Dear College Choice, Who Is You and Why Come Your HBCU Rankings Don’t Make No Damn Sense?

Erik S. Lesser/Getty Images
Erik S. Lesser/Getty Images

Dear College Choice,


What the fuck, B?

I was recently made privy to your “Best Historically Black Colleges & Universities for 2017” list. I do not know when you dropped this list. Real talk, it doesn’t matter, but I have some very real questions about your rankings. Basically, how in the holy hell did you come up with them?

Why do I ask? I’m glad you asked.

Let’s just start with the lead here: I went to Morehouse College in Atlanta. I’m sure you’ve heard of it. You did do an HBCU ranking, after all. Well, in recent years, Morehouse has gone through many different phases, from being in a low to heading back toward the highs that defined her halcyon years and living up to the vision of Benjamin Elijah Mays. While I was in college, these rankings came out each year, and a constant fun, cross-the-street battle between Morehouse and Spelman College always ensued.


I’ll be honest: My opinion of Spelman is so high that I don’t care if we never, ever beat them in a ranking. As far as I’m concerned, Spelman is now and will always be No. 1. But when doing rankings, various magazines and entities see things differently. Your particular ranking—well, you had Howard University at No. 1. Cool. I have no beef with this. Spelman College was ranked at No. 2. OK. I guess that means Morehouse will be coming in at No. 3, a fine ranking and wha—wait, Hampton is No. 3. Hmm ... OK. Again, we had been having some issues. Enrollment. Graduation rates. OK. I see you, College Choice—you being stingy. But aight. Surely we’re at 4.

No. Huston-Tillotson University in Austin, Texas, is at No. 4. Hmmm. Shit just got real. Is Morehouse at No. 5? No. That would be Xavier University of Louisiana.

Hmm. OK, let’s cut to the chase. Morehouse is ranked at No. 23 on this list. Behind the aforementioned schools and the following, in order by ranking, starting at No. 6: Bowie State University, Lincoln University of Pennsylvania, Florida A&M University, Edward Waters College, Southern University at New Orleans, Prairie View A&M University, North Carolina A&T State University, North Carolina Central University, West Virginia State University, Fayetteville State University, Tougaloo College, Le Moyne-Owen College, Dillard University, Concordia College Alabama, Johnson C. Smith University, Claflin University and Delaware State University.

All of those schools are ranked higher than Morehouse. Do you know who is conspicuously rated near the bottom of your list? None other than Tuskegee University, which is ranked at a hefty No. 49 out of the 50 listed. Fisk and Morgan State also made it into the latter half of the listed schools at No. 26 and No. 32 respectively. How, Sway? Seriously, how?


Now compare that to the U.S. News and World Reports HBCU rankings for 2018. Here is THEIR top 10: Spelman, Howard, Hampton, Morehouse, Xavier, FAMU, Tuskeegee, A&T, Claflin and Fisk.

So you all agree on the first three schools, though in a slightly different order, but then everything else takes a left turn. Hmm. U.S. News rankings tend to be a go-to even if they are also imperfect. I guess I should read YOUR description (below) associated with Morehouse to better understand why we made it all the way down to No. 23. I’m sure there’s a perfectly reasonable and justifiable—and, hell, maybe even accurate—reason. Ahem. Emphasis mine:

Howard Thurman, Benjamin Mays, Martin Luther King, Jr., David Satcher, Maynard Jackson, Donn Clendenon, Spike Lee, are a few “Morehouse Men” who have helped change the world. Established in 1867, Morehouse College is one of the best colleges in the nation, top HBCU, and one of the best schools for black men. The school’s mission is “to produce academically superior, morally conscious leaders for the conditions and issues of today.”

Morehouse is top men’s college for producing Rhodes Scholars, and one of the top HBCUs to produce Rhodes Scholars. Forbes, U.S. News and World Report, Newsweek, and others rank the school as a distinguished institution of higher learning. Along with is rich history and academic rigor, Morehouse has international recognition for its Glee Club, Debate Team and Marching Band. Furthermore, the school houses the King Collection which holds thousands of written documents by the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.


So let me get this right, College Choice: According to the very shit you printed, Morehouse College is a top HBCU and one of the best colleges in the nation. ACCORDING to what you provided IN YOUR WRITE-UP. And yet, on the tier list for HBCUs, of which you stated there are 105 (though you only ranked 50), Morehouse would show up in the third tier?

I’m not saying that Morehouse is Harvard, though we do have fun T-shirts that say “Harvard: The Morehouse of the North” on them. I’m not saying it’s the best HBCU, either. That is easily debatable, and to be real, Howard does things and has bandwidth Morehouse couldn’t dream of reaching. We’re great at different things, and a lot of it is comparing apples to oranges. But comparisons get made. Morehouse attracts lots of great talent, as evidenced by your own note about producing Rhodes scholars. Do we have to be No. 1? No. But how are we No. 23 behind schools—and this is no disrespect—like Concordia College Alabama, which I didn’t even know existed until I saw your list?


Some of the HBCUs ranked higher are fine institutions, with some being finer than others, but what are you even using to come up with your College Choice Score? And how does Howard rank 100 percent? Is that 100 percent among HBCUs or 100 percent among all schools? I mean, Harvard (rated the No. 1 college or university overall) scored 100 percent. But Princeton, No. 2, only scored a 97 percent. So how did that work?

In fact, Howard University doesn’t show up at all on your list of the 100 best colleges and universities despite that 100 percent score—I guess it only ranks that way against HBCUs. The 100th-best university, according to you niggas, is Pitzer College in Claremont, Calif., part of the Claremont schools, and it’s scored at 65 percent against the rest. Of what? Fuck if I know. Even THOSE rankings make no sense. The University of Michigan, ranked No. 51 on your shit, is No. 28 at U.S. News.


What is y’all doin’?

How the hell are you all assessing schools and what the hell? I’d like some answers. While I’ve never heard of you until today, I’d like you to explain a bit. Either that or until you do right by me, everything you even think about gon’ fail.


Um ... K. Thanks. Bye.


Panama Jackson is the Senior Editor of Very Smart Brothas. He's pretty fly for a light guy. You can find him at your mama's mama's house drinking all her brown liquors.

Share This Story

Get our newsletter


Crystal Marie

I can’t even appreciate being #1 on a list that has Hudson Tillerson as #4. I know I spelled that wrong. It hasn’t earned the right to be spelled correctly yet.