ORLANDO, Fla. – A newspaper analysis suggests former Gov. Jeb Bush’s decision to abolish affirmative action in college admissions has hurt minority enrollment.
The Orlando Sentinel reported Sunday that Black college enrollment has failed to keep pace with the number of minorities graduating high school.
When Bush implemented the “One Florida” plan in 1999, Blacks made up just over 20 percent of Florida’s high school graduates and 17.5 percent of college freshmen. But by 2008, Black high school graduates accounted for 19.5 percent of the overall class and just 14.9 percent of college freshmen.
The gap between Hispanic students who graduate high school and enroll in college also widened, from just under one point in 1999 to 2.3 points in 2008.
“We had the remedy in place, which was affirmative action,” said state Sen. Tony Hill, D-Jacksonville. “We turned our back on a policy that we know was working. And now we have less diversity.”
Bush said the program achieved its goals admitting minority students without explicit racial preference and pre-empting a lawsuit or divisive ballot initiative, which California endured.
“If we had done nothing … my guess is the numbers wouldn’t be as good as they are today,” Bush said, “The old system really was a very passive system.”
The number of students of every race enrolled in Florida college has risen with the state’s population, but the percentage admitted to college has decreased sharply. Total numbers of high school graduates in 2008 were up 38 percent over 1999, but freshman enrollment increased just 25 percent.
The rising demand for admissions created increasing competition that has disproportionately affected Black students.
Black high school graduation in 2008 was up 37 percent over a decade ago, but the number going on to college increased just 7 percent.
Two schools, Florida State and the University of South Florida, actually had fewer Black freshmen in 2008 than they did in 1999.
Five other states have also banned affirmative action for university admissions: California, Michigan, Nebraska, Texas and Washington.
But Florida has been the only one to do so without a statewide vote or court order. Bush’s policy incited months of protest from affirmative-action supporters and hostile public hearings.
“The results are pretty good,” Bush said, noting that Florida saw no major drops in overall minority enrollment, like California and Texas. “It doesn’t mean it can’t be better.”