Duke Discontinues Full-Ride Scholarship Program for Select Black Students


Duke University announced it will no longer offer its Reginaldo Howard Memorial Scholarship Program, a full-ride scholarship program offered to “top applicants of African descent.” The news comes after last year’s ruling by the Supreme Court to strike down race-based affirmative action in college admissions.

According to the Duke Chronicle, the merit scholarship is 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. To be eligible for the scholarship, applicants had to demonstrate financial need. It covered full tuition and room and board for a select group of 15-20 Black undergraduates.

“It is very much 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.

In place of the scholarship program, the Office of University Scholars and Fellows is partnering with the Mary Lou Williams Center for Black Culture to establish the Reginaldo Howard Leadership Program. The new 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 the Tuesday email to Reggie Scholars and alumni. 

The school also announced that recipients of merit-based scholarships will be notified about their awards after enrolling at Duke instead of before.

“I think the Reggie is a program that has given me a lot over the years.”

Reggie Scholars will continue to receive funding but no aid will be awarded to the Class of 2028 and beyond. They decry Duke’s decision and hope they can keep Reggie Howard’s legacy alive.

“I think the Reggie is a program that has given me a lot over the years,” Drew Greene, a senior, said. “It’s given me not only a community, but a group of friends, a group of academic peers that I enjoy spending time with … It has been a fantastic experience, so of course in that regard, I am gutted.”

“We just want to make sure that Reginaldo Howard stays in the conversation in any way, shape or form that we can because he was a very prominent figure in Duke’s history, period — not Black Duke’s history, not Latino Duke’s history, just Duke’s history,” Hannah Gedion, a sophomore student, added.