Norfolk State University and Virginia State University are upstanding HBCUs in the state of Virginia, but for some Northern Virginia area officials, they are too far. Learn more in the article by Laura Scudder at Northern Virginia Magazine below.

Exterior of District Courthouse. Knoxville, Tennessee, USA

The Northern Virginia Regional Commission (NVRC) is pushing for an HBCU satellite campus in NoVA, which could bring more economic growth to the region and the opportunity for students to gain an HBCU education in a local setting.  

While Howard University and University of the District of Columbia may just be a drive away in Washington, DC, the northernmost HBCU in the state is Virginia Union University, located in Richmond.  

Chair of the commission Cydny Neville, who is a member of the Town Council of Dumfries, says the commission is advocating for a satellite campus in the area from Norfolk State University (NSU) or Virginia State University (VSU) — and potentially both at a joint location — as they are state-funded schools, and already have that connection to the Commonwealth. NVRC is looking at Falls Church and Alexandria as potential locations for the campus.

Neville, who is from Alexandria and a VSU alum, says that having an HBCU in Northern Virginia is something that has been on the hearts and minds of herself and other alumni, who hold the love of and passion for all that HBCUs can offer.

“When I go back to Virginia State, I am returning home. I’m going to my second family, my peers that I met, former roommates in college — that’s my extended family. It’s a lifelong bond. Attending an HBCU changed the trajectory of my life,” she says.  

Neville notes that a nearby historically Black university would also provide residents who have some college or an associate’s degree an opportunity to complete their bachelor’s degree in a local setting — and give the colleges themselves a chance to create partnerships that benefit the schools and the students alike. 

“We have over 400,000 residents in Northern Virginia, in our region, who started a degree but did not complete the degree,” she says. “And then it’s also building a presence … for those HBCUs in our region, so they can be better positioned to build relationships with major corporations.”

Since July 2021, NVRC has been in conversation with the presidents of NSU and VSU to try to make this dream a reality, and attended a meeting April 5 with both universities to discuss establishing an HBCU presence in NoVA. 

Neville says that while it’s a long process — and it will ultimately be up to the universities to decide if they will establish a satellite school in the region — it’s promising. 

“It’s up to the universities to decide what they’re going to do. And it’s a lot of work. … it’s preliminary, you have to go through SCHEV [State Council of Higher Education for Virginia]. There’s a lot of work to do, a lot of economic development pieces, many pieces to put together. But I will say this — that both university presidents are extremely interested,” she says.   

There are varying benefits to establishing a satellite campus in NoVA. HBCUs produce 20 percent of Black graduates, and these graduates represent 80 percent of all Black judges, 50 percent of all Black medical doctors, and 50 percent of all Black lawyers, says Stephanie Turner, a member of the Northern Virginia Chamber of Commerce. She notes that 25 percent of all Black STEM graduates are also HBCU alumni. 

Tuition is typically more affordable at historically Black colleges than other four-year public universities. At VSU, in-state tuition for a full time undergraduate student is less than $10,000 per year.  

And while tuition is lower for students, the universities still bring a positive economic impact to their communities. 

United Negro College Fund created economic impact sheets of VSU and NSU, showing that the schools generate $270 million and $280 million, respectively, for their local and regional economies. In total, Virginia’s HBCUs have created over 8,000 jobs for their communities.

Officials and organizations have advocated for more funding for the Commonwealth’s historically Black colleges. Former Virginia Gov. Douglas Wilder, who was the first Black governor in the U.S., wrote that state support for HBCUs is crucial for students.