Duke University speaks after ending scholarship for Black students

Duke Chapel, West Campus, Duke University, Durham, NC. Photo: Wikimedia Commons/ Warren LeMay

By Face2Face Africa

Duke University has ended its full-ride scholarship program for Black students following the 2023 Supreme Court ruling that ended affirmative action in admissions. The Reginaldo Howard Memorial Scholarship Program was for “top applicants of African descent,” but it has to end due to the ruling, according to the Duke Chronicle.

The decision follows a similar one made by other public universities in the United States, which ended their own race-based scholarship programs in response to the Supreme Court ruling. Current scholars will not lose their funding, but no future scholarships will be awarded.

Duke University’s scholarship program for black, needy students was established in 1979. The merit scholarship required beneficiaries to show that they were needy, and it covered full tuition, room, and board. The scholarship was named in honor of Reginaldo “Reggie” Howard, Duke’s first Black student government president, who died in an automobile accident during his sophomore year in 1976.

“It is very disheartening to hear that this program that opened the door for me to come to Duke is now being closed, essentially, even though it will take on a new form,” junior Mya Harris said.

Following the scrubbing of the scholarship, the Office of University Scholars and Fellows is partnering with the Mary Lou Williams Centre for Black Culture to establish the Reginaldo Howard Leadership Program.

As per a statement by the university, the program will be open to all undergraduate students, regardless of race, and will “not include a competitive selection process.”

“The Reginaldo Howard Leadership Program will honor Reggie Howard’s legacy by supporting black academic excellence, intellectual community, and leadership on campus through an intentionally designed series of engagement opportunities,” wrote Candis Watts Smith, vice provost for undergraduate education, in an email last week to Reggie Scholars and alumni.

“This transition will continue to offer a variety of options for financial assistance to our students while honouring Mr. Howard’s legacy,” Frank Tramble, vice president for communications, marketing, and public affairs, also wrote in an email to Inside Higher Ed.

“Our commitment to diversity remains strong, including our support of HCBU graduates pursuing graduate programs at Duke and our full tuition grants for undergraduate students from North and South Carolina whose families earn less than $150,000, as well as various forms of assistance offered to students from North and South Carolina whose families earn below $65,000.”