HBCU Success

Strengthening the relationship between Tennessee and its Historically Black Colleges and Universities through programming, policy, and partnership.


Important HBCU Success Links

HBCU Success Overview

Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) are a federally designated group of higher education institutions, founded before 1965 with the express mission of educating Black Americans. There are 102 HBCUs operating today, spread across the Southern United States. In 2018, Tennessee became the first state to have a full-time, statewide higher education professional focused on the success of its public and private HBCUs. Tennessee is home to seven HBCU institutions: American Baptist College, Fisk University, Knoxville College, Lane College, LeMoyne Owen College, Meharry Medical College, and Tennessee State University, with at least one HBCU in each of the state’s Grand Divisions. Founded between 1866 and 1924, Tennessee’s HBCUs have a distinctive legacy both regionally and nationally for achievements in agricultural research, STEM fields, music and performance, and civic engagement.

HBCU Success at the Tennessee Higher Education Commission (THEC) is dedicated to strengthening the capacity of Tennessee's HBCUs to provide the highest quality education, increasing opportunities for these institutions to participate in and benefit from state programs, and ensuring that Tennessee has the highest proportion of college graduates from HBCUs in the country.

HBCU Success Strategic Initiatives

In addition to the overarching THEC mission of being relentlessly focused on increasing the number of Tennesseans with a postsecondary credential, HBCU Success fosters programming, policy, and partnerships that will allow the students, staff, and faculty at Tennessee’s HBCUs to achieve their maximum potential. This is accomplished through three strategic priority areas:

Research and Analysis: Engagement in policy and academic research to maintain a catalog of interventions, best practices, and leading strategies in the areas of academic excellence and student success for students of color broadly, and at HBCUs in particular. Analysis of data from a variety of sources to highlight enrollment trends, persistence, and completion gaps, and other accountability and advocacy metrics as needed to advance policy.

Program Development: Curation of a diverse and robust portfolio of opportunities for Tennessee HBCU faculty, staff, and students to participate in and further strengthen institutional capacity to provide the highest quality education and to benefit from state programs.

Coordinating and Convening: Bringing together various stakeholders and potential investors as well as cross-institutional teams and affinity groups the collectively address the needs of students and to create mutually beneficial partnerships around each institution’s missional goals.

Through robust research and analysis, innovative programming, and meaningful convening, THEC staff advocates on behalf of Tennessee’s HBCUs, to promote their positive economic, educational, and workforce impacts, and to build a community of informed, dedicated HBCU supporters across sectors and industries.

Read more here: Tennessee HBCU Legislation (Public Chapter 0464, Acts of 2017)

2022 - 2025 Strategic Plan for HBCU Engagement