Access to higher education is a vital tool for societal equality. America in the 21st century is still struggling to offer higher education to everyone who deserves it. African American degree achievement still lags behind that of white Americans. Yet there are many organizations across the nation that are working to change this. And this article will highlight 30 of the best.
There is no easy solution to achieving racial educational equality in America. The issues that prevent African Americans from enrolling in college and seeing their education through to graduation cannot be fixed overnight. Instead, organizations across the USA are working to improve educational outcomes for black people in varied, complex ways.
The 30 organizations below have strong track records in helping African Americans to pursue their educational goals. Their support to African American students ranges from direct financial aid to one-on-one mentoring and much more. All of them have made progress toward racial educational equality and continue to improve upon it.
These organizations have helped and continue to help African American students. Each entry in this list includes a summary of what the organization is doing to help African American Education. These have been included so that you can boost your knowledge of the opportunities out there for a prospective African American student.
The initial research for this article involved locating a range of sources that highlight the leaders in African American educational achievement. These sources are as follows:
Black Scholarships, Top Black Student Organizations and Associations: https://www.blackscholarships.org/p/black-student-organizations.html
Racial Equity Resource Guide, Organizations: http://www.racialequityresourceguide.org/organizations/organizations/filterType/Education
Getting Smart, Smart List: 50 Organizations Boosting College Access & Success: https://www.gettingsmart.com/2017/02/smart-list-organizations-boosting-college-access-success/
International Journal of Teacher Leadership, Successfully Navigating Through College: Voices of African American Males: https://www.cpp.edu/~ceis/education/international-journal-teacher-leadership/documents/AnumbaFinal.pdf
Diversity Best Practices, African American Organizations to Know: https://www.diversitybestpractices.com/news-articles/20-african-american-organizations-you-need-know
The Hechinger Report, A few universities help black and Hispanic students reach and finish graduate school: https://hechingerreport.org/a-few-universities-help-black-and-hispanic-students-reach-and-finish-graduate-school/
After sourcing from these articles, we conducted further research into the most successful organizations. This research substantiated the claims made in the source articles and discovered other ways that the organizations are boosting African American educational achievement.
The final list is sorted with the following criteria: Evidence of boosting African American education, evidence of providing/connecting financial support to African American students, evidence of innovative approaches, and commitment to supporting African American education in the future.
The ranking, from 30 to one, is below:
30. National Black Justice Coalition
The National Black Justice Coalition’s mission is to empower African American LGBT people. In the education sector, the organization is promoting this goal by encouraging the government to end homophobic treatment in both schools and historically black colleges and universities. For schools, the National Black Justice Coalition has hosted a four-day summit at the White House, which made recommendations to a range of educators and advocates. For historically black colleges and universities, the organization is running an initiative to get the Department of Education White House Initiative on Historically Black Colleges and Universities to promote greater support services for the LGBT community on HBCU campuses. Diversity Best Practices names the National Black Justice Commission as one of the key African American organizations.
29. Georgetown University
Georgetown University’s Georgetown Experimental Medical Studies Program focuses on helping low-income minority students in getting into and finishing medical school, The Hechinger Report notes. This program has been running since 1977, and it has helped hundreds of low-income minority students enter medical fields. And this is just one of many programs that Georgetown University runs that helps African American students succeed. The college’s Center for Multicultural Equity and Access also runs programs like The Black House, Students of Color Alliance and Young Leaders in Education About Diversity that all work to enhance the experience of minority students.
28. National Society Of Black Engineers
The origin of the National Society Of Black Engineers can be traced to 1971. In this year, two Purdue University students established a college recruitment and retention program for African Americans. In 1975, the organization created a national meeting of 48 students representing 32 educational institutions. Today, the organization has over 500 chapters and almost 16,000 active members. It helps African American students by providing leadership training, professional development, mentoring, career placement, and much more. Its current goal is to produce 10,000 African American engineers every year by the year 2025. Black Scholarships names it one of the top African American student organizations. Diversity Best Practices names it a key African American organization. International Journal of Teacher Leadership identifies it as a significant organization in academic achievement.
27. National Association of Black Journalists
College Park, Maryland
For a cost of $40 per year, the National Association of Black Journalists allows students to access a wide range of resources in the field of journalism. This includes scholarships. The maximum award for a National Association of Black Journalists scholarship is $10,000. In the last 10 years, the organization has awarded over $500,000 in scholarships. The organization also offers students internships at a range of American news organizations, such as NBCUniversal, CBS, and NPR. It also provides journalism workshops, short courses, and paid fellowships to work in a fully operational newsroom. Diversity Best Practices names the National Association of Black Journalists as one of the top African American organizations.
26. National Medical Association
Silver Springs, Maryland
As the collective voice of African American physicians, the National Medical Association is heavily involved in educating black medical professionals. Every year, the association aids African American medical students with scholarships worth thousands of dollars. The National Medical Association is also committed to improving the education of African American medical professionals who are currently in the field. It does this by keeping its members updated on the advances and changes in medical practices. Additionally, the organization runs an annual convention that is considered to be one of the best national forums on African American health and medicine.” Diversity Best Practices commends the organization.
25. National Black Nurses Association, Inc
Silver Spring, Maryland
Because the National Black Nurses Association, Inc is, “committed to excellence in education,” it helps both student nurses gain their degrees and qualified nurses in continuing their educations. Overall, there are 13 different kinds of scholarships that students and nurses can apply for, which all range between $1,000 to $5,000 in award amounts. In addition to these scholarships, the National Black Nurses Association, Inc runs the NBNA Institute and Conference every year, which provides state of the art medical instruction on a range of subjects to over 1,200 attendees. And Diversity Best Practices considers the organization to be a key African American serving organization.
24. Graduation Alliance
Salt Lake City, Utah
Thanks to Graduation Alliance’s partnerships with, “educators, government agencies, and community leaders,” students across America are given the support that they need to further their education. It helps these students through dropout recovery, adult diplomas, alternative education, online high school, and other programs. For college enrollment specifically, Graduation Alliance runs AdvancePath, which helps high school students align interests with potential careers. Thanks to this program, students have gained, “admission at some of the best schools in the country.” Since 2011, Graduation Alliance has also provided almost 700 scholarships. Getting Smart names Graduation Alliance an organization that is boosting college access and success.
23. Pennsylvania State University
University Park, Pennsylvania
Like many other colleges in America, Pennsylvania State University has created a scholars program based on the University of Maryland, Baltimore County’s highly successful minority enhancement program, The Hechinger Report notes. Pennsylvania State University’s Millennium Scholars Program launched in 2013, with the aim of transitioning people of diverse backgrounds into science and engineering careers. In addition to this program, the college also runs a range of multicultural outreach events across the USA to recruit diverse students. Also, the college’s students run The Student Minority Advisory and Recruitment Team (SMART,) which assists with recruiting underrepresented student populations; develops positive relationships between diverse students and the rest of the college community; and increases retention and graduation rates of minority students.
22. National CARES Mentoring Movement
New York City, New York
Since its foundation in 2006, the National CARES Mentoring Movement has supported over 200,000 African American children through recruiting and placing mentors in 58 US cities. Its core program ensures that children living in poverty are given the tools they need to overcome societal barriers to sustainability. Their other programs help children from high poverty families succeed in school and connect STEM professionals as mentors to students in historically black colleges and universities, who then support school teachers in science and math classes. Its most recent program is titled “University for Parents,” and it helps struggling parents overcome the barriers to self-sufficiency. It also provides free daycare and meals while it teaches these skills to parents. Racial Equity Resource Guide lists the National CARES Mentoring Movement as a notable racial equity organization in the field of education.
21. Starr Commonwealth
For over 100 years, Starr Commonwealth has been running programs that, “heal trauma and build resilience in all children, adolescents, and the professionals that serve them.” Today, its programs and additional services reach nine countries. In America alone, it works in 45 states. It has managed to dramatically improve school culture in regards to helping vulnerable children. For instance, in 2019, 86% of the staff members at the schools it impacts said that their school has gained an understanding of how trauma affects a student’s ability to learn. The organization also runs a further education scholarship for any person who has been through any of its programs. In 2019, it handed out $69,543 in scholarship money to students. Racial Equity Resource Guide names Starr Commonwealth as a leader in racial minority education.
20. National Action Council For Minorities In Engineering
Every year, the National Action Council For Minorities In Engineering awards around $3 million in scholarships to aspiring minority students. This money supports approximately 1,000 students per year. This makes the organization, “the largest provider of college scholarships for underrepresented minorities pursuing degrees at schools of engineering.” Alumni of National Action Council For Minorities In Engineering have gone on to work in engineering and computer science positions at companies such as AT&T, BP America, Chevron, ExxonMobil, Ford, and many more renowned companies. Black Scholarships names the organization a top African American student support organization. Diversity Best Practices also names it as one of the most important African American organizations.
19. Beyond 12
The mission of Beyond 12 is to increase the number of underserved students who graduate from college. It does this by offering such students a technology platform and coaching. It is currently coaching more than 2,000 students in almost 200 colleges. But by 2025, the organization aims to coach one million students every year. 85% of the students that Beyond 12 coaches for four years manage to graduate or remain enrolled in college. And Beyond 12 is going further than ever to support students through the coronavirus crisis. For instance, it has created an emergency relief fund that gives out one-time micro-grants to help students with financial challenges. College Success names Beyond 12 an organization that is boosting college access and success.
18. The University of Mississippi
For the 2019 to 2020 academic year, 12.5% of the student population of The University of Mississippi was African American, which was within 1% of the overall US African American population. Racial Equality Resource Guide notes that The University of Mississippi is home to the William Winter Institute for Racial Reconciliation. The William Winter Institute for Racial Reconciliation was created in 1999 to, “promote racial reconciliation and civic renewal.” To date, this Institute has led or collaborated on a range of educational projects, such as documentaries, papers, and resource documents. It also runs a range of youth engagement initiatives that help young people become leaders in community and equality.
17. Year Up
International Journal of Teacher Leadership identifies Year Up as an organization that is significant in academic achievement for African Americans. Year Up offers a one-year training program that gives participants the skills that companies need. This includes a six-month corporate internship that provides hands-on experience and a range of connections. While studying and interning, Year Up students earn educational stipends. They do not pay fees to Year Up. After graduating from Year Up, alumni receive a range of support to ensure that their education/careers continue successfully. 90% of Year Up’s alumni end up in jobs related to their study or in school within four months of graduating.
16. Advancement Via Individual Determination
San Diego, California
The goal of Advancement Via Individual Determination is to train teachers and educators to “prepare all students for college, careers, and life.” Every year, it trains 85,000 educators across 7,500 schools to do this. 80% of the students who benefit from this organization are underrepresented. And first-generation/low-income students who were taught by the organization’s participating educators are four times more likely to graduate college within six years than their peers. International Journal of Teacher Leadership highlights Advancement Via Individual Determination as an effective organization for boosting African American education. Getting Smart lists it as an organization that is boosting college access and success.
15. The Executive Leadership Council
African American students are able to access a range of opportunities at The Executive Leadership Council. Perhaps the most prominent is its seven undergraduate scholarships that are designed to support, “the academic achievement and development of black undergraduate and graduate students.” These programs support African American students pursuing business degrees, mechanical/chemical engineering, and similar fields. The students who gain the scholarships also participate in The Executive Leadership Council’s Honors Symposium, which offers professional development and networking opportunities. In 2020, 58 people received these scholarships. The Executive Leadership Council also partners with other organizations with the aim of providing career opportunities for the next generation of African American leaders. Diversity Best Practices names The Executive Leadership Council as a key African American organization.
One of the goals of the NAACP is, “to ensure that all disadvantaged students and students of color are on the path to college or a successful career.” It is working towards these goals with a four-pronged strategy of increasing resource equity to the neediest kids, ensuring college/career readiness for all students, improving teaching, and improving discipline. For college students, the NAACP provides three different kinds of scholarships. Two of these are awarded to between 20 to 40 students per year and have a maximum award of $2,000 and $3,000. The third scholarship is awarded to seven students per year and is worth $3,000. In early 2020, NAACP announced that Google had committed to providing $3 million to help the organization’s Afro-Academic, Cultural, Technological and Scientific Olympics for the next three years. The program helps African American high school students become leaders in a range of career fields. Diversity Best Practices names the NAACP as a key African American organization.
PeerForward’s (formerly known as College Summit) solution to boosting low-income high school student college enrollment is simple. It “trains, deploys, and coaches a team of Peer Leaders who are charged with boosting college preparation and enrollment across their entire school.” And this approach is paying off. Schools that implement PeerForward’s approach have seen up to a 20% increase in post-secondary enrollment and an additional $13 million of financial aid awarded to students. And PeerForward’s activities continue once a student is studying in college. Getting Smart names PeerForward as an organization that is boosting college access and success.
12. The City University of New York
New York City, New York
In 2019, across the entire City University of New York system, 25.2% of enrolled students were African American, far exceeding the national African American population of 13.4%. The college considers itself to be, “a transformative engine of social mobility.” It runs a range of programs to help underserved students succeed. For instance, the Black Male Initiative exists to increase, “matriculation, retention and graduation rates of underrepresented students, particularly men of color.” This program has been running at The City University of New York Colleges for over a decade and continues to improve underserved students’ educational outcomes. Racial Equity Resource Guide lists The City University of New York Black Male Initiative and the college’s Institute for Research on the African Diaspora in the Americas and the Caribbean in its list of educational racial equity organizations.
11. The University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill
Chapel Hill, North Carolina
The Chancellor’s Science Scholars Program at The University North Carolina Chapel Hill focuses on offering, “merit-based scholarships, opportunities to participate in cutting-edge research, professional development, leadership training, mentorship,” and more for diverse students who are seeking science-based careers. This program has been so successful that in 2019, it received $15 million in donations, which will help fund the program for years to come. The University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill also runs a range of other diversity programs, such as African American Heritage Month lectures and diversity awards. 11% of students at The University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill identify as black or African American, which is close to the overall US African American population estimate of 13.4%.
10. 100 Black Men of America, Inc
Through a range of educational programs, 100 Black Men of America, Inc has provided quality education to African American youth all over the USA for over half a century. Several of these programs provide scholarships to help students attend college. For example, in 2018, the organization formed a partnership with Drake University to send more diverse students to its law school. It also runs a National Scholarship award for students attending an accredited post-secondary educational institution. This scholarship provides between $1,000 to $5,000 per student. Additionally, the organization’s local chapters also run a range of scholarship programs every single year. And to help African American students succeed with other college pressures, 100 Black Men of America, Inc also runs The Collegiate 100. This program runs campus-based initiatives that provide positive role models and mentoring to college students. Diversity Best Practices names 100 Black Men of America, Inc as a key African American organization.
9. National Coalition of 100 Black Women
The primary educational initiatives of the National Coalition of 100 Black Women focus upon eliminating disparities, improving outcomes, improving graduation rates, preparing people for vocational/college learning, boosting STEM education, supporting HCBU organizations, and making education more affordable. Additionally, the individual chapters of the National Coalition of 100 Black Women hand out a range of scholarships to local residents. For instance, the Long Island chapter alone has awarded, “nearly $100,000 dollars in scholarships over the past 35 years for college freshmen and mature women currently enrolled in college.” Diversity Best Practices names the organization as a key part of the African American community.
8. University of Maryland, Baltimore County
The Hechinger Report highlights The Meyerhoff Scholars Program at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County as an example of US college’s efforts to boost racial minority student success. The Meyerhoff Scholars Program has been in existence since 1988. Its original mission was, “to provide financial assistance, mentoring, advising, and research experience to African American male undergraduate students committed to obtaining Ph.D. degrees in math, science, and engineering.” In 1990, the program began accepting women. It later opened to people of all backgrounds who were committed to increasing minority representation in science and engineering. In addition to directly launching many minority careers, The Meyerhoff Scholars Program has also served as a model for similar college programs across America. By 2019, the program had graduated over 1,200 students, many of whom have succeeded in STEM fields. Additionally, the University of Maryland, Baltimore County’s Office of Equity & Inclusion is working to challenge and dismantle structural racism in society in a number of ways, such as through organizing community events. Thanks to the college’s efforts, 17.4% of its enrolled students are African American.
7. National Black MBA Association, Inc
For 50 years, the National Black MBA Association, Inc has helped African Americans come, “into the corporate sector, largely for the first time, share experiences and insights to help make the journey easier.” A core part of this organization’s activities in fulfilling this goal is boosting education. It does this by running programs that increase the acceptance rates of members into college, providing career opportunities, and offering scholarships. Thanks to the National Black MBA Association, Inc’s partnerships with a range of leading American colleges, African American students can receive a range of scholarships, such a gaining $25,000 for a graduate-level education at the University of Alabama, a $100,000 for an undergraduate or graduate education at Bentley University and full tuition for a graduate education at University of Florida. Diversity Best Practices names the organization a key African American organization.
6. Upward Bound
Upward Bound is a Department of Education program that, “provides fundamental support to participants in their preparation for college entrance.” It helps a range of students from underserved demographics by providing funding for a range of educational areas. In 2019 alone, Upward Bound’s funding for programs was $343,356,535. It awarded this money to 966 different programs and aided 70,744 participants. International Journal of Teacher Leadership names Upward Bound as an effective enrichment pathway tool for enrolling African American students into college.
5. Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs
High-poverty middle and high schools across America benefit from Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs. The organization is run by the Department of Education, and it provides six or seven-year grants to states and partners, who then use the money to run programs in the high-poverty schools. The funding also provides scholarships for low-income students. It currently serves over 560,000 school students over 45 states. In 2020, the government gave the organization $365 million. International Journal of Teacher Leadership notes that Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs is an important means of boosting African American college enrollment. Getting Smart lists it as an organization that is boosting college access and success.
4. Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc
In 1911, Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc became the “first international fraternal organization founded on the campus of a historically black college,” at Howard University. Over the next century, the fraternity grew to more than 700 chapters across the USA and the world, helping African Americans/people of African descent attain education and careers in ever greater numbers. In 2018 alone, the organization’s chapters, “gave out more than $1.5 million in scholarships to high school and collegiate students.” In June 2020, Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc launched a fundraising campaign designed to support the growth and sustainability of historically black colleges and universities. It aims to raise $1 million by the end of May 2021. International Journal of Teacher Leadership notes that the fraternity can be instrumental in students achieving academic success.
3. Thurgood Marshall College Fund
To date, the Thurgood Marshall College Fund has awarded more than $300 million in money to its member schools and students. In the 2019-2020 academic year alone, the college awarded $5.8 million in scholarship funding to 1,153 students. Students that gain these scholarships enjoy graduation rates of 80% to 90%. In addition to scholarship money, the Thurgood Marshall College Fund trains 300 K-12 classroom teachers every year, develops 12,000 students at its annual leadership institute, and much more. When coronavirus hit America, the Thurgood Marshall College Fund established an emergency fund for Historically Black Colleges and Universities. Black Scholarships names it one of the top black educational organizations.
2. National Urban League
New York City, New York
Thanks to the National Urban League, African American communities and other underserved communities are able to achieve their highest potential. The organization offers programming in the areas of college preparation, mentoring, STEM education, parental enrichment, workforce skills, new business training, homeownership, foreclosure prevention, nutrition education, and more. In the last decade alone, the organization has provided its education services to three million individuals. In 2020, just the Chicago division of the National Urban League awarded 37 students with scholarships totaling $58,500. Diversity Best Practices names the National Urban League as a key African American organization. Racial Equity Resource Guide lists it as a notable organization that is helping with equality in education.
Thanks to UNCF, over half a million African American college students have gained degrees since the organization’s inception in 1944. Overall, the organization has given students more than $5 billion in scholarship money. This has led to a 70% graduation rate for scholarship recipients. However, student scholarships only form one part of the UNCF’s activities. For instance, it also forms partnerships with companies such as Google and Adobe to further historically black college and university STEM educations and supports historically black colleges and universities as they create college-to-career initiatives. Black Scholarships names UNCF one of the top African American education organizations. Diversity Best Practices names it a key African American organization.
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