Bethune Cookman University sees higher numbers of applicants and freshman commitments

When My'kaylah Alston-Keeley visited Bethune-Cookman University, she knew it was the right school for her. "I loved it," she said, "it helped me see what I was getting myself into. It was actually a lot better that what was seen on the website. I enjoyed myself so much. Of course, the long walks we're dreading, but just seeing everything and the history behind it, it made my urge to go there even larger."

Alston-Keeley is from Jacksonville, and said she loved the feeling she got, on BCU's Daytona Beach campus. "I applied to UNF and EWU, I didn't apply to many, because I knew once I applied to BCU, that was my school, so I just stopped at three."

Enthusiastic incoming students like Alston-Keeley are a welcome sight for BCU administrators. The school has had its ups-and-downs, over the years. Early last year, the school committed ten million dollars to improving the dorms and food service after students complained of mold and pests. In 2018, the school was in danger of losing its accreditation, leading some trustees to resign from its board and prompting outcries from students and faculty.

Dr. Camaille Shepard, BCU Executive Director of Strategic Initiatives, said she was proud of the way BCU was now heading. "We are more focused on making sure that from a housing perspective, the rooms are ready for our incoming classes, as well as our student life services, so in terms of facilities, we're making sure our dorm rooms are up to par, up to standard, so when students walk in, they feel like they're home, but they also feel like they have that independent space."

Shepard says the school has also renovated part of their academic and sports facilities. "There are some buildings that are getting improved. I know our College of Science, Engineering and Mathematics, that location is getting sort of upgraded, if you will. So we are focused on making sure our facilities are above-standard and ready for our students when they come to us in the fall."

School representatives said BCU was known for its criminal justice, nursing, and psychology programs. Shepard said these facilities upgrades, together with the school's history and faith-based mission, have helped draw almost eleven percent more applicants year-over-year. She says they'd already filled about a third of their incoming first-year class. "We're super-excited about the students that are coming to become future Wildcats."

Administrators say the higher interest in BCU mirrors an overall rise in applications to historically black colleges. More than half of BCU students come from out-of-state. BCU's annual tuition for the 2022-2023 school year, including room and board, was about $25-thousand dollars. Alston-Keeley said she wanted to make a difference in her community. "I do want to start my own nonprofit for young ladies, so that they can identify who they are and become successful. I want to expose them to internships and scholarships and help them see the brighter side of everything, and even get a second chance at life, as well."