Just over a month ago, officials at historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs) celebrated after posting record-breaking enrollment numbers for the fall semester.

Several HBCUs in the Greater Washington Area, including Howard University, whose freshman class may be its largest in history, and Bowie State University, which reported an 8% increase, were overjoyed – particularly as many colleges in the U.S. have seen their numbers shrink dramatically during the pandemic.

But with the new semester less than a few weeks old, several problems have already occurred. For Howard’s students, the first challenge is finding housing. Officials say more upperclassmen, unable to pay the rising prices of apartments in the District, have chosen to remain on campus. These students are experiencing the dilemma that adults have faced for years – a lack of affordable housing in the District.

But the more serious problem with which Howard must now contend is the increase in COVID-19 infections on the campus – something which was probably inevitable.

With a record number of students occupying the yard, reporting to classrooms and packing rooms in student housing facilities, chances are great that infection rates will keep going up.

Did officials have a contingency plan just in case? If so, we haven’t heard about it.

As for the faculty and staff at Howard, many of whom are either 65 or older or living with pre-existing health conditions, returning to campus might not be the best decision. And you can’t blame them for their growing anxiety.

Whether you support being vaccinated or not, as much as we would like to believe it, the truth remains that COVID-19 and emerging variants have not been eradicated.

Is the party over almost as soon as it began? And is the crisis that Howard University officials now face, one that is indicative of things to come for other colleges and universities?

We hope not. But it’s difficult to think otherwise.

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WI Guest Author

This correspondent is a guest contributor to The Washington Informer.

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