By: Frank McCoy
Morgan Breaks Its Student Enrollment Record, Reaching 9,101 Last Fall
Baltimore’s frigid December 2022 weather was a visceral shock to Kirston Chambers, 19, from Jamaica. By contrast, the Caribbean-born nursing major relished the warm embrace he received from Morgan State University (MSU), as one of the 2,195 members of the Class of 2026.
Chambers is a first-generation college student with no prior familial or personal links to Morgan. A high school nominee for valedictorian, and his school’s elected head prefect, he also applied to Coppin State University, Hofstra University and The State University of New York College at Plattsburgh, before landing at his decision to enroll at MSU, Maryland’s largest Historically Black College or University.
Another first-year Morgan nursing major, Mirical Solana Brooks, 18, grew up and attended public school in suburban Philadelphia, where, she says, many of her friends and relatives were Morgan boosters. Brooks — like Chambers, a high school valedictorian nominee and first in her family to attend college — turned down admission at Spelman College, Florida A&M University, Howard University and North Carolina A&T State University to matriculate in Baltimore City at the National Treasure as a member of MSU’s largest-ever incoming class.
More than 1,494 master’s degree and doctoral students joined Chambers, Brooks and the other undergraduate scholars late last summer to bring Morgan’s total Fall 2022 enrollment to 9,101, an all-time high and a 7.5% increase over the Fall 2021 total, which itself was a record number at the time. The 415 transfer students who chose MSU was a significant boost to the statistics.
So why is the student body of Maryland’s preeminent public urban research university experiencing unprecedented growth during a time of declining enrollment in U.S. higher education in general? David K. Wilson, Ed.D., Morgan’s 10th president, believes that MSU, which he has led since July 2010, has become a high-demand destination by creating an unmatched academic and extracurricular experience.
“Our motto is ‘Growing the Future, Leading the World,’ and to lead the world, you have to understand it,” Wilson says. “Morgan listened to the national conversations about the future of work and how colleges must have degree programs, from undergraduate through Ph.D.s, that have both the intellectual probity and the skill foundation that the world market is seeking.” Toward those ends, he adds, Morgan has redesigned its curricula by creating important and societally relevant new degree programs — more than 30 in the past two years. “Listening to the market means our 2026 class will study, compete and excel in areas such as artificial intelligence, cloud computing and mechatronics engineering, a blend of mechanics, electronics and computing.”
“Morgan is one of the few HBCUs that is so strong in so many academic disciplines, including social work, STEM and business,” Wilson adds. “There are about 1,000 students within MSU’s honors college, about the equivalent of a small liberal arts college.”
To convey its knowledge to the students effectively, Morgan continues to recruit and retain world-class professors across the academic spectrum for its racially, ethnically and culturally diverse faculty, Wilson says: “At Morgan, incoming students learn quickly that our high-quality faculty will lead, teach and nurture them.” The University also provides ample support for those educators in their work. The MSU Center for Innovative Instruction & Scholarship, for example, assists faculty, staff and graduate teaching assistants in creating innovative and active learning environments and producing collaborative scholarship on teaching and learning.
Preparation of students for the future of work extends beyond the classrooms and laboratories, offering them multiple opportunities to expand and deepen their skills. The MSU Center for Career Development provides Morgan students and alumni with career assessments, counseling, experiential learning opportunities, a career resource center and more, to move them to success in the global market.
In addition to their guided exploration of Morgan’s expanded domain of scholarship and research, “prospective students will see themselves living and studying in an expansive green academic oasis that includes nearly $1 billion in capital improvements,” Wilson says. “There are cranes everywhere, new buildings, and work recently done or underway on legacy facilities.”
The historic increase in Morgan’s student enrollment as a result of these changes was intentional. In fact, it’s a stated objective of Morgan’s 2021–30 strategic plan: “Transformation Morgan: Leading the Future,” calls for Morgan to “Increase enrollment to 10,000 by Fall 2030, through robust online offerings and aggressive recruitment and marketing initiatives.”
Before its recent enrollment push, Morgan focused mainly on the northeastern U.S. for its student recruitment and marketing. Since being installed as Morgan’s president, Wilson has been a guiding voice in the intentional, incremental push to expand the University’s outreach for prospective students in the U.S. and beyond. Accordingly, MSU’s Office of Undergraduate Admission and Recruitment looked more broadly, establishing an office in Chicago to begin recruiting in Illinois and nearby states, and has made plans to embed recruiters in the U.S. Southeast as well as California and other western states. Another successful change made use of information technology. During the height of the COVID pandemic, “Morgan’s admissions campaign for prospective Generation Z students was digital and virtual, as in-person campus tours and college fairs were not possible for the young people being courted,” says Kara Turner, Ph.D., the University’s vice president for Enrollment Management and Student Success.
Dr. Turner, another key driver of Morgan’s enrollment expansion, points to a number of ‘macro’ factors that have boosted Morgan’s numbers.
“There is more interest in HBCUs right now because of where we are as a nation politically and the impact of the Black Lives Matter movement, police brutality and the murder of George Floyd,” says Dr. Turner. “There is also a desire on the part of students to attend a university and be on a campus where they are physically, psychologically and emotionally safe.”
“Prospective students, and their supporters, have also seen the impact of prominent Black HBCU graduate leaders like Vice President Kamala Harris and (political activist) Stacey Abrams,” Turner adds. Among Morgan’s own are U.S. Rep. Kweisi Mfume, ’76, journalist April Ryan, ’89, acclaimed filmmaker David E. Talbert, ’89, and journalist and author William C. Rhoden, ’73, who are proud HBCU graduates of national renown.
“Morgan State University is in a position of accelerating ascendancy and accomplishment,” says Turner. “Outsiders and Morgan alumni see its campus and all the wonderful things happening on it.”
As for Morgan-specific factors expanding the student body, Turner, like Morgan’s president, points to the University’s expanded academic offerings and the historic surge in financial investment in the institution, which began with a $40-million unrestricted gift from author and philanthropist MacKenzie Scott, in December 2020, and continued in February 2021 with a $20-million commitment from Morgan alumnus Calvin Tyler and his wife, Tina. Turner says the recent funds have helped Morgan increase “student success as well as advance research and enhance investments in other mission-focused priorities and initiatives.”
There is more interest in HBCUs right now because of where we are as a nation politically…. Prospective students, and their supporters, have also seen the impact of prominent Black HBCU graduate leaders like Vice President Kamala Harris and (political activist) Stacey Abrams.
–Kara Turner, Ph.D., MSU Vice President for Enrollment Management and Student Success
Kirston Chambers was one of the many student prospects who was virtually impressed with a digital tour of Morgan last year, before deciding to enroll. He says another key MSU attraction was its reasonable tuition for a quality education, and the relatively low impact on his family’s finances. Chambers’ dad is a chef, and his mom is self-employed. He received an MSU institutional award for his first semester, last fall.
Other allures for the nursing major included “wanting to be around people like myself, in an environment where I could feel home away from home. Morgan has a holistic view of me.”
Mirical Solana Brooks says her Morgan experience has exceeded the high expectations she formed during her virtual preview. These days, she is reaching out to explore student clubs and social events and says, “It is now so easy to make friends.”
President Wilson’s message to the record-breaking Class of 2026 is that they made the right choice in joining Morgan.
“Morgan State University is a pathway to greatness,” he says. “A Morgan foundation fortifies student character. Its alumni never question their capacity when they enter graduate school or a job. Morgan alumni can match anyone in the world.”