30 Best U.S. Non-HBCU Schools for Minorities - Higher Education
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30 Best U.S. Non-HBCU Schools for Minorities

by Matthew Lynch


Matthew Lynch

Matthew Lynch

Across the country, institutions of higher learning are starting to look more like the general population. In the 2010-2011 school year, three times as many minority students received bachelor’s degrees compared to the 1990-1991 school year.  Back then, minorities only represented 13 percent of bachelor degree earners; today, that number has jumped to nearly one-fourth of total degree recipients.

I’ve written about the Top 20 Historically Black Colleges and Universities and included schools that are growing in diversity. I’d like to expand that idea to include non-HBCUs that have excellent programs in place for minority students. I used several factors to create this list: percentage of minority students enrolled, freshman retention rates, graduation rate gaps and general graduation rates (particularly over six years).

Take a look at my list of the 30 best U.S. colleges and universities for minorities and let me know who you would add:


  1. 1.   University of San Francisco: With a 40 percent minority population, the graduation rates for all demographics are impressive. The school graduates 74 percent of Hispanic students, 51 percent of Black students, 71 percent of Asian and Pacific Islander students and 61 percent of White students. Though the private school has pricey tuition ($33,500 for both in and out-of-state students), 59 percent of students receive grants from the university. The total grant aid received by the student body from all sources is nearly $55 million.
  2. 2.   Polytechnic Institute of New York University, Brooklyn: The second-oldest private school specializing in engineering, the Polytechnic Institute of New York University has satellite campuses in Shanghai and Abu Dhabi. The school’s main campus in Brooklyn is made up of 52 percent minority students and 99 percent of students receive financial aid — with 97 percent receiving grant aid from the school directly. In six years, the graduation rates are 40 percent for Black students, 37 percent for Hispanic students and 62 percent for Asian and Pacific Islanders.
  3. 3.   University of Hawaii, Manoa: As the flagship school of the University of Hawaii system, the campus at Manoa boasts high numbers of minorities: 40 percent are Asian, 17.4 percent are native Hawaiians or Pacific Islanders and another 14.2 percent of students claim two or more races. Hispanic and Black students represent less than 4 percent of the population combined, but only 20 percent are White. The school has world-renowned oceanography, astronomy and Asian studies programs, and an overall graduation rate of 55 percent in six years.
  4. 4.   Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts: The class of 2010 was declared the “most diverse” in Harvard’s history and the school continues to build diversity through its undergraduate minority recruitment program. Their efforts seem to be paying off — in 2010, the White and Black student graduation rates were nearly equal — 78 percent of Black students and 79.4 percent of White students graduated. The income threshold for parents not required to make a financial contribution rose from $40,000 to $60,000 in 2006 — making this a more affordable option for low- to middle-income families.
  5. 5.   Rutgers University, Newark, New Jersey: The minority population at this public school is 58 percent, with a 59 percent graduation rate of all students in six years. The student to faculty ratio is 11:1 and there is a freshman retention rate of 84 percent. Rutgers is an affordable option — with in-state tuition around $11,000 and 62 percent of students receiving Pell grants.
  6. 6.   University of Phoenix, nationwide: This for-profit education chain has faced its share of scrutiny but the numbers don’t lie.  A report released at the end of 2012 found that the online university graduates more minorities than any other U.S. institution. Not only are minorities represented in the university’s graduation rates, but so are non-traditional students that like the flexibility online programs offer. The University of Phoenix has brought the value of online programs to the national discussion and encouraged traditional, brick-and-mortar schools to implement greater student flexibility.
  7. 7.   San Francisco State University: With a little over half of the student population considered minorities, this public university has 75 percent retention for full-time students and 100 percent for part-time. Just over one-fourth of students receive grants directly from the university, on average, $3,268 each. The graduation rates are 42 percent for American Indians, 49 percent for Asians/Pacific Islanders, 36 percent for Latinos and 27 percent for Black students.
  8. 8.   Stanford University, California: With an endowment of $17 billion, this research-based school has an astounding 98 percent freshman retention rate. Programs like the Stanford University Minority Medical Alliance (SUMMA) bring other minority organizations on campus together to look ahead to the medical concerns of the changing U.S. demographic. Despite no use of affirmative action in admission procedures, Stanford has only a 34 percent White student population. About half of the students receive need-based financial aid.
  9. 9.   City University of New York: With a whopping 540,000 attendees ranging from GED seekers to Ph.D. students, 72 percent of CUNY’s population are minority students. Despite its large size, CUNY has a student to faculty ratio of 13:1 and a freshman retention rate of 81 percent. Over half of all students use Pell grants toward tuition and there is a 35 percent graduation rate for Black students in six years.

10. San Jose State University, California: The tagline of this public school is “Powering Silicon Valley,” and students are taught through cutting-edge technology and encouraged to innovate their own. San Jose State has a 57 percent minority population and a 23:1 student to teacher ratio. Over 35 percent of Latino students graduate in six years, along with 27 percent of Black students. Asian students graduate at a rate of 44 percent in six years, as well as 27 percent of American Indians. About a quarter of San Jose State students receive grant help from the university that runs about $2,927 on average.

11. California State University, Long Beach: With 23 campuses throughout the state, CSU abides by the motto, “working for California,” and rightly claims to be one of the most affordable education systems in the nation. In-state tuition costs just $5,472 per year for the 2012 – 2013 academic year. Just over 55 percent of the student population is minority and there is a 23:1 student-to-faculty ratio. In six years, Black and Latino students graduate at 52 and 47 percent, respectively.  There is also a freshman retention rate of 86 percent.

12. University of Houston:  As the third largest university in Texas, UH boasts a 57 percent minority rate. The affordability of the school makes it an attractive option for in-state students who will only pay $6,658 per academic year. One-third of American Indian students and 50 percent of Black students graduate within 6 years. Even with the reasonable tuition, 41 percent of attendees earn grants directly from the school.

13. New Jersey Institute of Technology, Newark: Named a Princeton Review “Best College” and “Most Wired College,” NJIT is fifth in the nation for minority students earning engineering degrees. There is a student-to-teacher ratio 15:1, and a 55 percent graduation rate over six years. Over half of the students receive grant aid from the school directly.

14. Hunter College, The City University of New York:  Known for its social work and nursing programs, 49 percent of the students at Hunter College are minorities. Over 40 percent Black students graduate in six years, compared with 36 percent of Latinos and 50 percent of Asian/Pacific Islanders.

15. Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Troy, New York: In 2004, this school already had an impressive Black student graduation rate at 63.3 percent — though it didn’t match White student graduation achievement, which was 82 percent. By 2010, Black student graduation rates soared to 87 percent, surpassing White numbers that remained stagnant. The school has a White-Black grad-rate gap of -4.6.

16. Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond: This public research institution boasts small class sizes and required advisor meetings to keep all students on track. It made the list because the graduation rate for Black students rose from 34.5 to 49.8 percent between 2004 and 2010, while the graduation rate for Hispanic students rose 20 percent to nearly half (48.7) in same time frame.

17. Southwestern Adventist University, Keene, Texas: With 25.7 percent Hispanic students, Southwestern Adventist has heightened its graduation rate over the past decade. In 2004, only 24.2 percent of Hispanic students graduated; that number jumped 20 points by 2010 to 44.2 percent.

18. Pepperdine University, Malibu, California: While Hispanics only make up 11 percent of the student population at this Christian school, the Hispanic graduation rate is 81.8 percent. This number is higher than the graduation rate for White students, which is 78.8 percent, giving Pepperdine a negative graduation rate gap for Hispanic students at -1.9.

19. Indiana University Purdue Indianapolis: A public research university, the college doubled its graduation rate for Black students between 2004 and 2010. Though the school still has a long road ahead, the Black graduation rates rose from 12.6 to 24.8 percent in those six years through targeted programs developed by IUPUI.

20. Stony Brook University, New York: A member of the State University System of New York, Stony Brook was recognized as the school with the “Smallest White-Black Graduation Rate Gap” on a 2010 list. The six-year graduation rate for Black students (71.3 percent) actually exceeds White students (58.7 percent).

21. University of Chicago: This Midwestern private school boasts some of the highest graduation rates in the country, and Hispanic students are no exception. Hispanic students graduate at a rate of 92 percent while White students are just ahead at 94 percent.

22. California University of Pennsylvania: The school boasted a 33 percent jump in its Black graduation rate from 2004 to 2010. At the beginning of the time frame, the Black graduation rate was only 27.5 percent. By 2010, it was up to 60.5 percent.

23. Faulkner University, Montgomery, Alabama: This Christian college has a population that is almost half comprised of Black students.  In 2004, just 20.5 percent of Black students graduated; now over 36 percent do, and White students are ahead by less than a percentage point, making the grad-rate gap just 0.8.

24. University of California-Riverside: Nearly 29 percent of the students here are Hispanic. Of those students, 65.4 percent graduate compared to just 60.4 percent of White students. This gives the school a negative graduation rate gap that is at -5.8 percent.

25. Tiffin University, Ohio: Black students represent nearly one-fifth of the population and in 2004, the white-black graduation-rate gap was 25.8 percent. By 2010, the graduation rate gap had narrowed to just 5.9, with 34.8 percent of Black students graduating.

26. Seattle University, Washington: From 2004 to 2010, the Hispanic graduation rate jumped over 30 percent from 46.9 to 78.6 percent. White student numbers also rose from 70 to 73 percent, giving the school a Hispanic-white graduation gap rate of -5.3.

27. Florida State University,
Tallahassee: The six year graduation rate is 72.7 and 74.1 for Black and White students, respectively. As a state school, tuition is affordable for residents ($212 per credit hour for full time) and Florida students can also take advantage of tuition breaks through the Bright Futures program that tracks academic progress and community involvement during high school.

28. George Washington University, District of Columbia: Located just four blocks from the White House, GWU is an excellent choice for students interested in national politics or international business. The Office of Diversity is dedicated to broadening the scope of students enrolled in the school’s programming. The White-to-Black graduation rate gap is just 3 with the Black student graduation rate at 78.6 percent, just behind White students at 81.4 percent.

29. University of Louisville: The school places specific emphasis on minority students in its medical programs and an aggressive placement program in conjunction with healthcare systems throughout the state of Kentucky. Overall, the University of Louisville has a 41.1 percent graduation rate for Black students.

30. Iowa State University, Ames: With a 52.4 percent graduation rate for Black students, Iowa State boasts a “strategic approach to diversity” that includes a recognized interfaith calendar.


Dr. Lynch is a department chair and an associate professor of education at Langston University. He has focused his career on researching topics related to educational policy, school leadership and education reform, particularly in the urban learning environment.

15 Responses to 30 Best U.S. Non-HBCU Schools for Minorities

  1. Why would you plug UNIVERSITY OF PHOENIX?
    The student debt created by them is mind-blowing and a financial black hole.

    Former Student
    May 27, 2013 at 11:48 pm

  2. Thanks for the list of schools. Suggestion: Hunter College is part of the City University of New York system (CUNY). Why did you include Hunter College separately from the CUNY system? Recommendation: look into Puerto Rico universities. All serve Latino students – over 90% of the students. Almost all universities have US accreditation (Middle States or ACICS, among others). The higher education system is exactly the same as the US system. The costs of study are very, very reasonable and students have access to Title IV funds.

    Viviana Abreu-Hernandez
    May 28, 2013 at 8:38 am

  3. Among research institutions, Columbia University and Duke University consistently have the nation’s highest percentage of first year black students.

    Ben Reese
    May 28, 2013 at 10:21 am

  4. Based on your stated criteria, you should include another Research I institution, Temple University in Philadelphia, Pa. It has been named the “Diversity University” in some surveys.

    Karen M. Turner
    May 28, 2013 at 3:55 pm

  5. UCLA consistently gradautes 78-80% of its black students and 79-83% of its Latino students. It’s ranks as one of the highest public research I institutions in the nation.

    Charles Alexander
    May 28, 2013 at 6:42 pm

  6. I would suggest you look at Amherst College, despite its small size.

    Wayne Wormley
    May 28, 2013 at 9:14 pm

  7. I understand the criteria used in determining your list; however, I am disappointed to see the University of San Francisco, especially in the number one spot. You did explain your list represents bachelor degree programs.

    Let me share my disappointment in your first choice, USF. I received an Ed.D. (Doctor of Education) in Organization and Leadership from USF one year ago, this May. I must say at this point, I feel as if I have wasted thousands of dollars and five years of my life. Even with the current unemployment situation, I should be able to find a job, but I cannot. My institution, the University of San Francisco has two to three pages of job openings on a weekly basis, and I have submitted more than 60 applications for various positions. In 2010 I was granted one five-minute phone interview, but no job offer and no other interviews since then.

    This leads me to wonder if some of our so-called “best” colleges and universities truly are all they profess to be. If you are educating and preparing students – even doctoral students- to lead the world and make a difference in our communities, how is it one does not put any confidence in those same students when one has a first-hand opportunity to reap the ROI from ones own program, faculty, and staff? Moreover, what does it say when other organizations and companies do not put any stock in the degree, program, or product, i.e. your graduate when that graduate cannot find employment? Is it possible the “best” institution simply needed a seat warmer? Is it possible that somewhere during the program, someone failed to do his/her job by dropping the student from the doctoral program? Is it possible the graduate just simply is unemployable?

    I am taking this opportunity to vent as I have been homeless since 2011. Moreover, I have been jobless since January 2009, except for the occasional temporary job assignment, and I have been applying for career opportunities with USF since 2009. Please know this is humiliating and incomprehensible. I know there is nothing you, Mr. Lynch, can do about my situation, but I felt compelled to voice my opinion on your top pick institution of higher learning, the University of San Francisco.

    Thank you for the time and opportunity.

    Former Graduate USF (University of San Francisco)
    May 29, 2013 at 12:54 am

  8. Correction to my earlier post…it’s Dr. Lynch and not Mr.Lynch. I do apologize for that. You’ve earned and I would not dream of disrespecting your accomplishment.

    Former Graduate USF (University of San Francisco)
    May 29, 2013 at 1:44 am

  9. What about Duke, Columbia, University of Virginia, University of North Carolina, and other schools that graduate well over 60% of their students. I think it’s better to consider schools that help students to graduate minorities than just boasting about how diverse their school is, especially if their schools is located in a diverse city.

    May 29, 2013 at 8:34 am

  10. Great article on a (still) important topic! I would like to point out that including Harvard, Stanford, and Chicago (as well as Rutgers and Pepperdine, possibly) on the list essentially skews the data oddly. With very rich, prestigious institutions, enrollment and retention do not operate in the same way as they do at the broad range of institutions of higher education in the US. Admission is the bottleneck at these kinds of places, not graduation. These schools have large enough applicant pools (with highly qualified applicants as the norm) that retention is not the same kind of question as one might find at a school like California State U of PA.

    I do not begrudge the students who choose to attend elite schools their education, graduation, or hoped-for success. I am happy for them, but I think the point of the article is that schools like California U of PA are producing Harvard-like results without the world- and national- status of Harvard. Schools like CU PA compete where social, historical, and financial challenges are the real barriers that capable, intelligent, and hard-working minority students must overcome. The successes of these schools are far more significant than the schools with big endowments and huge applicant pools.

    R G Hershey
    May 30, 2013 at 12:51 pm

  11. It’s not surprising that there are a number of California institutions on your list. You might also consider the oldest institution in the state, Santa Clara University, a Jesuit institution founded in 1851.

    This incoming class is 47% students of color and the overall retention this year was 95%. Graduation rates are consistently among the highest in the state.

    Mike Sexton
    May 31, 2013 at 6:28 pm

  12. I realize that most of these schools are large univiversities, but would contend that BEREA COLLEGE should be on that list for many reasons.

    The first inter-racial (and co-educational) school in the south was founded in 1855 and is the home of many great alumni, including Carter G. Woodson. Of key importance is that students attend this work college TUITION FREE! While very selective (12% Acceptance rate),Berea focuses on admitting students of high academic promise but also of high financial need. When looking at the overall picture, not only are we educating those that might not have access to a quality education, we are doing it without increasing their debt load. The average student graduates with an overal debt under $7,000. First to second year retention numbers are 86% for females and 77% for males.

    Fall 2012 enrollment included 26% minority and 11% international students. First year students comprised of 29% minorities and 10% international. Graduation rates for first year students by cohort type: African American – 67% (4-6 year) and International – 97% (4-6 year) year ending 2006 (6 year figures are being collected for 2007). While other schools may have higher rates, they cannot claim that they are doing it while serving such a specific population as those with low SES.

    Again, when evaluating the institutions as a whole and examining what services they offer, I purport that Berea should be included in this listing based on their pioneering history (even suing the state for racial equity http://supreme.justia.com/cases/federal/us/211/45/case.html )their dedication to Appalachian and minortiy students, and their resolve to make a private education attainable for those living in poverty or near-poverty levels. Because of this dedication, it has been ranked by Washington Monthly as the #1 (2011) and #3 (2012) Liberal Arts school in the nation.

    James Atkinson
    July 19, 2013 at 9:17 am

  13. I concur with R G Hershey. My feeling is that an institution of higher education with an acceptance rate of less than 10% like many or all of the Ivies and others are not comparable to institutions of higher education with over 50% acceptance rates. My suggestion would be to have two lists: 1) with selective admission and 2) nonselective or over 50% acceptance rates. Just a thought! However, I sincerely appreciate this excellent work!

    James Moyer
    August 22, 2013 at 12:50 pm

  14. Thank you for the list. I am a University of Phoenix grad and this school should not be on the list. The fees for this school are terrible and the financial aid never covers all your classes. They also do not help you find a job after school as promised or hire many minority alumni teachers.

    Eleanora West-Alexander
    October 16, 2013 at 8:51 am

  15. I think it is important for families to review what the student debt/income will be in factoring a school as well. This will be while the student is enrolled and the results thereafter, such as employment and future income potential. In addition, many African-Americans tend to select name-brand schools as oppose to the school that gives the greatest return. I strongly cocnur that schools with huge endowments and applicant pools may not be the ideal for your son or daughter. I applaud Dr. Lynch in addressing this topic. There ought to be a rating system of schools for African-American families that incorporate college acceptance, enrollment, academic progress throughout 4-years of college, tuition, debt/income, % of graduates and income/career attainment.

    May 14, 2014 at 11:17 am

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