Enrollment Trending Positively for Some HBCUs During COVID-19 Pandemic

While colleges and universities across the country are managing severe enrollment shortfalls as a result of the COVID-19 global pandemic, several historically black institutions are reporting better trends than were expected this summer, and even some increases.

North Carolina A&T State University revealed today that its enrollment has increased to more than 12,700 students, a seventh-consecutive year of enrollment increase and retention of the title for the nation’s largest four-year historically black institution over the same period.

“Growth this year required a laser-focused level of intentionality around our strategic goals combined with an awareness of our environment and the specific areas of growth we could responsibly support,” said Chancellor Harold L. Martin Sr. “We are very pleased with the contours of our enrollment as we begin the year, and tremendously proud of our continued ascent in key higher education rankings.”

NCAT’s announcement comes days after officials at Elizabeth City State University published data on record-breaking enrollment this fall, which exceeded more than 2,000 students for the first time in six years and increased more than 13% over last year’s fall figure.

“Thanks to NC Promise, ECSU is the most affordable public institution in North Carolina, offering a quality education at an affordable price,” Chancellor Karrie G. Dixon said. “Despite these unprecedented times, and the challenges we face during the COVID-19 pandemic, ECSU is strong. I am excited to see the growing enthusiasm for this university, and I am grateful for the hard work of our faculty and staff.”

The University of Arkansas - Pine Bluff posted similar numbers on enrollment increases.

The 12% increase is the largest in nearly a decade and brings the preliminary 2020 fall enrollment total to more than 2,800 students. Fall’s enrollment also increases the retention rate to 77%, which is the highest in the university’s history and raises the UAPB rate among the state’s highest.

“Improving not only enrollment, but also student outcomes have been a top priority since my arrival in 2013, and I applaud the collective efforts of our enrollment management division, faculty, academic advisors, success coaches, and other staff and alumni who have worked diligently to increase the number of students reaching their academic goals, even in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic,” Chancellor Laurence B. Alexander said. “While we modified our education delivery to offer students a virtual option this semester, we also deepened our commitment to ensuring every student has access to the technology and services that will help them excel.”

Edward Waters College also posted its highest enrollment in more than 10 years, attributing a 4% enrollment increase from the Fall 2019 semester to a financial aid support campaign that benefited more than 400 students.

“We are especially grateful for our students and their families who made Edward Waters College their higher educational institution of choice,” said A. Zachary Faison, Jr., EWC President. “In the midst of this incredibly calamitous pandemic our committed senior administrative and enrollment management team, staff, and faculty worked diligently in redoubling their supportive efforts and they along with our donors and friends truly provided us with the difference-making support needed for us to experience this extremely positive enrollment outcome for EWC.”

Florida A&M University projected a 10% drop in enrollment for the fall semester but reported this week a 6.7% decline. From a release:

While enrollment is down slightly, the number of transfer students increased to 767 students this year compared to 677 enrolled a year ago. The FAMU-FSU College of Engineering and the College of Agriculture and Food Sciences (CAFS) both saw an increase in enrollment.

As part of its reopening plan, the University placed a strong emphasis on encouraging freshmen to come to campus to take a menu of online and in person classes. This fall, 1,036 freshmen are enrolled, compared to 1,362 a year ago.

In June, embattled Cheyney University was the only institution in the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education to post an increase in enrollment deposits — a jump exceeding more than 50%.

Many HBCUs attribute their increases to higher graduate student enrollment, transfers, and higher retention rates over the prior year.