Posted on April 15, 2024

Duke Ends Full-Ride Scholarship Program for Select Black Students in Wake of Affirmative Action Ruling

Mia Penner, Duke Chronicle, April 10, 2024

Duke is discontinuing its Reginaldo Howard Memorial Scholarship Program, a program for “top applicants of African descent,” in the wake of last year’s Supreme Court decision that ended race-based affirmative action in college admissions.

The announcement comes amidst a nascent national trend, with a number of public universities ending their own race-based scholarship programs in response to the Supreme Court ruling.

Established in 1979, the merit scholarship, which also required some recipients to demonstrate financial need, covered full tuition, room and board for a select group of Black undergraduates. The 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.

“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.

Reggie Scholars were informed of the plan to end the program in a Tuesday meeting. Scholars and alumni also received a follow-up email summarizing the decision, clarifying it was “in light of changes to the legal landscape related to race-based considerations in higher education.”


Historically, 15 to 20 Black students were selected as scholarship finalists per year upon admission to Duke, according to the Reginaldo Howard Scholars’ website, which has been taken down as of Tuesday evening but can be accessed through the Wayback Machine Internet Archive.