Eight private historically black institutions have been granted loan deferments for payments owed to the federal government through its capital financing program.
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.
Shaw University announced plans this week to sell the frequencies for its historic radio station WSHA. The proceeds, according to university leaders, will go to revitalize its department of mass communications and transform its curriculum and training facilities into a 21st-century learning laboratory for students.
Predictably, folks with fond memories of and closed pockets to the radio station are rejecting the potential sale. And a recent editorial about the sale in the Raleigh News & Observer sums up the reality behind Shaw’s savvy business move, and the same old sad love songs people have for HBCUs which do what they must to survive and compete.
But Joseph M. Sansom, a former deputy state treasurer and a member of WSHA’s advisory board, said the station is popular, but listeners are not sufficiently supportive. “They want to listen and enjoy, but they don’t want to give anything,” he said.
If that’s the case, listeners should pay up. WSHA is worth keeping. Through the station, people listen to Shaw and Shaw listens to Raleigh. Along with music, WSHA offers public affairs shows featuring state and local officials and activists. It lives up to its motto, “Serving the community like no other.” Computers playing contemporary Christian music programmed elsewhere won’t replace that.
Many HBCUs face this exact same challenge of high fondness and low finance to support the operational missions of television and radio stations, printing presses and other auxiliary extensions of the academic enterprise. A little more than a year ago, Howard University flirted with selling the broadcast spectrum of its campus-based television station WHUT. Had it received anything close to the $460 million it was projected to receive ina federal auction, it would’ve been gone.
It didn’t. The station still stands. There’s still no clear direction on how the station can or should become a profitable part of the HU School of Communication’s student training infrastructure, but stakeholders are happy. For now.
Shaw doesn’t have nearly the community pushback, or potential for investment in its jazz station as Washington D.C. had for Howard’s television station. A petition calling for the school to keep the station earned 1900 signatures. Howard potentially selling its TV station earned a story in the New York Times, and a treatment on the dissonance between a major part of the school’s identity versus its need to secure resources in support of its existence.
And so goes the reality for HBCU administrations who wrestle with culture versus cost. No one can stand the irreparable damage our culture will take when we lose a school like Cheyney, like Stillman, like Bennett, or any other HBCU; not one of these campuses has announced receipt of a multi-million dollar gift from alumni or a major benefactor, and throngs of new students aren’t rushing the doors.
And what’s worse; we think that the harrowing fate of closure is limited to “those little HBCUs” which few rarely think about in the landscape of HBCU culture. Check back with Fisk, Grambling, Southern, Johnson C. Smith, Saint Augustine’s, Lincoln (Mo.), and Mississippi Valley State in a few years and see how many millions each school has earned in giving or tuition revenue in comparison to their operational costs and debt servicing.
Shaw is making a savvy business move not to pay down debt or to make payroll; it is reinvesting in student success. That’s a fundraising target for which Shaw alumni have demonstrated their continuing commitment.
Until the support for WSHA matches that, alumni, listeners and anyone else who wants to have a say in the future of the station ought to be willing to buy it – because Shaw students and their families are putting hundreds of thousands of dollars and faith into a degree that deserves to give them return on investment beyond nostalgia over a struggling jazz station.
Shaw University last week announced the receipt of a $50,000 grant from the Annie E. Casey Foundation in support of its Innovation and Entrepreneurship Center and its efforts to boost small business in Raleigh.
Shaw University President Tashni Ann Dubroy has resigned her position, and will join Howard University as its Executive Vice-President and Chief Operating Officer, a move suggesting a potential seachange in the unprecedented executive turnover within the HBCU sector.
Dr. Dubroy’s three-year stretch of fundraising and capacity building at the private HBCU in downtown Raleigh, NC. earned regional and national attention. Signature developments included the establishment of a Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship near the Shaw downtown campus, and expanding the university’s online and continuing studies programs in partnerships with American Underground, the Child Trust Foundation and IBM.
In a release, officials from Howard University lauded Dr. Dubroy’s credentials and outlined her scope of work in the new position.
In this Cabinet position, Dr. Dubroy will be responsible for the success of major operational areas of the University and process optimization across the organization... Key duties include collaborating with President Frederick on strategic planning and ensuring that all initiatives align with Howard’s core values and established priorities.
In 2016, the university announced the termination of a three-year employee salary reduction program, thanks in part to gains made in fundraising and increased enrollment.
“The chance for service leadership at the nation’s flagship historically black college is one that very few receive,” says Dr. Dubroy. ” My experiences at Shaw have afforded me a great deal of insight on complex issues like infrastructure improvement, teaching and learning outcomes, workforce development and community engagement over these last three years, and I believe they coincide well with Dr. Frederick’s 21st century model of executive leadership.”
A Shaw alumna, chemist and entrepreneur, Dr. Dubroy has been named as a finalist for the HBCU Awards’ “Female President of the Year” honor for the last two years. Officials say she will begin her term at Howard on October 2.
Shaw University will establish a campus-based research center dedicated to promoting the industrial and social benefits of computer science next month, funded in part by an award from the National Science Foundation, totaling nearly $400,000.
Officials expressed optimism about the three-year grant for the Shaw University Center for Computer Science Living, Learning, and Research awarded through the NSF’s “HBCU UP” program and designed to foster stronger recruitment and retention strategies for undergraduate students majoring in STEM disciplines.
“This award is a significant investment in Shaw’s growing emphasis on funded research and development,” said Shaw President, Tashni Dubroy. “We are fully committed to creating opportunities for inspiration and innovation among our students in high-impact disciplines like computer science and other STEM fields.”
Lloyd Williams, a principal investigator for the grant and assistant professor of computer science at Shaw, says that the grant will supplement current student internship relationships with agencies like NASA, the Department of Defense, and the Department of Homeland Security, along with pipelines to major tech development companies.
“We have pursued active relationships will a wide range of tech firms,” Williams says. “One of our most supportive partners has been Google. Google has sent their engineers to Shaw to teach our students app development. This summer Google has hired me as a Faculty in Residency at their Mountain View headquarters. I will be working with engineers there to help develop innovative strategies to teach programming that can then be deployed at Shaw and other schools.”
Williams says that he expects the grant to impact prospects for nearly 100 students enrolled in its computer science program, with research and professional exposure to development in virtual reality, Artificial Intelligence, and robotics.
The center will be managed within Shaw’s Division of Science and Technology.
Dr. Dubroy discusses the university’s new innovation and entrepreneurship center, the opportunities and challenges of millennial leadership, and how to cultivate resources in the HBCU context.
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.”
As many HBCUs struggle to balance athletic budgets and several have cut athletic programs in order to stabilize university-wide finances, Shaw University has announced the addition of two teams that will no doubt spur recruitment of students from diverse backgrounds while smartly and efficiently investing in two relatively inexpensive programs to proliferate.
Shaw announced the addition of men’s and women’s club soccer last week and added that the teams will compete on the club level in 2016-17 before transitioning to NCAA Division II status in Fall 2017. Shaw has hired Luis Cortell, formerly of West Virginia Tech, to lead the Bears and Lady Bears soccer clubs.
Read more about Shaw Soccer and Coach Cortell’s hire here.