Housing Complex

Howard University Board Chairman Denies Financial Straits

Howard University Board of Trustees Chairman Addison Barry Rand insists that Howard "remains academically, financially and operationally strong," contradicting a letter from a vice chairwoman of the board alleging that the university is in dire financial straits and "genuine trouble."

"As many of you are aware, recent news media coverage has publicized a letter sent by the vice chair of the Howard University Board of Trustees to other members of the Board, which unfortunately without proper context paints an unduly alarming picture of the University’s condition," Rand writes in a letter to the Howard community this evening.

Rand writes that Howard has balanced its budget for three consecutive years, restored its endowment to prerecession levels, and seen its graduation rates improve. The university is still feeling the effects of the recession, he writes, but has taken steps to cut costs. He also downplays the seemingly dire nature of the letter from Vice Chairwoman Renee Higginbotham-Brooks.

"As the University’s governing body, the board welcomes and is extremely sensitive to expressions of concern and input from various stakeholders and interested constituencies, both from inside and outside the institution," Rand writes. "In fact, such expressions are fairly common for all university boards, especially when difficult decisions must be made."

Rand's letter is reprinted in full below:

Photo by Flickr user Travir used under a Creative Commons license

  • I Am Not A Liberal Democrat

    What a mess this has turned into. Why would Vice Chairwoman Renee Higginbotham-Brooks make these allegations?

  • Steve

    Usually allegations such as these are made because they are true. Intuitively, come on. You know it's a mess.

  • Tom

    The point about the need for planning to lose federal government funding is smart. Any money given to them specifically because they are an HBCU would probably be better spent on general student aid.

  • Ron

    In good times and bad, Howard has received funding from the federal government for operations since 1879. It is a federally chartered university, and, if I recall correctly, the only one. All the other publicly chartered universities in the US are state universities, but, in recognition of the location (DC - no state) and the special mission, the US established Howard. As such, it's been seen as a federal responsibility, no different than the state of Maryland giving money annually (as they do) to UMd or Virginia to UVA.

    While they were chartered to be an HBCU, that is not why they receive the money from the feds.

    I agree that in an era of sequester, of course, it is smart to plan on losing federal government funding. And somehow an urban HBCU is not high on the list of funding for many, especially some GOP members. But it is a fiscal shock to lose $235 million, about 46% of its operating budget (2012 numbers).

    The health of the school's finances depends in significant part on what you think the future of that money is. It's traditional. They depend on it. If it is cut, it would be dire for the school. If not, they'll continue to be vulnerable, as any second tier school without state affiliation is vulnerable. The way out of the mess is to become a top tier school, to make Howard into a destination university for the best and the brightest.

    And as soon as they figure out how to do that, they can get rich selling the secret to all the other second and third tier schools in the country...

  • ProfChris

    It is silly a university of such size and repute has Real Housewives drama. But that has always been the case with that place re: administration, Board of Trustees and its sad, embarrassing. It has interfered with development around the campus--to the point that boom almost has passed them by. Further, the lack of alumni engagement is almost as silly, and there, blame goes both ways--to alums and to the school. A carnival like homecoming, crashed by the neighborhood and outsiders, is the only time many folks get together, and there doesn't seem to be a method (to any madness) of annual giving, formal alumni engagement etc. Too many celebrities showing up, giving some if any resources, not enough home grown support and pageantry, no class allegiances and ties which carry the Ivies to billion dollar endowments. Its not the amount, its the spirit. That can change with a culture and structure change at the president and board levels. So, in other words, it won't happen. LOL (note I just grew up with/dated/married etc Howard alums, and am a neighbor. I find this stuff perplexing.

  • Typical DC BS

    @ProfChris: Interesting comments! Looks like there's a great opportunity there for someone to connect with the Howard alumni/supporters in a professional way and start endowment fundraising.

  • Tom

    Thanks for the history on the federal support. I wasn't aware of that and certainly didn't realize how high it was as a percentage of the budget. I always assumed they were just a regular private university.

    Howard's appeal is limited to AAs. At 12.6% they are the 3rd largest racial group in the US. They dramatically under-perform in school and drop out of high school in very large numbers. Discrimination in higher education is over so the brightest of them go to the best schools. Who does this leave Howard? From looking at the test scores of it's accepted students the answer appears to be slim pickings. Howard needs to either get a lot smaller and more competitive or broaden it's appeal to all Americans.

  • Dallas

    I believe just because some of the students didn't have the highest of SAT scores, or the highest GPA in high school makes them not worthy of acceptance into Howard. Test Scores doesn't make a student great. Howard may get more money by cracking down on acceptance and things like that, but what happens to the spirit of the school? Everyone brings something different to Howard. Maybe we should start calling up some of these rich and successful alumni's to pitch in a chunk of their money. Isn't it their school just as much as it's the students who attend?


    I know Howard Alumni might not like my comments, but they could take some notes on how their main rival (i.e.,Hampton University) has done during the recession by improving a larger percentage of its annual funding through private money coming from external business projects that the university owns (i.e., Apartment complex, shopping centers, purchasing commerical office buildings and now leasing back to various compaines, the building of one of the few Cancer Proton Beam Centers on the east coast, etc). These business projects which began before/during the recession generates heavy net annual income for the university. Hampton started to reduce its dependence on state/federal funding many years ago and while raising its academic standards to help it recruit stronger Blue chip academic students by offering more scholarships from the net income from these business projects. Hampton University also has a very strong online program and recently expanded its Virginia Beach satellite campus due to growing demand for adult education during the recession. While other HBCUs like St. Paul and Morris Brown are closing their doors due poor financial management, and Howard and South Carolina State University on the bubble of survival...it is way past time for all HBCUs to evolve with their financial and management models if they want to be around another 100+ years. If it is to hard for Howard alumni to look at the Hampton model..then look at Spellman model which has the best percentage of alumni giving compared to any other HBCUs, or look at the JCSU (Johnson C. Smith Univ)model which used a page out of Hampton's playbook and developed it own income stream with the recent development of an Apartment and shopping center near its campus. We can see that Spellman, Hampton, and JCSU are the new financial modeled HBCUs for the future...Go Pirates!!

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