Choosing a college is one of the most important decisions Black students will make in their lifetime. ESSENCE partnered with Money Magazine to create a definitive list of the schools that serve us most.

Drawing on the federal data that Money compiles for its annual Best Colleges rankings—including graduation rates, net college costs after financial aid and graduates’ early-career earnings—plus our own criteria for racial climate on each campus, we found that these schools provide Black students with the best combination of the following:

1. REPRESENTATION: African-Americans had to make up at least 5 percent of each college’s student body.

2. AFFORDABILITY: We measured the price students pay after aid is subtracted and factored in the average loan debt they take on.  

3. POSTGRAD EARNINGS: We combined Money’s data on graduation rates with a Georgetown University analysis of colleges that produce unusually high-earning graduates, after accounting for the racial, academic and socioeconomic background of their student bodies. The result is a mix of schools for different kinds of students. Some, such as Princeton, have comparatively fewer Black students but extremely generous financial aid and financially successful alumni. Others, such as North Carolina A&T, provide opportunities to many more Black students and have high graduation rates. And in a year marked by #blackoncampus protests, we incorporated the voices of both students and faculty who spoke about their lived experiences at these schools. 

Here are the top 50 colleges and universities in the country: 

1. Princeton University 

2. Harvard University

3. Duke University 

4. Cornell University

5. Florida A&M University 

6. Spelman College

The Best HBCUs: ESSENCE and Money Rank Top Colleges For Black Students

7. University of Pennsylvania

8. Yale University

9. North Carolina A&T State University 

10. University of Maryland, College Park

11. Columbia University 

12. Georgia Institute of Technology

13. Georgetown University 

14. University of Florida

15. Hampton University 

16. Bowie State University 

17. Wellesley College

Top 10 Best Colleges: ESSENCE and Money Rank Top Colleges For Black Students

18. Berea College 

19. Amherst College

20. Virginia State University 

21. Xavier University of Louisiana 

22. University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

23. Rice University 

24. Vanderbilt University 

25. Brown University

26. University of Richmond

27. Dartmouth College

28 Howard University 

29. University of Virginia 

30. Davidson College

31. The College of William and Mary 

32. Alcorn State University 

33. Williams College

34. Trinity Washington University

Famous Graduates from the 50 Best Colleges for African-Americans

35. Jackson State University

36. Johns Hopkins University 

37. Elizabeth City State University 

38. Prairie View A&M University 

39. Pomona College

40. Northwestern University 

41. Binghamton University 

42. Emory University

43. North Carolina Central University 

44. Tennessee State University 

45. Towson University 

46. Stony Brook University 

47. Barnard College

48. Winston-Salem State University 

49. Talladega College

50. Rutgers University-Newark

Pick up the May issue of ESSENCE—on newsstands on April 15—for more on The Best 50 Colleges for African-Americans. To see more of Money’s Best Colleges rankings and tools, visit the College Planner site at

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