My Experience at a PWI versus an HBCU

College is something many students attend on a yearly basis. Since the cost of attendance in the U.S. averages at nearly $40,000 per academic year, it is vital to select a school that meets the student’s needs to minimize exiting debt. One of the factors that should be taken into consideration is the type of university—a PWI or an HBCU. A PWI (Predominantly White Institution) is a university where the majority of the student body—around 50% or higher—is white. An HBCU (Historically Black College or University) is a university that was founded on the basis of providing education for members of the African diaspora. As someone who has attended the University of Mississippi and currently Jackson State University, there are some things to take into consideration before making a decision.

Financial Aid

Applying for financial aid was relatively simple for both colleges. I completed the FAFSA form as soon as it opened up and applied for the Pell Grant via Mississippi’s financial aid website. I made sure to express an interest in work-study on the FAFSA form then searched for positions on campus. I applied for internal scholarships through each school’s portal and outside scholarships through FastWeb. It also helps to be a part of certain organizations such as sororities or honors societies as there are often scholarships specifically dedicated to members of them.


Ole Miss has an extensive past of racism and discrimination. While I luckily did not experience this firsthand, a university’s history should be taken into account to see if measures are actively being taken to improve. While UM is not what it used to be, there are still moments that dig up this ugly history such as a noose being placed on James Meredith’s statue and, more recently, a Black woman being harassed by an angry group of white protesters. If I was still attending, I would feel extremely uncomfortable walking around campus, not knowing whether I am going to encounter a hateful person who may pose a threat to me.

Jackson State is laidback and conversational. What I mean by that is that the students are close knit. You run into the same people often, making it easier to form friendships. JSU is also in the heart of Jackson, a city rich with history and culture.


PWIs tend to receive more funding than HBCUs, stemming from the Morrill Land Grant College Act (1862) which granted states with 30,000 acres of land to build colleges that mainly went towards white institutions. Black institutions were not provided with the same amount of land nor funds, which has carried over to today with a gap of $1 being received by an HBCU to every $100 received by a PWI.

As such, PWIs often have more amenities than HBCUs. It is one of the main things I miss about UM: free bus rides on and off campus, a robot delivery service, vending machines that took the school’s currency, and so much more. Everything I could possibly need and want was placed before me or was within minimum reach.

JSU is a different story. The necessities are given—campus restaurants (e.g., Chick-fil-a, Pizza Hut), vending machines, and a mini mart. Though that doesn’t make JSU any less worthy. In fact, it is overshadowed by a thriving community. From orientation to graduation, a “familyship” is encouraged. We come from different places and backgrounds, but we share a collective history that is taught in our classrooms to not be forgotten. We bond through our split paths merging to our journey through JSU and make the most of what we have. We cheer each other on and make connections that last. That is something I didn’t experience at UM.


Classes were one of the most stressful parts of attending UM. I was one of the only Black students in my major focused courses. As soon as I stepped into the room, I felt a heavy weight on my shoulders. Many of the stereotypes that exist about Black people came to mind and I knew I couldn’t let them be true. I had to have perfect grades. I had to hide in the shadows as much as possible. I had to speak in a way I normally wouldn’t for fear of being seen as a “typical ignorant Black girl.” I despised group work but not more than presenting in front of everyone. It was a struggle to not perpetuate stereotypes and control my anxiety which further hindered my ability to speak publicly. The only relief I had was in my general courses, which were more diverse.

At Jackson State, going to class feels more like high school. I don’t feel a sense of dread walking into the classroom. My peers look like me and they talk in a familiar manner. There is more relatability. I have the same competitive mindset, but it feels fairer than at UM. I don’t have a lingering expectation to be someone that I’m not.


These are my experiences and are meant to encourage you to do more research before committing to a university. The college experience is important for developing responsibility and maturity. Picking a school to study that is not conducive to this can be harmful and expensive in the long run. Take advantage of the plentiful sources online providing reviews of universities you may be considering.

Written By

Makaya Davis

Makaya is currently a senior studying English at Jackson State University. She aspires to become an author and editor upon graduating.