Eight private historically black institutions have been granted loan deferments for payments owed to the federal government through its capital financing program.
florida memorial university
When executive leadership turns over at an institution of higher education, context matters. In some instances, executives who’ve served long tenures retire with preparations made and accreditation, financial solvency, and steady enrollment all neatly packaged to deliver to the next CEO. When that next executive emerges, the product of a dutiful national search involving boards, alumni, and key stakeholders, institutions continue to enjoy the responsible and predictable growth that serves the educational and employment needs of students, faculty, staff, and the economic needs of the region.
Florida Memorial names the seasoned Sunshine State academic executive as campus CEO. [Read more…] about Castell Bryant Named Florida Memorial Interim President
Florida Memorial University professor, historian and author Tameka Hobbs discusses two different HBCU narratives in the state surrounding commencement, and her new book “Democracy Abroad, Lynching at Home: Racial Violence in Florida.”
The graduation season of 2017 has offered some interesting comparison in leadership among HBCU presidents.
The administration at Bethune-Cookman University, under the leadership of Dr. Eddie Jackson, invited controversy when it announced that the U.S. Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos, would not only give the commencement address but would also be awarded an honorary doctorate from the institution.
In contrast, the leadership for Florida Memorial University, an HBCU in Miami Gardens, decided to award a posthumous degree in aviation to Sybrina Fulton and Tracy Martin in honor of their slain son, Trayvon Martin. Dr. Roslyn Clark Artis, president of the institution, courted controversy of a different sort.
These events were separated by a few days and a wide chasm of ideological difference, the latter deserving more investigation.
Why? In some regards, HBCUs are the last bastions of collective black self-determination. Aside from black churches, HBCUs are the most influential institutions created and maintained by black people, for black people. In many ways, there are the canaries in the coal mine of black cultural survival in the United States. The choices their leaders make are a significant indicator of the black power.
So what of President Jackson’s choices? For BCU, once the news leaked, hue and cry broke out around the state and nation, including alumni, students, and activists. President Jackson defended his decision, citing the need to make friends to raise money for the school. Further, he invoked the legacy of the institution’s founder, Mary McLeod Bethune, citing her ability to court funders of all stripes in order to support her institution. “She modeled this by interacting with and uniquely engaging those who had to be convinced of her mission to provide education to her people,” Jackson wrote in an op-ed defending his decision.
But that’s not how it works. There are many ways to cultivate strategic relationships with strange bedfellows, if one is interested in partnering with a representative from an administration that rode into office on a wave of white supremacist rhetoric. This is also an administration that, just a few days before DeVos spoke, questioned the constitutionality of funding HBCUs.
This is not the first time that Jackson has gambled with the legacy of Mary McLeod Bethune. In 2015 he made the decision to award Florida Governor Rick Scott with a leadership award named after the institution’s founder.
And why drag Mary McLeod Bethune’s legacy into this? Bethune didn’t truck with racists, or extend undue courtesies to unproven allies. She was a master at cultivating donors and supporters, but she was able to do so without gambling with her dignity. I can’t recall Bethune giving the power of the podium to people who had not proven their worth as friends and supporters.
And it wouldn’t seem like a particularly wise choice to invite someone like DeVos, who many doubt is qualified to hold the office to which she is appointed, and who in a public statement referred to HBCUs as model of school choice. Not to mention her reversal of policies but in place by the Obama administration that would harm the very students to whom she was invited to speak.
What did President Jackson think would happen? In the age of Black Lives Matter, in an audience full of millennials, did he think they would just sit there and take the insult?
And what of President Artis? Her connection to the family of Travyon Martin nothing new. In 2014 she offered space on FMU’s campus to Sybrina Fulton, a FMU alumna, and the Trayvon Martin Foundation. She has continued to cultivate that relationship over the years, despite the political risk of being affiliated with a cause that has given birth to the Black Lives Matter Movement that has changed the face of civil rights and social justice activism in the U.S.
In the days since the announcement of FMU’s plan to honor Trayvon, the institution has been inundated with calls from people who criticized the decision to commemorate a “thug.” A scroll through the comment section of any article about the recognition bares witness to the sentiment.
Jackson and Artis highlight the difficult positions and difficult choices faced by leaders in Black America. But how do you advance the position of your community without sacrificing your dignity, and maintaining your ability to remain true to the values of that same community? The choices made by BCU and FMU offer a power contrast, and important lessons for a way forward.
Five years after his death sparked international dialog about racism, social justice and community policing, Trayvon Martin will be honored for the industrial ambitions he held as a teenager growing up in Sanford, FL. Florida Memorial University will posthumously award a bachelor’s of aeronautical science to Martin, to be received by his parents Sybrina Fulton and Tracy Martin during the school’s annual spring commencement ceremony on May 13.
Officials say the degree honors Martin’s life-long dream of becoming a pilot, and continues to highlight the family’s commitment to social justice. Martin’s parents, both social justice activists and co-founders of The Trayvon Martin Foundation, which is housed on the FMU campus.
“As we approach 50 years in Miami Gardens, this commencement holds a special place in all of our hearts. This academic year is symbolic of the transformative changes that we continue tomake to our academic programs that extend to benefit the community, such as our Cybersecurity degree program and Cyber Warrior Diversity center that offers certificates to local residents and professionals,” said Florida Memorial President Roslyn Clark-Artis. “Of special significance is awarding posthumously the Bachelor of Science Degree in Aviation to Trayvon Martin. Sybrina, our alum, epitomizes strength and dignity as she uplifts other victims of violence while effecting change for a more equal and just society.”
Florida Memorial University is also one of four universities nationally designated as a CESSNA pilot center.
Talladega College students collect an annual average of $7,815 in scholarship aid, ranking third nationally among more than 250 private colleges and universities surveyed by the Student Loan Report for its annual list of the top aid-attracting campuses.
Other historically black colleges and universities also making the list include Tuskegee University (43), Saint Augustine’s University (82), Morehouse College (96), Texas College (147) and Florida Memorial University (167).
The average annual cost of a private four-year school now exceeds more than $33,000, and HBCU students accounted for more than $3.4 billion in federal student aid disbursements in 2013.
What does an increase in enrollment mean exactly? For some, it means increased interest in a campus or its degree offerings.
But for black colleges, a boost in students could make the difference in a stabilized or downgrade in bond rating, the fine line between hiring or laying off staff, the slim margin between operating on revenue instead of a line of credit, or having full accreditation status versus warning or probation for financial struggles.
The list of HBCUs reporting enrollment increases in first-year or overall student enrollment increases includes:
Alcorn State University
Alcorn reports a six percent increase in its total enrollment from 2015, and officials cite investments in new scholarship programs as a key element of the student gains.
“The commitment of our dedicated faculty, staff and alumni to our vision of increasing access, affordability and student success has forged our enrollment success,” President Alfred Rankins Jr. said. “Aligning our tuition pricing and scholarship offerings with our institutional priorities, increasing our admissions and recruitment staff, enhancing customer service, strengthening our marketing and branding strategies, and support from our faithful alumni have all contributed to our growth.
Bethune-Cookman University welcomed 1,224 freshmen to campus this fall, a 23% increase and part of an 10.11% overall enrollment jump from the 2015–16 academic year.
“It is essential that we make sure that our students feel our culture of care and genuine desire for them to all succeed. B-CU is a place that these students can truly make their mark,” says President Edison Jackson. President Jackson is also proud to announce that more than 3,000 students now live on campus. Last year, the university could only accommodate 1,800. The completion of two state-of-the-art residence life centers has welcomed an additional 1,200.
Central State University
CSU welcomed 634 new first-time students this fall, a 22 percent increase from 2015. The enrollment jump coincides with the university’s new initiative to reduce out-of-state surcharges for students from neighboring states by 76 percent.
Dr. Stephanie Krah, CSU’s Vice President for Student Affairs and Enrollment Management, said, “Our recruitment efforts increased the University’s visibility and once they heard about our academic programs, opportunities for growth and value, their interest increased.”
Florida Memorial University
FMU broke a six-year high for student enrollment this fall, with 498 students breaking 2015’s freshman class tally by more than 100 students.
University President Roslyn Artis credits FMU’s summer orientation program that allowed parents and students to work on testing, advising and fiscal clearance as part of the reason for the enrollment in- crease. “For the first time this year we started orientation as early as June to allow parents and students an opportunity to get organized, get cleared and get ahead,” Artis stated. “I commend the outstanding efforts of our Student Affairs team for their diligence in recruitment and professional, high quality customer service that they extended to all of our families and students.”
Harris-Stowe State University
The Hornets welcomed their largest freshman class in school history, with more than 600 students contributing to a two-year, 50 percent total increase in enrollment.
Indeed, students are coming to St. Louis to attend Harris-Stowe from 37 states and 10 countries, including China, Brazil, India, Scotland and Nigeria. This emphasis on out-state recruitment has filled the University’s two residential halls, which are at capacity for the first time. The first facility, the Rev. Dr. William G. Gillespie Residence Hall and Student Center, opened in 2006 and the Freeman R. Bosley Residence Hall opened in 2011.
North Carolina Central University
The NCCU Campus Echo reports on the school’s increase in students, with focus on the school following a national trend of more women enrolling in college than men.
Last year, 742 female students made up 66% of the class, and male students, at 383, made up 34%. This year, the gap increased by 2%, with 752 women and 357 men in the class of 2020.
Shaw increased it freshman class to more than 600 students, the largest in six years and part of a reversal of five consecutive years of declining enrollment.
(Shaw President Tashni) Dubroy credits the shattered records to the university’s enrollment management team, which funneled an unprecedented 9,000 applications. She also notes an intentional effort to use technology to drive the recruitment process. Not only were students able to apply online, but the “robust online portal” also made it possible for transcripts to be electronically uploaded and opened lines of communication between Shaw and high school guidance counselors across the globe, she said.
South Carolina State University
Enrollment at the state’s historically black flagship institution is up 40 percent, and has created a need for additional housing on and off campus.
The increased number of new students enabled S.C. State to exceed its projected enrollment goal of 2,900 with a total of 2,963 students for the fall semester.
However, the number of returning students was down over last year’s total, Clark said. That decrease was due to the school’s new stricter policy that limits how much money students can owe and still return to class.
Virginia State University
Trojan Land welcomes nearly 1,000 freshman to campus this fall, a 30 percent increase from last year’s class.
“We are excited to welcome our newest members to the Trojan family,” said VSU President Dr. Makola M. Abdullah. “It’s a new year and a new season for Virginia State University. I am confident that our faculty and staff will assist the Class of 2020 and the rest of the Trojan student body succeed and transform their academic experience beyond their dreams and aspirations. We pride ourselves as a university whose role is to provide a transformative experience for our students and embrace our role as Virginia’s opportunity university.”