TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – In 2010, Florida A&M University hit a high for enrollment at 13,277. An estimated 9,200 students are in class this fall.
This fall marks the fifth anniversary of the hazing death of FAMU drum major Robert Champion. The university settled the case for $1.1 million and an apology, but the cost to the university has been much higher.
When Champion died in 2011, FAMU had 13,207 students enrolled. Now, five years later, one-third fewer students are attending classes.
In the most recent figures available, the number of new freshmen choosing FAMU has also been cut by a third.
Jasmine Simon from Miami is bucking the trend.
“FAMU seemed like the best place for me with the community, and everybody seems to care, and they are really focused on you graduating and doing well,” Simon said.
FAMU is the only state university that has seen a major decline in enrollment. Everywhere else, there’s a modest increase.
The university's president is also engaged in a highly public spat with her board over her contract, casting doubt on the school’s future direction. To its credit, it’s also trying to improve a 38 percent graduation rate by going after better students who are more likely to graduate.
“Because of my SAT and ACT scores, I received a full scholarship,” freshman Makala Shannon said.
But every student that hasn’t or isn’t attending FAMU has a cost for those who do go there.
“Every 100 students means $1 million out of our budget,” FAMU chair Kelvin Lawson said. “It affects everything -- everything we do. Students are the lifeblood of what we do.”
Even if FAMU decides that it’s right size is smaller for the future, it is still 1,000 students short of the goal.