Best Practices from HBCUs to the K-12 Sector

New UNCF report details how successes from HBCUs can be implemented into K-12 education

K-12 educators and administrators could benefit greatly via reciprocal partnerships with historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) according to UNCF’s Frederick D. Patterson Research Institute. Despite being among the most resource-constrained institutions within higher education, HBCUs actually retain and graduate low-income, academically underprepared African American students at higher rates than anticipated. The latest report released by UNCF entitled Imparting Wisdom: HBCU Lessons for K-12 Education, outlines research-based best practices from HBCUs that can be woven into K-12 education—specifically for K-12 schools with demographics similar to that of HBCU populations.

The three detailed HBCU best practices that K-12 educators and administrators can deploy are:

  • Cultivating Nurturing Support Systems:  HBCUs promote a high level of student and faculty interaction, employ diverse faculty and implement strategies such as intrusive advising to build caring relationships among students.
  • Leveraging African American Culture and Identity:  HBCUs (1) make intentional efforts to promote student engagement based on culture by incorporating African American cultural elements into campus practices and the curriculum; (2) help students develop a strong sense of identity; and (3) use African American culture to facilitate student success.
  • Setting High Expectations:  HBCUs play a significant role in offering meaningful mentorship to students and promoting graduate school enrollment.

For each best practice, the report details corresponding lessons for the K-12 sector.

“HBCUs have historically proven to be more successful at educating and graduating African American students—especially students from low- to moderate-income households; are first-generation college students; or those who’ve had an unequitable K-12 education,” commented UNCF President and CEO, Dr. Michael L. Lomax. “UNCF is invested in not just creating access to higher education, but also in ensuring our students have a quality K-12 foundation which will lead to a successful college experience.”

“While education reform initiatives have made slight improvements, achievement and opportunity gaps in America still exists. The recommendations in Imparting Wisdom can help inform policymakers and education administrators on programs that can improve outcomes for current and future generations of college going African American students,” said UNCF Vice President for K-12 Advocacy Sekou Biddle. “For example, one recommendation detailed in the report urges K-12 educators to employ intrusive advising methods—encouraging all students, not just high-achieving students, to achieve at higher levels. UNCF-member Dillard University’s law program has implemented this intrusive mentor model, finding that investing in the whole student is paramount to student success.”

Because HBCUs have historically been more successful at educating and graduating African American students and because of the increasing numbers of students of color in K-12 schools, with this report UNCF sought to answer the question—What can the K-12 sector learn from HBCUs that can improve academic outcomes for black students? The goal of the report is to highlight insights from HBCU leaders and promote mutually beneficial alliances between the K-12 sector and HBCUs.

UNCF will host the HBCU & K-12 Education Summit on January 21, in Washington, DC, to discuss HBCU and K-12 partnerships and best practices highlighted in the report. The summit will include a dynamic set of speakers and leaders spanning the K-12 and higher education sector. View the live stream on UNCF’s Facebook page at @UNCF.

To read the report or get more information, please visit


About UNCF
UNCF (United Negro College Fund) is the nation’s largest and most effective minority education organization. To serve youth, the community and the nation, UNCF supports students’ education and development through scholarships and other programs, strengthens its 37 member colleges and universities, and advocates for the importance of minority education and college readiness. UNCF institutions and other historically black colleges and universities are highly effective, awarding nearly 20 percent of African American baccalaureate degrees. Today, UNCF supports more than 60,000 students at more than 1,100 colleges and universities across the country. Its logo features the UNCF torch of leadership in education and its widely recognized motto, “A mind is a terrible thing to waste.”® Learn more at, or for continuous updates and news, follow UNCF on Twitter at @UNCF.