University far from its status of 1997

Most students, faculty members and FAMU alumni are aware that FAMU was the College of the Year … in 1997, which was eight years ago.

However, the University has experienced many changes since then.

Although the University earned that prominent title from Time Magazine then, it is not clear when the University will return to its previous prestige.

CNN said in an article from 1997 that FAMU, led by President Frederick S. Humphries, was the first University to receive the designation of College of the Year by Time Magazine and the Princeton Review College Guide.

At the time, the University was the No. 1 producer of blacks with baccalaureate degrees and was the leader in recruitment of National Achievement Scholars.

Humphries, who served as the University’s president from 1985 to 2001, was known to personally recruit top black scholars, create stability and work hard to make various gains throughout his tenure, according to

A former vice president under Humphries, who asked not to be named and now works at FSU, said she recalls the positive campus atmosphere in 1997.

“When FAMU won the award, I had just started (working at the University), but people were elated and there was a good atmosphere,” she said.

“As a FAMU alumni, it was a great feeling to work hard to make a difference in the lives of the students.”

Others agree including Michael Smith, who now works for the University’s Honors Program. Smith was a senior in 1997.

“FAMU was flourishing, the culture on campus was rich and everyone was proud to say they were from FAMU,” he said.

“It was a time when Humphries was here and everyone loved him.”

Smith added that Humphries handled the problems of the University differently.

“We didn’t have as many administrative problems. We had problems, but they weren’t as paramount as they’ve become,” Smith said.

The dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, Larry Rivers, was the director of the Masters of Applied Social Science Program in 1997.

“It all seemed to come together in 1997 – we had a capable administration and a smart student body,” Rivers explained.

“The students helped us become College of the Year because they wanted to show they loved FAMU and wanted to project a positive image of FAMU throughout the country.”

After Humphries resigned from his presidential position in 2001, a lack of administrative stability affected the University.

Financial problems, unfilled dean positions, the removal of President Fred Gainous in Fall 2004, university overspending and the termination and resignation of top administrators are some of the problems that have greatly changed the University and its image since 1997.

“The business of the University and the financial department deteriorated (after Humphries

left). The leadership no longer set the tone or had a sense of the pulse of the University and student life,” Smith said.

Rivers said he believes the University continues to be a great one, but “people would like to see more stability as it relates to the central administration.”

“Some people have perceived the (administrative) changes as growing pains of the University,” Rivers said.

“But the changes have caused some students to attend institutions where the (administrative) changes are not so pronounced.”

The University’s recruitment of National Achievement Scholars has also decreased since 1997.

The FAMU Web site,, cites that the University recruited 73 National Achievement Scholars students in 1997 compared to 12 in 2004.

Rivers credits the decline to a lack of resources because, “we are not offering the money (in scholarships) that we were offering in 1997.”

Tuition has increased since then, which affects the amount university scholarships cover. Tuition in 1997 was $62 per credit hour for in-state undergraduate students and $236 for out-of-state students, as printed in the 1997-1998 University Fact Book.

The University’s Web site also states that current tuition is $95 per credit hour for in-state students and $498 for out-of-state students.

While there seems to be a laundry list of problems at the University, all of its changes since 1997 have not been negative.

Despite FAMU’s financial and administrative problems, enrollment has increased from 10,998 students in 1997 to over 13,000 students in fall 2004, the Department of Institutional Research said.

FAMU has also kept its title as the top producer of black baccalaureate students in the nation, reestablished its College of Law in Orlando and maintained one of the top collegiate bands.

Many on-campus renovations and additions have also been implemented.

“The University has grown physically. SBI (School of Business and Industry) was renovated, the GC Building, Science Research and Allied Health buildings were built and the journalism building is being built now,” Smith said.

FAMU continues to have financial and administrative issues.

Interim President Castell V. Bryant has made several administrative changes and the recent freeze on university spending.

Both Smith and Rivers agreed that FAMU has changed positively and negatively since 1997, but still has the opportunity to improve.

Smith said the University is not as good as it was in 1997, but “we have the opportunity to make it (as good) and even better.”

He added, “Castell (Bryant) is trying to bring back the spirit and structure (of the University).”

“I love working here,” said Rivers, who has worked at FAMU for 28 years.

“Overall, FAMU is solid and academically sound and I have no doubt the adjustments it’s going through will result in an even better institution.”

Contact Ebonie Ledbetter at