GREENSBORO — N.C. A&T doesn’t play conference rival Florida A&M in football until next month, but the Aggies already hold a lead — in student enrollment.
Florida A&M, a state university in Tallahassee, Fla., has for years been the largest four-year historically black college and university in the nation.
But a steep decline in enrollment has bumped Florida A&M to the No. 3 spot — and A&T to No. 1.
According to unofficial fall enrollment numbers, A&T is the largest HBCU in the nation. A&T, second-largest a year ago, has 10,734 students enrolled this year.
Howard University in Washington, D.C., traditionally the nation’s biggest private HBCU, moved up to second this year with about 10,500 students.
Florida A&M is third with 10,231 students as of Sept. 10.
Winston-Salem State University’s has about 5,220 students, down about 3 percent from last year, school officials said.
The big reason for A&T’s takeover of the No. 1 spot has been Florida A&M’s decline.
Florida A&M had nearly 13,300 students in 2010. But several issues have caused the school to lose nearly a quarter of its students since them.
Among them are tuition, which rose by 41 percent in five years; tighter rules on federal Parent Plus Loan, which hit students at HBCUs across the country hard; and the hazing death of an A&M band member in 2011 that led to the two-year suspension of the Marching 100 band, criminal charges against 15 band members, the resignation of the university president, probation from the school’s accrediting agency and reams of bad national publicity.
A&T, meanwhile, hasn’t stood still. Enrollment rose this fall by 1.6 percent.
That’s largely for two reasons: A&T made a stronger effort to recruit transfer students from area community colleges and the university has improved efforts to keep students in school and on track to graduate.
“It doesn’t serve you well if you bring them in one door and send them out the other,” said Akua Matherson, the university’s associate vice chancellor of enrollment management.
In future years, the university plans to step up graduate and undergraduate recruitment for high-growth, high-demand programs, including engineering, nanoengineering, science and agriculture.
A&T’s enrollment goal for 2020 is 13,500 students — about where Florida A&M was at its peak. Referenced from