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June 03, 2024

The Current State of HBCU Recruiting Strategy

In recent years, there has been a growing recognition of the importance of Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) in corporate DEI strategies. These institutions serve as a pipeline for underrepresented talent, and their graduates often bring diverse perspectives to their work, contributing to innovation and growth. 

Additionally, in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court ruling that struck down race-based Affirmative Action in colleges and universities and the ensuing scrutiny on corporate DEI, 41% of employers have reviewed their sourcing and/or school selection strategies. Some companies have also increased investments in minority-serving institutions like HBCUs.

Having a strong HBCU engagement strategy has been a top priority for our members since 2020. In a post-Affirmative Action era, more students may seek the supportive environments offered by HBCUs. This shift presents companies with a prime opportunity to enhance both the diversity of their talent pool and their capacity for innovation through HBCU recruiting. However, University Recruiting teams are facing new challenges, such as standing out on campus amidst fierce competition. Fortunately, these challenges can be mitigated by having a comprehensive understanding of the HBCU recruiting landscape.


The Current State of HBCU Recruiting

In Q1 2024, 75% of employers reported that they specifically target HBCUs for recruiting. Another 16% said they are fully school-agnostic and so do not specifically target HBCUs – only 9% said they do not currently recruit at HBCUs. Notably, these numbers varied by industry, with targeted HBCU recruiting being near universal for Healthcare and Pharmaceutical/Biotech companies.


HBCU Recruiting Strategy by Industry

A graph displaying what percentage of employers -- broken down by industry -- specifically target HBCUs, pursue a school-agnostic strategy and so do not specifically target HBCUs, or do not currently recruit at HBCUs. 100% of healthcare employers and 93% of Pharma/Biotech employers reported they specifically target HBCUs.


Top HBCU Recruiting Strategies

Attending recruiting events at HBCUs was the most utilized recruiting strategy – 77% of surveyed employers opted for this approach.

Half of all employers who recruited at HBCUs hosted virtual events targeting HBCU students or partnered with student clubs.

Other common recruiting strategies to engage HBCU students included hosting in-person events, attending conferences, hosting early ID programs/sessions, partnering with nonprofits, and offering scholarships.


How Employers Are Evaluating the Success of their HBCU Engagement

Since 2023, University Recruiting leaders have reported increased difficulty receiving budget for their UR initiatives. Measuring the effectiveness of HBCU recruiting is vital to advocate for resources for these partnerships. The two most commonly measured KPIs were the number of HBCU student hires and the number of HBCU student applications received.

Additional methods to evaluate program success include:

  • •  Number of HBCU students receiving offers
  • •  Number of HBCU students accepting offers
  • •  Number of HBCU students attending events
  • •  Number of HBCU students receiving interviews
  • •  Number of engagements/touchpoints with HBCU students
  • •  Scholarships awarded to HBCU students
  • •  Brand recognition


The Strategic Advantages of HBCU Recruitment Beyond DEI

While HBCUs provide immense value to employers’ DEI initiatives, it is important to remember that HBCU recruiting is not just about increasing diversity, but also about tapping into a unique pool of talent that can drive organizational success. 

Black/African-American HBCU graduates report better outcomes than B/AA graduates of predominantly white institutions (PWIs) on many measures, including:

  • •  Experiencing upward social mobility
  • •  Thriving in financial well-being
  • •  Being prepared for life outside of college
  • •  Being prepared for being engaged at work


To effectively engage HBCU students, employers have to approach recruiting efforts with authenticity and intentionality. In June, we’re hosting a webinar on HBCU Recruiting – join us to improve outcomes of your recruiting initiatives.

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