We know D.C. Get our free newsletter to stay in the know.

Success! You're on the list.

Le’Naiya Blackwell, 22, needed to come up with about $12,000 to enroll in classes this semester at Howard University. It would have been her fourth semester as an undergraduate at the prestigious historically black university, but after maxing out her federal loans, need-based scholarships, and family money she was still short $3,000.

Blackwell says that because of some confusion with the administration, she only learned over Christmas break that she had an outstanding tuition balance. She had no way of securing the additional funds, but she knew a fellow Howard student had a page on gofundme.com to crowdfund the remainder of her tuition balance. Blackwell decided last week to give it a shot.

“Howard University’s biography is filled with so many gems socially, academically, culturally, and musically,” Blackwell wrote on her gofundme campaign, which also featured a YouTube video of her singing to prospective donors. “With that kind of lavish history and legacy comes a great price. With the help of the Trio Scholars program, Grants, Need Based Scholarships, and good old fashioned Elbow Grease I was doing pretty well financially. Unfortunately, even with filling out scholarship/grant applications daily I was not able to come up with enough money to stay in school.”

The campaign has generated 155 bucks so far and got a Twitter mention from Marion Barry Wednesday.


Blackwell and her friend, Naeemah—who has already raised nearly $3,000—aren’t the only students to take to the Internet to make their tuition pleas. In the past 18 months on gofundme.com alone, more than a dozen Howard students have tried to crowdfund their tuition. (There are also a few George Washington University graduate students and visiting Georgetown students.)

“[Howard] University is aware of this site,” Howard spokeswoman Kerry-Ann Hamilton wrote in an email. “Students have historically used many different means to solicit funds to assist with offsetting their educational expenses. In the advent of the internet and other social media sites, this site and others simply provide a wider audience and quicker means to receive funds.”

Hamilton added that students cannot enroll in a future term if they have an unsatisfied balance, though students are typically allowed to enroll through the first week if they are able to satisfy the balance and have a payment arrangement for the upcoming term. Blackwell says since she isn’t able to enroll this semester, she’s hoping to raise enough money to re-enroll next semester.

Howard University has hit some serious financial troubles in recent years. Enrollment has declined significantly in the past decade, which some Howard administrators have attributed to a 44 percent tuition increase over a period of four years, though undergraduate tuition held steady at $11,441.50 per semester from the previous academic year.

“I’m really excited to have the opportunity to go to Howard,” Blackwell told City Desk. “I just wish I had the money to do it.”

Photo by Darrow Montgomery.