Fisk University hosts largest freshman class in over 40 years

Fisk University, one of the nation’s elite historically black private universities and colleges (HBCUs), has seen a remarkable increase in enrollment over the past four years. In 2017, the total student body was 630 students, and this fall Fisk surpassed 1,050 students with an incoming class of just under 400 students. These students arrive from 33 states and five countries to join the Fisk family and become part of the next generation of leaders in all sectors of society. Many are first-generation students, whose trajectory will define families and communities across the country. In an increasingly minority/majority world, this is the future, and the future looks bright. [Fisk University is a UNCF-member institution.]

In recent years, test scores for incoming classes have increased by 54e at 71st percentile in terms of national test averages. This is particularly remarkable given the steady decline in average national ACT scores over the past few years. Last year, Fisk was voted the nation’s top institution by Forbes for academic management, reflecting the institution’s incredible efficiency in delivering exceptional results despite minimal resources. It is perhaps this fact, more than anything, that students covet: an institution or rather a family where everything is not acquired but where everyone will fight for their dreams.

Incoming freshman Jeremiah Armstead of Long Beach, California embodies that spirit. After being homeless for most of his high school years, Jeremiah is now ready for an exciting future at Fisk: “The support I have now in Nashville is exceptional and for a young student with a story like me, I wouldn’t. overcome most obstacles without exceptional support. Jeremiah, like all incoming Fisk students, was recruited through a highly personalized process that reflects the deep connections desired by this generation of students.

To bolster student outcomes, Fisk has consolidated a series of unique corporate partnerships, including with Cravath, Swaine & Moore, HCA Healthcare, The Los Angeles Lakers, Google, Marsh McLennan, Asurion, Equinix and Ryan Specialty Group. Many of these partnerships offer reverse-engineered courses that directly prepare students to excel at the highest level after graduation. Some of these courses include coding, big data analysis, and risk management. Fisk has delivered results on par with top institutions nationwide, and this ROI model inspires students to reach higher. In the Morgan Price, a member of HBCU’s first-ever women’s gymnastics program, said, “I had a lot of options, but Fisk had everything. The academics are very strong, the partnership with Meharry is intriguing, and especially Gymnastics! I wanted to go to an HBCU that had super strong academics. Fisk also cares a lot about leadership, organizations, and internships. All of these things excite me because they will help me succeed after college.

Over 58% of incoming students are eligible for the Pell Scholarship, making any private school a daunting financial proposition. Despite Fisk’s dedication to affordability and a disproportionately high scholarship rate, this four-year journey remains a daunting challenge for many students and families. “This year we turned away too many students whose future should have started at Fisk, but the finances just weren’t calculated,” said Sheila Smith, associate vice president for enrollment management.

With student debt at the forefront of everyone’s mind, Fisk students are betting on themselves and investing in their future. In many cases, higher education becomes an arms race and it is very difficult for small institutions to compete on the front lines of facilities, technology, and scholarships while operating a sustainable small business. Fisk University was able to accomplish this with almost no endowment expense. Every dollar at Fisk will continue to support incredible enrollment growth and exceptional students. The goal is to reach 1,600 to 1,800 within the next four years and, by extension, double Fisk’s remarkable impact on the company’s future.

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