‘It’s just hard’: student enrollment declines, freshmen grapple with campus life

University budget takes a hit as this year’s incoming freshman class struggles with the new college experience


Reginald Allen

Fashion Merchandising major Symone Jones checks in with Senior Education major Shyniece Hardy.

Alana Bynes-Richardson, Staff Writer

Freshman Brittany Durbin Robinson is not very enthusiastic about her first year at Morgan State. Due to the many restrictions placed on the few hundred students staying on campus, freshmen are experiencing a new kind of campus life. With the many changes happening to the university, new student enrollment has also declined. 

“They’re trying their best to make this process as fun as possible, but it’s hard with all of the guidelines and rules we need to follow,” Durbin Robinson said.

In August, the university welcomed over 300 students with extenuating circumstances to stay in limited residence halls on campus. But life on campus will look much different this year compared to previous years, due to the safety guidelines put in place to limit the spread of COVID-19. Some of these changes include routine coronavirus testing for all on-campus residents, enforced social distancing and single-room occupancy.

Additionally, the university’s freshman enrollment numbers dropped by nearly 70 students this year, a contrast to the increasing numbers seen in previous years. In the fall of 2018, 1,326 incoming freshmen enrolled and in the fall of 2019 there were 1,365 new freshmen. As of Sept. 1, the preliminary incoming freshman enrollment count was 1,289. 

University President David Wilson cautioned that this number is expected to fluctuate and is positive that Morgan will overcome these losses with the incoming class of 2024. He has also expressed a desire to have students back on campus as early as the spring semester of 2021. 

But in the meantime, students are struggling to adjust to the new normal. According to students, added safety precautions including a no visitation mandate has them struggling to make new friends and even see family. 

“It’s just hard,” said Kyla Fabio, an incoming freshman and nursing major. “My own parents cannot come to my room, I have to meet them outside if they visit.”

Fabio and Durbin Robinson were lucky enough to find each other when they met during move-in day. The suite mates reside in Cummings House. 

With the university’s decision to proceed with remote instruction and online classes this fall, the fiscal impact of COVID-19 could potentially create a $32 million deficit in the operating budget, according to Wilson. 

“We are not able to capture the fees that we did last year given a number of scenarios and planning assumptions,” he explained. 

The operating budget for the university includes tuition and fees, sales and services, state and local grants, and a few other sources of funding. The decline in student enrollment and points of income are a vital part of the budget. As of now, the total revenue is more than $256 million .

Additionally, Morgan moves forward with major capital projects on campus, including the completion of the new student services building, Calvin and Tina Tyler Hall. And Thurgood Marshall Hall, the new student housing complex, is scheduled to break ground in two weeks and open in the fall of 2022. Turner’s Armory has been completely demolished and the design for the brand new Health and Human Services building, set to open in 2024, is underway. 

“Morgan is not an expenditure, it is an investment,” Wilson said. “All of these upgrades are for the betterment of our students, faculty and staff.”