Institutional Comparison




Thisessay draws a comparison between Purdue University and HowardUniversity, two major research universities in the United States ofAmerica. My choice of the two universities is that both have adoctoral rank, and they offer quality, marketable courses to domesticas well as foreign students. Even though Purdue University is apublic university while Howard University is a private institution,the two universities attract my interest because I have three kidswho will be joining college in less than ten years. Driven by adesire to secure the best education for them, I am very eager to knowwhether or not there are any significant differences in learningoutcomes and employment prospects of graduates from bothuniversities. The comparative analysis will also help to understanddemographic structure of the two universities, as well as thedemographic and economic composition of the environments in whichboth universities are located.




KennethM. Holmes, M.A.

VicePresident for Student Affairs

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ParrisCarter, M.Ed.

AssistantVice President for Student Affairs

[email protected]

LennonJackson, M.Ed.

Chiefof Operations

[email protected]


SpecialAssistant to the Vice President

[email protected]



[email protected]



[email protected]


Themission of Purdue University is “to serve the citizens of Indiana,the United States, and the world through discoverythat expands the realm of knowledge, learningthrough dissemination and preservation of knowledge, and engagementthrough exchange of knowledge” (Purdue University, 2001). On theother hand, Howard University dreams of becoming a the bestinstitution of higher learning that generates a graduate team of“dynamic teachers, researchers, educational leaders, and humanservices professionals committed to improve teaching, learning, andresearch in urban and other diverse settings”. Additionally, theuniversity aims to be the best institution in “conductingmultidisciplinary research and disseminating findings that informpolicy and practice relevant to Black populations and otherunderserved groups” (Howard University, 2014b).

Statedotherwise, the mission of Howard University is to provide “aneducational experience of exceptional quality at the undergraduate,graduate, and professional levels to students of high academicstanding and potential, with particular emphasis upon educationalopportunities for Black students” (Howard University, 2014b). Thestatement further highlights Howard University’s commitment to“attracting and sustaining a cadre of faculty who are, throughtheir teaching, research and service, committed to the development ofdistinguished, historically aware, and compassionate graduates and tothe discovery of solutions to human problems in the United States andthroughout the world” (Howard University, 2014b). As a result ofthese efforts, Howard University is keen on producing “leaders forAmerica and the Global community” (Howard University, 2014b).

Asseen in the above statements, Purdue University has a short, concisestatement of mission that specifies its target clients and corebusiness. This is not to say that Howard University’s mission isvague the University is very clear that it targets Blacks and otherunderserved populations. However, it does this in a very lengthystatement that could appear boring to the reader.

Thesame degree of conciseness is reflected in Purdue’s vision, whichstates that “Purdue will be a preeminent university advancingquality in all areas while leading the world in the basic and appliedsciences and engineering and improving society at home and abroad”(Purdue University, 2001). For Howard University, the vision statesas follows: “Through its programs of exemplary quality, HowardUniversity will be the first HBCU to become a top-50 researchuniversity, while it continues its traditions of leadership andservice to underserved communities nationally and abroad” (HowardUniversity, 2014b). Both statements indicate that the twouniversities are focused on ensuring that the knowledge imparted tolearners is of top quality, and that it serves both domestic andforeign students.

Byclassification, Purdue University and Howard University are bothdoctoral universities that facilitate research activities.Nevertheless, Purdue University is ranked higher than Howard in thatit offers facilities for the highest research studies. On thecontrary, the Carnegie classification of Howard University is that itlies in the category of higher research institutions (The Trustees ofIndiana University, 2015). In terms of control, it is necessary toreiterate that Howard University is a private non-profit institution,unlike Purdue University, which is a public university.


Inboth institutions, it is evident that undergraduate students form themajority. In Purdue University, for example, enrollment statisticsshow that this year, the total number of students who enrolled at theuniversity was 40,451. Out of this figure, 30,043 enrolled forundergraduate courses. In terms of gender, it appears that PurdueUniversity admits more male students than female students, with mencomprising 17,313 out of the 30,043 enrolled in the fall of thisyear. Additionally, the statistics indicate that most of PurdueUniversity students are in full time courses, while only 1,331 out ofthe 30,043 undergraduate students are in part time classes (PurdueUniversity, 2016b).

Froma race perspective, majority of Purdue University students are whites(18,932), closely followed by Hispanics. Blacks and African Americanstudents are also represented at the University, comprising slightlyless than 1,000 of the undergraduate students. With regard to age, ithas been observed that most of the students at Purdue University areslightly less or more than 20 years old, which makes the average ageof Purdue University students 20.1. Regarding residential status, itseems that students are balanced, with 16,016 of them residing withincampus, while the remaining 14,027 are accommodated outside campus(Purdue University, 2016b).

Theabove statistics can be summarized in the table and pie chart below:

Figure1: representation of male and female students in Purdue University.Blue color represent male students maroon represents females

Figure2: Representation of residential versus non-residential students

Nocomprehensive statistics are available to illustrate the enrollmentpatterns at Howard University. Nonetheless, there are a few availablereports concerning the racial composition of students at theuniversity. A shocking revelation about the university is thatdespite being focused on meeting the education needs of Blacks,Howard University ranks below average in terms of ethnic diversity.This is, perhaps, because of the university’s reputation as ahistorically black college or university (HBCU), hence the reason why91% of the university’s student population is black. The secondlargest number of students at the University is non-resident aliens,followed by Asians. White students come a distant fifth, and they arefollowed by American Indians (College Factual, n.d).

UnlikePurdue University where there are more male students than females,the student body in Howard University is mainly female. In fact, theuniversity ranks number 1,844 among US institutions in terms of maleto female diversity. Among the undergraduates, 4,716 are femaleswhile 2,297 are male. This implies that 67.2% of undergraduatestudents at the university are females while the remaining 32.8% aremales. In terms of age, Howard University and Purdue University sharea similarity with regard to the average age of their students. AtHoward University, undergraduate students generally lie within theage bracket of 18 and 22 years. This is somewhat similar to theconventional phenomenon where students normally enter college at theage of 18, and leave at the age of 22 (College Factual, n.d). Out ofthe 6,883 undergraduate students at Howard University, 59 percentlive within campus, while the remaining 41% live outside campus (U.S.News &amp World Report, 2016).

Figure3: Pie chart representing the percentage of male and female studentsin Howard University, maroon color denotes percentage of femalestudents

Figure4: Residential and non-residential students at Howard University


PurdueUniversity and Howard University also differ in terms of physicallocation. It has already been mentioned in the introduction thatPurdue University is situated in the state of Indiana, whereas HowardUniversity stands within the capital of the US. To be more specific,Howard University is located in Washington D.C. on the other hand,Purdue University is found in Indiana’s West Lafayette.

Thelocation of each of the two institutions bears strategic importance.With respect to Purdue’s being located in West Lafayette, it isinteresting learning that the city is regarded by many to be “anappendix to [the] great university” (Logan, 2009 p. 68). Similarly,Purdue University enjoys significant benefits as a result of beinglocated within the city. For instance, it is reported that studentswho graduate from the university have been able to find employment orinternship in organizations located within the city (Logan, 2009).

Thesame thing can be said of Howard University and its location in thecity of Washington. Reports indicate that Howard University’s maincampus is strategically situated upon a hilltop within NorthwestWashington. More importantly, the campus is only two miles away fromthe US Capitol. This location is advantageous to students and theuniversity because it provides easy access to internshipopportunities, in addition to keeping the university connected with amajority of its alumni (Howard University, 2014a). From thesereports, it emerges that the location of both universities is awell-thought out decision that is meant to reap as many benefits aspossible, both to the universities and the graduate students theyproduce.

Notabledisparities have also been identified between the two institutionsregarding the demographic characteristics of the populations aroundthe institutions. For example, statistics show that in WashingtonD.C., where Howard University is situated, the number of people whohold a high school certificate is 88.9% (as of the year 2015).Similarly, a census done on the period between 2010 and 2014 revealedthat 53.4% of residents in Washington D.C. held at least a collegedegree. In the state of Indiana, where Purdue University is situated,87.6% of the population holds a high school certificate. This isslightly lower than the number of high school-educated persons inWashington D.C. When it comes to the number of individuals with acollege degree or higher, only 23.6% of residents in Indiana havesuccessfully completed college education. Again, this is considerablylower than the percentage in Washington D.C (Purdue University,2016b).

Interms of median income, it appears that residents of Washington D.C.are better off than their counterparts in Indiana. This statement isbased on the report that the median income in Washington D.C. is $69,235, while that in Indiana is $48,737. With reference to race,statistics indicate that Washington D.C. is home to more Blacks thanwhites. Precisely, 48.3% of the state’s population is made up ofBlacks, while only 44.1% are whites. In contrast, the situation inIndiana is the opposite, with the biggest percentage comprisingwhites (85.8%). Blacks form a mere 9.6% of the total population.These differences in statistics may be used to explain why HowardUniversity is committed towards catering to the academic needs ofBlacks, essentially because it is located in a state where there aremore black people than whites.


Justthe same way that Purdue University and Howard University are twodifferent institutions the bodies governing education in the statesof Washington and Indiana are totally different. In Indiana, forexample, matters of education are overseen by the Indiana Commissionfor Higher Education, which was founded in 1971. The Commissionoperates in accordance with a strategic plan called Reaching Higher,Delivering Value. The plan outlines the key metrics together withgoals that the Commission uses in assessing effectiveness ofstrategies deployed by institutions of higher learning. On the otherhand, education in Washington D.C. is overseen by the Office of theState Superintendent of Education, under the mandate of the Divisionof Postsecondary and Career Education.


HowardUniversity was established in 1867 as a private university forresearch. The university’s founders were missionaries who decidedto set up an institution to facilitate the training of blackpreachers. Subsequently, the institution was named Howard University,after General Oliver Howard, a white man who was regarded as a heroduring the Civil War. Howard’s contribution towards the blackcommunity was that he had acted as a commissioner of a bureau thatgave assistance to freed blacks (Taylor, 2013). At the time of itsestablishment, Howard University only had five students, all whitefemales. An interesting point to note about these students is thatthey were all daughters to the founders of the school. Within fiveyears, the university had educated 150,000 individuals, all freedslaves. Until that time, the university was headed by General Howard.However, in 1926, the earliest black president by the name WyattJohnson was hired, and he led the institution for a total of 34years. When Johnson came in, the university was not yet accredited,but it was still expanding. At the time of Johnson’s retirement, atotal of 6,000 students had enrolled, and many buildings togetherwith facilities had been erected within the institution (Taylor,2013). The institution has grown significantly over the years, and itnow comprises 13 schools together with colleges.

PurdueUniversity’s history is quite different from that of HowardUniversity. Unlike Howard, which was established by missionaries,Purdue University came into existence as a result of governmentefforts. Precisely, records show that the birth of Purdue Universitybegan in 1862 with the signing of the Morrill Land Grant Act by thenUS president Abraham Lincoln. This legislation allowed states to sellpublic lands and utilize the proceeds in setting up a college forteaching agriculture together with mechanic arts. The signed bill wasupheld by the Indiana General Assembly in 1865, thus paving way forplans to build the institution. Four years later, members of theIndiana General Assembly unanimously agreed to set up the institutionin Lafayette. The plans were kickstarted by a $150,000 donation givenby one John Purdue, and a further $50,000 that was donated by theTippecanoe County. Local residents also participated in the move bydonating 100 acres of land. In line with these acts of generosity,the General Assembly decided to call the institution PurdueUniversity (Purdue University, 2016a).

Withthis kind of support, a groundbreaking ceremony was held to beginerecting the first buildings on the campus, which included the LadiesHall, Pharmacy Building, the Boiler and Gas House, and Purdue Hall.By 1874, all the buildings had been completed, and classes began.Unlike Howard University that started off with five students,Purdue’s first class comprised 39 students (Purdue University,2016a). Its first president was Richard Owen, who came into office in1872.

Concerningacademics, each of the two universities is made up of a number ofdepartments and academic divisions that cater to the learning needsof different students. Howard University, for example, concentratesin humanities, arts, and sciences, which are categorized into over120 study areas. The 13 schools that make up the academic divisioninclude pharmacy, law, social work, divinity, education, nursing &ampallied health sciences, dentistry, graduate school, communications,engineering &amp architecture, medicine, arts &amp sciences, andbusiness (Howard University, 2014a).

LikeHoward, Purdue appears to comprise 13 colleges and schools. Accordingto the university’s website, Purdue University provides itsstudents with a range of courses that are meant to equip them withthe knowledge and skills they need to participate and excel in a jobmarket that is highly competitive. To be specific, the university hasa rich academic catalogue comprising courses in agriculture,education, engineering, liberal arts, pharmacy, management, health &amphuman sciences, exploratory studies, and veterinary medicine. Inaddition, the university runs a graduate school to cater for theeducation needs of students pursuing master’s degrees. There isalso a polytechnic school and an honors college, which are designedto meet the learning needs of various students (Purdue University,2016).

Animportant observation made from the above comparison is that eventhough Purdue University and Howard University are distinctinstitutions, both in terms of control and mission, they seem toagree that there are fundamental subjects that boost a person’schance of securing employment. To be more precise, the observationthat both universities offer courses in education, pharmacy andengineering could be interpreted to suggest that such courses arehighly marketable.


Insummary, each of the two universities has its strong as well as weakpoints. Regarding the strong points, Purdue University and HowardUniversity are both focused on providing quality education to itsstudents. Additionally, the two institutions have identified a rangeof courses that are deemed to be highly marketable in thecontemporary world. Precisely, both universities offer courses inpharmacy, education, and engineering. Even so, there are a numebvr ofdifferences between the two institutions, key among them being thefinding that Howard University admits more black students thanwhites. In the same way, Howard University appears to believe inempowerment of women, which is why there are more female studentsthan males. Based on these two metrics, Howard University wouldappeal to a person who is tolerant of racial diversity and genderbalance. All in all, this is not to say that Purdue University is aninferior institution its classification as a center of highestresearch, among other accolades, makes it an outstanding university.


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