustine’s University$35,000
40Kentucky State University$28,50484Lane College$35,063
41Edward Waters College$29,00085Benedict College$36,000
42Prairie View A&M University$29,00086Grambling State University$37,192
43Virginia State University$29,00087Virginia University of Lynchburg$40,429
44Tuskegee University$29,09088American Baptist College$41,000
Source: U.S. Department of Education College Scorecard. Note: HBCUs with incomplete information were excluded.

Where 75% of HBCU students graduate within 150% of normal time

Before going into this statistic, it’s important to know what this means — and why it matters. Graduation rates within 150% of normal time are calculated using factors such as the number of students seeking a degree and completion rates.

For example, for a student seeking a bachelor’s degree at a four-year college, 150% of normal time is usually six years. On the other hand, for a student getting an associate degree, this would mean 150% of normal time is typically three years.

Knowing this information about an institution can give you an idea of how long it may take you to finish your degree at this school.

Among the HBCUs studied, only two schools had 75% of their students graduate within 150% of normal time.

  • Clinton College: 75.6%
    • Institution type: 4-year private
    • Location: Rock Hill, S.C.
  • Spelman College: 75.1%
    • Institution type: 4-year private
    • Location: Atlanta

This was a bit surprising, according to Pentis, as Spelman College was considered the least affordable school in the study with a net cost of $43,843. While Clinton College was significantly less expensive with a net cost of $15,393, it was still in the bottom half of most expensive HBCUs.

“In some ways, one would think higher-priced schools would have lower graduation rates because affordability can inhibit a student’s chances of staying in school and on track for their degree,” Pentis says.

However, schools like Clinton and Spelman have ways to circumvent that reality, such as offering significant financial aid that doesn’t need to be repaid. Spelman, for example, offers a variety of institutional scholarships that cover partial or full tuition costs, with some assistance lasting for as many as four years.

Pentis also points out that higher-priced, more prestigious HBCUs might attract families with deeper pockets.

“These schools might have higher graduation rates, in part, because many of their students went to very good high schools that prepared them for the rigors of college, or perhaps they come from families with multiple generations of college graduates who offer students a great support system for excelling in school,” Pentis said.

HBCU graduation rates within 150% of normal time
RankHBCUGraduation rateRankHBCUGraduation rate
1Clinton College75.6%49West Virginia State University30.8%
2Spelman College75.1%50St Philip’s College30.8%
3Howard University65.0%51Bluefield State College30.5%
4Bennett College63.4%52Alabama A&M University29.7%
5Hampton University59.8%53Savannah State University29.4%
6Morehouse College54.2%54Virginia Union University28.6%
7Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University52.6%55Central State University28.2%
8Tuskegee University51.9%56Rust College28.1%
9Xavier University of Louisiana51.5%57Huston-Tillotson University27.8%
10Claflin University51.3%58Bishop State Community College27.6%
11Winston-Salem State University51.2%59Stillman College27.2%
12Oakwood University51.0%60Lincoln University (Missouri)26.8%
13North Carolina A&T State University50.9%61Edward Waters College26.5%
14Dillard University50.7%62Southwestern Christian College26.4%
15Tougaloo College50.3%63Cheyney University of Pennsylvania26.2%
16Fisk University50.2%64Coppin State University25.5%
17North Carolina Central University49.2%65Kentucky State University25.4%
18Johnson C. Smith University49.1%66Morris College25.3%
19Lincoln University (Pennsylvania)47.4%67Gadsden State Community College25.0%
20Clark Atlanta University44.3%68Miles College25.0%
21Philander Smith College43.7%69Benedict College24.5%
22Bowie State University43.4%70Livingstone College23.8%
23Morgan State University43.3%71Albany State University23.2%
24Delaware State University41.6%72Texas Southern University23.1%
25Voorhees College41.3%73Allen University22.4%
26University of Maryland Eastern Shore41.1%74Lane College22.2%
27Alcorn State University40.9%75Southern University at New Orleans21.2%
28Southern University and A&M College40.9%76H. Councill Trenholm State Community College20.9%
29Elizabeth City State University38.5%77Wilberforce University20.3%
30Virginia State University38.5%78Denmark Technical College20.0%
31Jackson State University38.1%79Shelton State Community College19.7%
32Florida Memorial University36.4%80Paul Quinn College19.6%
33Prairie View A&M University35.9%81Lawson State Community College19.5%
34Norfolk State University35.8%82Langston University17.7%
35Wiley College35.7%83Shaw University17.0%
36South Carolina State University35.2%84Harris-Stowe State University17.0%
37Grambling State University35.1%85Saint Augustine’s University16.4%
38Fort Valley State University35.0%86LeMoyne-Owen College14.2%
39Fayetteville State University34.3%87J.F. Drake State Community and Technical College13.8%
40Talladega College34.0%88University of the District of Columbia12.9%
41University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff33.5%89Paine College12.7%
42American Baptist College33.3%90Texas College12.4%
43Coahoma Community College32.9%91Jarvis Christian College11.0%
44Bethune-Cookman University32.8%92Southern University at Shreveport10.7%
45Alabama State University32.8%93Shorter College9.5%
46Mississippi Valley State University31.8%94Arkansas Baptist College7.8%
47Tennessee State University31.7%95Virginia University of Lynchburg5.3%
48University of the Virgin Islands31.2%96Selma University1.8%
Source: U.S. Department of Education College Scorecard. Notes: For full-time undergraduates seeking bachelor’s degrees, 150% of normal time is typically six years. For full-time undergraduates seeking associate degrees, it’s typically three years. HBCUs with incomplete information were excluded.

3 years after entering repayment, these HBCUs have the biggest groups paying down student loan debt

Another important factor to understand when looking at HBCUs is repayment rates.

This is defined as the percentage of student borrowers that haven’t defaulted on their loans and are making repayments. This rate is typically measured at the one-, three-, five- and seven-year marks after students start paying their loans.

Student Loan Hero researchers found that the schools with the highest repayment rates after three years are generally four-year public or private institutions. According to the data, the following schools had repayment rates above 60% after three years:

  • Dillard University: 69.1%
    • Institution type: 4-year private
    • Net cost: $17,128
  • Southern University at New Orleans: 68.3%
    • Institution type: 4-year public
    • Net cost: $7,632
  • Xavier University of Louisiana: 66.4%
    • Institution type: 4-year private
    • Net cost: $19,715
  • Southern University and A&M College: 65.2%
    • Institution type: 4-year public
    • Net cost: $16,312
  • Tuskegee University: 62.2%
    • Institution type: 4-year private
    • Net cost: $34,575
Repayment rates among HBCUs
RankHBCURepayment rateRankHBCURepayment rate
1Dillard University69.1%41Saint Augustine’s University43.8%
2Southern University at New Orleans68.3%42Wiley College43.7%
3Xavier University of Louisiana66.4%43Kentucky State University43.5%
4Southern University and A&M College65.2%44Lincoln University (Pennsylvania)43.5%
5Tuskegee University62.2%45South Carolina State University43.3%
6University of the Virgin Islands59.3%46Alabama A&M University42.9%
7Lincoln University (Missouri)59.0%47Cheyney University of Pennsylvania42.9%
8Fisk University56.9%48Virginia State University38.2%
9Bluefield State College56.7%49Fayetteville State University37.8%
10Southern University at Shreveport56.5%50Virginia Union University37.8%
11Grambling State University56.2%51Bennett College37.4%
12University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff55.3%52Norfolk State University37.3%
13Alcorn State University54.1%53Claflin University37.0%
14Hampton University53.1%54Alabama State University36.6%
15North Carolina A&T State University51.8%55Elizabeth City State University36.4%
16Jackson State University51.6%56Morgan State University36.0%
17St Philip’s College51.3%57Stillman College35.8%
18Spelman College50.8%58University of Maryland Eastern Shore35.6%
19Harris-Stowe State University50.7%59Jarvis Christian College35.5%
20Huston-Tillotson University50.6%60Texas College33.6%
21Tougaloo College50.5%61Savannah State University32.5%
22Mississippi Valley State University50.2%62Bethune-Cookman University32.2%
23Langston University49.5%63Central State University32.1%
24Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University49.5%64Johnson C. Smith University31.9%
25Prairie View A&M University48.8%65Fort Valley State University31.7%
26Texas Southern University48.8%66North Carolina Central University31.6%
27Tennessee State University48.7%67Rust College30.0%
28Philander Smith College48.6%68Shaw University29.2%
29Arkansas Baptist College48.1%69Paine College28.6%
30University of the District of Columbia47.3%70Albany State University27.6%
31West Virginia State University47.2%71Florida Memorial University27.0%
32Coppin State University46.1%72Edward Waters College26.4%
33Oakwood University46.0%73Voorhees College26.0%
34Wilberforce University45.9%74Miles College25.8%
35Morehouse College45.5%75Livingstone College25.6%
36Clark Atlanta University45.1%76Benedict College24.3%
37Delaware State University45.1%77Allen University22.9%
38Howard University44.8%78Morris College22.0%
39Winston-Salem State University44.3%79Denmark Technical College19.2%
40Bowie State University43.9%80Lane College18.4%
Source: U.S. Department of Education College Scorecard. Notes: The repayment rate is measured at three years after entering repayment. HBCUs with incomplete information were excluded.

Finding the right HBCU

Because there are various factors to consider, finding the right HBCU fit can be challenging.

“Students and their families tend to focus their attention on schools instead of themselves, even getting dreamy-eyed about particular colleges or universities, whether because of their prestigious reputations, city locations or sports teams,” Pentis says.

Instead, Pentis advises parents and students to focus on their family’s priorities. Here’s how you can approach this:

  • Build a list of what the student wants to get out of their HBCU college experience. This can include proximity to a support system such as family, school size or access to certain majors, classes and activities.
  • Once that list is complete, the student can go out and see which HBCUs are the best match for what they’re seeking. When visiting schools, they should be sure to go when school is in session to get a good impression of what day-to-day life is like as a student. The student may also want to take a tour of the campus, meet with an admissions counselor and sit in on a lecture.
  • Once the family has a list of HBCUs that mostly fit their criteria, it’s time to compare those schools on an apples-to-apples basis, looking at objective facts like costs and graduation rates. Ideally, the family will be left with at least a few affordable schools that are still likely to support the student from admission to graduation.

Methodology

Student Loan Hero analysts looked at data on historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs) to rank the most and least affordable institutions.

Researchers gathered average annual net costs to attend each school and ranked them from lowest to highest. Net cost measures the average annual total cost of attendance, including tuition and fees, books and supplies, and living expenses, minus the average grant/scholarship aid. It’s calculated for all full-time, first-time, degree or certificate-seeking undergraduates who receive Title IV aid.

The latest available data is from the U.S. Department of Education College Scorecard for the 2019-20 school year.

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