The State of HBCUs: Morehouse College

By Titus Falodun Staff Writer | 10/4/2013, 11:09 a.m.
Five hundred fewer students enrolled. Seventy-five administrative positions eliminated or downgraded. $2.5 million lost.
President of Morehouse College John Silvanus Wilson, Jr., Ph.D., meets with students. Wilson is the 11th president in the school’s history. Photo courtesy of Morehouse College Office of Communications.

Furthermore, the fast and steep enrollment decline of Atlanta’s own Morris Brown College (less than 50 registered students this academic year, per school officials) reveals that no HBCU can rest on its laurels without facing harsh consequences.

That includes Morehouse.

During the 2011-12 academic year, only 36 percent of Morehouse students had graduated in four years, and only 55 percent had graduated in six years, according to the National Center for Educational Statistics.

“I am as troubled by a graduation rate that is closer to 50 percent than it is to 100 percent,” Wilson said.

Additionally, 97 percent of Morehouse students rely on financial aid, according to Forbes’ collegiate profile. 76 percent of Morehouse students (whether they graduated or not) owed loans averaging more than $40,000 (approximately matching the total educational cost), with 27 percent of Morehouse students defaulting on loan payments.

“I’m looking at ways to innovate, so that we can increase our graduation rate, as well as improve our affordability,” Wilson continued. “So, I’m about improving our accountability and our affordability. And at the heart of our accountability is our graduation rate.”

Terrance Dixon, Morehouse’s associate vice president of enrollment management, believes the stakes are higher now than ever before for all colleges and universities to change, while preserving their heralded distinctions.

“There’s not another Morehouse-esque place on the planet,” Dixon said. “And we’re happy about that. But we’re also very realistic that this is also the environment we want to have for young men to come to Morehouse.”

Even with the fluctuations and challenges, Morehouse remains a pillar of higher education for young black males seeking a firm academic foundation. It ranked as the no. 2 HBCU in the nation, according to U.S. News & World Report. Morehouse also boasts a proud alumni base featuring filmmaker Spike Lee, actor Samuel L. Jackson, Atlanta’s first African American mayor the late Maynard Jackson, two current Atlanta City Councilmembers and other notables.

The school’s recent capital campaign surpassed a set goal of $105.7 million, by $12.3 million, which included 21 gifts of $1 million or more. Now, Morehouse’s endowment is about $140 million.

Wilson has his work cut out for him but he is more than ready for the job.

“You can get what you pay for here at Morehouse College,” he said. “That’s very clear to me. You may have to work a bit to get it, but there is at Morehouse a rich undergraduate experience that is worth the price of admissions. And you can get there from here.”

Click the following for Clark Atlanta University and Spelman College.

(Morehouse College: www.morehouse.edu)