Howard University prepares for a big return from pandemic

Several high-level actors, authors and journalists have joined the faculty of Howard University for the fall semester, but the provost said that’s only one reason enrollment is surging.

Just in the last few months, actress Phylicia Rashad has been appointed as the dean of the College of Fine Arts at Howard; Pulitzer Prize winner Nikole Hannah-Jones and bestselling author Ta-Nehisi Coates will join the faculty as well.

Howard University Provost Anthony Wutoh said the appointments “at any time would be a significant accomplishment,” but that they come at a time when “higher education is at a critical juncture” as colleges and universities are working to reinstitute campus life after the coronavirus pandemic and the nation is moving toward a reckoning on race.

While the high-profile hires have generated buzz, student interest in attending Howard has grown steadily over the past five years, Wutoh said.

“Last year was a bit of a surprise” given the pandemic, Wutoh said. “We saw a 15% increase in enrollment last year, and we’re going to see a similar increase this year.”

The retention rate of students who had already matriculated increased as well.

Wutoh said the press around the big names the university is attracting certainly played a role, but he also credited the work by enrollment managers on campus.

Howard is not alone among HBCUs (historically Black colleges and universities) seeing a boost in enrollment. Morgan State University and Bowie State University, in Maryland, also reported surges in enrollments in the past four years.

Wutoh said the more students learn about HBCUs, the more they may be drawn to them: He said three-quarters of all Black officers in the armed forces and “probably 80% of all Black federal judges” also attended such schools.

Kate Ryan

As a member of the award-winning WTOP News, Kate is focused on state and local government. Her focus has always been on how decisions made in a council chamber or state house affect your house. She's also covered breaking news, education and more.

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