April is celebrated as Community College Month. The HBCU Campaign Fund (HCF), a nonprofit advocacy and educational organization, recognizes the community colleges designated as a Historically Black College and University (HBCU).

Community College Month is an opportunity to demonstrate the vital importance of how community colleges impact the surrounding communities and make an undeniable case for why these colleges deserve greater public support. Many people don’t know that some of these institutions do exist and that they serve a greater purpose in the HBCU community for traditional and non-traditional students. The majority of the community colleges are partnered with surrounding four-year institutions to make associate degrees, and course credits transferable to those four-year colleges or universities to complete bachelor’s degrees.

Furthermore, community colleges partner with area businesses to create academic and workforce training programs; for instance, Drake State is an excellent example as it is the first and only institution of its kind in Alabama. It offers its students comprehensive academic and technical training programs and certificates. Drake State also provides flexible, affordable university-transfer degrees and customized skills training to fulfill the diverse workforce need of employers.

Shorter College campus in Little Rock, Arkansas. Photo is courtesy of HCF media team.

As a result, in total there are eleven community colleges that exist and have HBCU designation with Alabama having the most of six institutions. With hopes to provide financial support from the HBCU Campaign Fund in the near future, three of the current serving presidents of the two-year institutions have been recognized as a Most Dominant HBCU Leader by the organization for their outstanding work in moving the institutions forward.

Bishop State Community College
• Coahoma Community College
• Denmark Technical College
• Drake State Community and Technical College
• Gadsden State Community College
• Hinds Community College at Utica
• Shelton State Community College
• Shorter College
• Southern University at Shreveport
• St. Philip’s College
• Trenholm State Community College

Drake State Community and Technical College changed its name in 1966 to J.F. Drake State in honor of the late Joseph Fanning Drake, a long-time president of Alabama A&M University. The institution has established university articulation agreements with Alabama A&M University, Oakwood University, Athens State University, and the University of Alabama in Huntsville. With these agreements, it expands options for its students and makes it possible for graduates with technical associate degrees in computer information systems, electrical engineering technology, and business programs to transfer seamlessly to those universities. Under the leadership of Dr. Patricia Sims, Drake State is also the first and only historically Black community college to be awarded a Cooperative Agreement Notice (CAN) by NASA’s Marshal Space Flight Center (MSFC) Minority University Research and Education Project (MUREP). Graduates of Drake State are known to have started their own businesses, and the institution has had a strong influence on economic development in the region. Dr. Patricia Sims was named among the Ten Most Dominant HBCU Leaders of 2020 by the HBCU Campaign Fund.

Denmark Technical College President Dr. Willie L. Todd, Jr. seen awarding a student during the college’s Honors Convocation. Photo courtesy of Denmark Technical College.

On the other hand, Denmark Technical College is also making pathways for its students. The college is located in Denmark, South Carolina, just an inch before you get to the camping grounds of Voorhees University. And just like Drake State, Denmark Technical is the only technical college in South Carolina with on-campus housing. It is a two-year, historically Black technical college that provides students within the area with affordable opportunities for associate degrees, diplomas, or certificates. It is an HBCU that is on the rise, though previously, it had its reputation for being in financial trouble and a threat towards closure. According to Diverse Issues of Higher Education, under Dr. Willie L. Todd, Jr’s leadership, Denmark has overcome its obstacles; its nursing program increased by 150% and its workforce program revenue by 1101%. Job placement rates after graduation are currently at 87%. Dr. Todd has served as the ninth president at the institution since 2020.

The state of Alabama consists of six of the eleven HBCU community colleges; all of them fall under the umbrella of the Alabama Community College System, including Drake State. The others are Bishop State Community College, Gadsden State Community College, Lawson State Community College, Shelton State Community College, and Trenholm State Community College. Additionally, Southern University at Shreveport is also part of a system, the Southern University System, the only historically Black university system in America. However, Shorter College in Little Rock, Arkansas, may not be part of a system. Still, it is the only private historically Black college and university (HBCU) junior college in the nation.

Another unique and thriving HBCU community college is St. Philip’s College in San Antonio, Texas. It is America’s only college that is federally designated as both Historically Black College (HBC) and a Hispanic Serving Institution (HSI). It too is part of the Alamo College District system. It was founded by the Episcopal Church in 1898 to educate and train slaves. Today, SPC serves approximately 12,696 students and offer over 70 academic and technical options. A product of Alcorn State University, SPC current president Dr. Adena Williams Loston was selected as one of The Ten Most Dominant HBCU Leaders of 2021 by the HBCU Campaign Fund.

St. Philip’s College President Dr. Adena Williams Loston is seen speaking with faculty, staff and students. Photo courtesy of St. Philip’s College.

Traditionally, community colleges are known to be the most affordable, given that Coahoma Community College has repeatedly been named the most affordable HBCU in the nation by StudentLoanHero.com. Matriculating at a community college can always be a starting point to beginning your collegiate journey. It can also be a point in your life where you may not be quite ready to attend a four-year college or university. Many community colleges offer flexibility and the resources you need to make it possible to stay enrolled and complete your chosen program. These institutions are also dedicated to dual enrollment students or even may have high schools incorporated on the campuses. Do your research, and contact the college’s admission office for more information.

Just as crucial as any higher education institution, our community colleges are that important to the space. If HCF can be of any assistance in your college journey, please feel free to reach out to our representatives, who are always open to assisting. We welcome you to contact our office via email at support@hbcucampaignfund.org.

Join us in April of every year as we honor and celebrate the important work of community colleges. Embrace those who are designated as an HBCU, support its mission. Happy Community College Month!