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For the fourth consecutive year, U.S.News & World Report has produced a ranking of the undergraduate education at historically black colleges and universities (HBCU). These colleges were compared only with one another for these rankings.

How did we choose the schools to be part of the survey? In order to be on the list, a school currently must be listed as part of the U.S. Department of Education’s Historically Black Colleges and Universities registry. The Higher Education Act of 1965 defines an HBCU as “any historically black college or university that was established prior to 1964, whose principal mission was, and is, the education of black Americans, and that is accredited by a nationally recognized accrediting agency or association determined by the Secretary [of Education] to be a reliable authority as to the quality of training offered or is, according to such an agency or association, making reasonable progress toward accreditation.”

To qualify for the U.S. News ranking, an HBCU also must be an undergraduate baccalaureate-granting institution that enrolls primarily first-year, first-time students and must have been a school that was currently part of the 2011 Best Colleges rankings. In almost all cases, if an HBCU college was “Unranked” in the 2011 Best Colleges rankings, it was also listed as being “Unranked” in the HBCU rankings (see more details below). In total there were 80 HBCU colleges and universities eligible to be ranked, and 9 of those were “Unranked.”

Peer assessment (weighting: 25 percent). The U.S. News ranking formula gives greatest weight to the opinions of those in a position to judge a school’s undergraduate academic excellence. The peer assessment survey allows the top academics we consult to account for intangibles such as faculty dedication to teaching. Each individual is asked to rate peer schools’ academic programs on a scale from 1 (marginal) to 5 (distinguished). Those who don’t know enough about a school to evaluate it fairly are asked to mark “don’t know.” In the spring and summer of 2010, U.S. News conducted an exclusive peer survey among only the president, provost, and admission dean at each HBCU. Each HBCU received three surveys. The recipients were asked to rate all HBCUs, considering each school’s scholarship record, curriculum, and quality of faculty and graduates at schools they were familiar with. A total of 242 surveys were sent out, and 36.3 percent responded. Synovate, an international opinion-research firm based in Chicago, collected the data.

Retention (25 percent). The higher the proportion of freshmen who return to campus the following year and eventually graduate, the more likely a school is offering the classes and services students need to succeed. This measure has two components: six-year graduation rate (80 percent of the retention score) and freshman retention rate (20 percent). The graduation rate indicates the average proportion of a graduating class who earn a degree in six years or less; we consider freshman classes that started from fall 2000 through 2003. Freshman retention indicates the average proportion of freshmen entering each fall from 2005 through 2008 who returned the following fall.

Top 20 Rankings:

1. Spelman College

2. Howard University

3. Morehouse College

4. Hampton University

5. Tuskegee University

6. Xavier University of Louisiana

7. Fisk University

8. Claflin University

9. Dillard University

10. Tougaloo College

11. North Carolina Central University

12. (TIE) Florida A&M University & North Carolina A&T State University

14. South Carolina State University

15. (TIE) Jackson State University & Johnson C. Smith University

17. (TIE) Delaware State University & Elizabeth City State University

19. Winston-Salem State University

20. (TIE) Morgan State University & Tennessee State University

Find out the rest of the Rankings at

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