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Thursday, June 13, 2024

Edward Waters University Leads Florida’s HBCUs in Enrollment Growth


(Jacksonville, FL) — Edward Waters University now has the highest enrollment growth of all HBCUs in the state, according to a recent report by News4Jax. Earlier this year, the university began reporting record growth in enrollment, new student admittance, and student retention. Just one academic year ago, EWU had only 638 students attending. However, for the 2023-2024 school year, EWU had nearly 1,175 students enrolled.

Edward Waters also has new leadership and has been making changes highly visible within the community. Jenese Harris at News4JAX spoke with students who confirmed the same. Tenaj Davis, a 4th-year senior, and Travales Woodard, a 3rd-year biology major, both expressed their love for Edward Waters University.

“So Edward Waters University was not my first choice but…but coming here and being here for all four my years it has become a home away from home and it has made me grow as an individual as a Black woman in society and has pushed me to greater heights honestly,” Davis said.

It’s that kind of feedback that Dr. Ivana Rich wants to hear. Rich is the Associate Vice-President of the University and Director of Intercollegiate Athletics.

“So, we are growing, we’ve had record growth over the last three years, since the arrival of our fearless leader [A. Zachary] Faison Junior, and a lot of our growth has been in athletics,” Dr. Rich said.

Dr. A. Zachary Faison, Jr., became the 30th president and CEO of Edward Waters University in 2018 after receiving a unanimous vote from the college’s board of trustees. At just 37 years old when appointed, Dr. Faison became the youngest serving president and CEO of an HBCU.

A. Zachary Faison Jr., the 30th President and CEO of Edward Waters University in Jacksonville, Florida.

The university wrote in a statement that reads in part:

“Edward Waters University’s enrollment has skyrocketed by 30% since 2019, having welcomed its largest ever class of new students (540) in 2023 and achieving its highest enrollment in almost two decades at nearly 1200 students (1187) in fall 2022. EWU’s recent remarkable growth has made it the fastest growing college or university in Jacksonville, and the fastest growing historically black college or university (HBCU) in the State of Florida per published reports.”

One of the biggest changes at the educational institution is its name, from college to university in 2021. Davis was there for the change.

“It was so fun to see everyone start calling us, we are a university now, we are not a college anymore. Start seeing EWU signs go up and taking down EWC signs. That transition just made us love our university even more,” Davis said.

Student Travales Woodard said, “It’s been tremendous. I think after our class, fall of 2021, we were the largest enrollment class in the school year. This last class that came through, they took it by the wind, they came in from all over the place, different countries, ethnicities and cultures.”

When we visited the campus, students were preparing for graduation and the end of the semester, but the changes were obvious.


The university is working on getting NCAA membership, they are expecting a call on July 11. EWU has also added 5 new athletic programs including men’s and women’s basketball. The school also launched its first season of women’s tennis.

Dr. Rich says she hopes the program will be even better by maintaining a small supportive community for students.

“When I talk to moms and aunts that bring their sons and daughters to campus, I say we are like the moms and aunties on campus. We are going to take care of your babies when you bring them here. That’s a part of the selling point that is what we offer here. It’s a family environment,” she said.

Credit: Edward Waters University.

Edward Waters University (EWU) is the first independent institution of higher learning in the state of Florida and the first institution established for the education of African Americans in Florida.

With a distinguished higher education history spanning over 150 years, EWC is poised to continue its emerging eminence as a premier urban, private, Christian (African Methodist Episcopal – AME), historically black, liberal arts college. It offers high-quality four-year baccalaureate degrees and prepares students holistically to succeed in a global society through an intellectually stimulating academic experience.

The institution transitioned from Edward Waters College to Edward Waters University in 2021.



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