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Delaware State’s exchange programs boosting enrollment

Partnerships with China bring financial stability, too

Facing declining enrollment and financial problems, Delaware State University president Harry Lee Williams put stock in the school’s outreach plan.

With historically black colleges and universities around the country facing reductions in funds from their respective state governments and lacking huge endowments, schools such as Delaware State have taken a novel approach: If the people won’t come to the school, then they will go to the people.

Try all the way to China.

“It started with the suggestion of one of our Chinese faculty members,” Williams, who took the helm at Delaware State in 2010, told The Undefeated.

That was five years ago.

Now, Delaware State has partnerships with 15 schools in China, as it has become more creative and inventive in its quest for survival.

“We are trying to stay competitive,” Williams explained. “We’re doing things that the majority schools are doing.”

Native Chinese students are allowed to study for a few semesters at Delaware State or simply transfer altogether. They are fully paying students and required to speak English.

Chinese students who desire to stay in their country can study at Delaware State extension programs in their home country, with about 600 participating in the past school year. Because those students are using Delaware State resources, the school boosts both enrollment and revenue.

Similarly, regular Delaware State students can study abroad in China.

During Williams’ 6½-year tenure, Delaware State has gained a school-record enrollment each year, beginning in the fall of 2010 with a student population of 3,819, the first time the institution exceeded 3,800 students. In fall 2014, enrollment reached a record 4,644 students.

The university also has set records in the number of undergraduate and graduate students (master’s and doctoral), first-year and transfer students.

In 2015, about 70 native Chinese students graduated from Delaware State’s accounting program in their home country at Ningbo University of Technology, located in a port city near the East Sea in East China. Said Williams, “Last year, 100 percent of them got jobs or went to graduate school.”

Williams, who will give the commencement address in a couple of weeks for this year’s Ningbo class, added partnerships with colleges in South Korea, Ghana and South Africa.

During the previous administration of Allen L. Sessoms, Delaware State president from 2003 to 2008, the university established connections with institutions of higher learning in other countries, such as Nigeria, Namibia, Bangladesh, Egypt, Cuba, England and Serbia. Delaware State created the Office of International Affairs to maintain those connections and collaborations and develop new ones.

Williams took the baton, and pushed it forward.

HBCUs with an international flavor and nonblack student populations are becoming more commonplace. In a 2013 report produced by the University of Pennsylvania Graduate School of Education, titled The Changing Face of Historically Black Colleges and Universities, approximately 25 percent of HBCUs feature at least 20 percent nonblack enrollment.

In May, Delaware State, whose student body is approximately 64 percent black, announced another innovative partnership to aid in its survival. Delaware State and TheDream.US will create a scholarship program for undocumented immigrants who graduated from U.S. high schools and face steep obstacles trying to attend college in the United States.

TheDream.US will offer 500 scholarships to those undocumented immigrants who live in states that either prohibit them from enrolling in their state universities or make it cost prohibitive by charging them out-of-state tuition. The scholarship recipients will then enroll at Delaware State, Eastern Connecticut State University and other universities that partner with TheDream.US.

“This partnership will add to Delaware State’s incredible legacy of creating new opportunities for students to get a great education and pursue their dreams,” Delaware Gov. Jack Markell said in a statement.

The partnership was established at the same time Delaware State is celebrating its 125th anniversary and is consistent with its historic mission, Williams said.

Explained Williams, “You’ve got to get out there if you [HBCUs] want to survive these days.”

Gregory Clay is an editor, writer and television/podcast commentator focusing on current news events. Based in Washington D.C., he has worked at Newsday and McClatchy and once gave a speech at a convention for the Texas State Bar Association.