In late December, Howard University got a rare reprieve from the litany of bad news that haunted the school in 2013 when a judge tossed a lawsuit against the university. Maybe this year, the Howard community had reason to hope, would be better than the last.
No such luck.
Today comes the news that Howard is cutting around 200 staff positions, or almost 4 percent of its workforce, as well as an announcement that the university’s plans to create an online academic program with the education company Pearson has been put on hold. That’s on top of the collapse of the university’s biggest development plan, a mightily struggling campus hospital, internal criticism, the resignation of Howard’s president, and a slew of other recent problems. Not to mention a lengthy New York Times feature yesterday on the university’s difficulties.
According to Howard spokeswoman Kerry-Ann Hamilton, no faculty positions are being cut, and the 200 positions will be eliminated over the course of several months. “We worked carefully to ensure no changes in public safety as well as preserve services in student-facing and clinical areas,” she says in an email. “The University continues to pursue comprehensive strategies to enhance and achieve operational efficiencies as we provide excellent educational, research and clinical environments. This includes difficult but necessary actions as we realign and re-engineer our workforce at the University and the Hospital.”
As the Times story points out, these financial struggles are not unique to Howard; they’re afflicting many historically black colleges and universities at a time when black students have more higher-education options than they did in the past. But Howard’s issues were particularly dramatic in 2013, and it appears that 2014 may not be any different.
This post has been updated to include comment from Hamilton.
Photo by Darrow Montgomery