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A working paper recently published by the National Bureau of Economic Research suggests predominantly white institutions can learn how to better support Black students by implementing best practices from historically Black colleges and universities.

The paper cites a 2021 study that found that graduation rates for Black students at HBCUs is 32 percent compared to 44 percent for Black students at other institutions. But when HBCUs are compared to similar institutions—taking into account factors like size, selectivity, finances and the socioeconomic demographics of students—Black students at HBCUs were 33 percent more likely to graduate than Black students at similar non-HBCUs. The paper also references recent research that suggests Black graduates who attended HBCUs have a wage premium and feel they have more job security compared to Black graduates of other institutions. It notes that these institutions foster upward mobility and civic engagement among graduates, as well.

The paper concludes that the “secret sauce” of HBCUs’ success with supporting Black students comes from their emphasis on “Black identity formation,” which can boost self-confidence and academic performance; active support for students from both professors and alumni; curricula and first-year programming tailored for Black students; and strong pathways to graduate education, among other factors. It suggests predominantly white institutions follow HBCUs’ lead in a number of ways, including tailoring parts of their curriculum and first-year experiences to include Black culture, exposing Black students to Black faculty members and alumni, and engaging them in co-curricular activities related to research and activism.