Independent Panel Says Gov. Bush’s One Florida Plan Is Working
But Black freshman enrollment declining at University of FloridaTAMPA, Fla.
A two-year study of Gov. Jeb Bush’s One Florida plan for minority college enrollment and state contracting shows the plan is working, but the governor’s work is not done, a review committee composed of minorities said last month.
While the figures show that the percentage of minorities in the state university’s freshman class has been nearly unchanged since One Florida went into effect in 2000, the panel pointed to other improvements they say should increase the number of minority college students in the future.
In addition, the University of Florida, where minority enrollment has declined under One Florida, also remains a concern. Enrollment of Black freshmen dropped from a high of 829 students in 2000 to 461 students in 2001.
Bush said he is hoping that trend will reverse itself this year after the university developed better-targeted recruitment programs, including one-on-one attention for some minorities who are admitted to the university but are considering going elsewhere.
“I say give it a chance,” says panel member Don Bowen, president of the Urban League chapter in Broward County. “For the last 10 years, I hadn’t heard anyone else come up with any new strategies.”
According to the review committee, under One Florida, twice as many minority students are taking pre-college exams, more are taking advanced placement courses in high school and the number of minority graduate students is also on the rise.
In the 1999-2000 school year, there were 10,609 minorities among the 28,989 new students in the state university system or 36.6 percent of total enrollment.
Last year, there were nearly 11,954 minority students out of 32,589 new students, or 36.7 percent.
For minority businesses, the state has more than doubled its spending with those companies since One Florida began, topping $549 million last year, the committee said. Most of that increase was attributable to agencies the governor directly controls.
The 15-member review commission was made up of Black and Hispanic educators, civic leaders and business people. Bush appointed the panel’s chairman and two others, and they appointed the remaining 12 members.
The report comes more than two years after substantial criticism was aimed at the governor’s plan to eliminate race as a criteria in college enrollment and state contracting in favor of a program which relied heavily on outreach programs and financial aid.
The group, however, found achievement gaps still remain, and that leaves some minority students without the same opportunities as White students.
Among those shortcomings: More schools need to offer advanced placement classes to give minority students the same educational background as Whites; there need to be more teachers prepared to teach those classes; and better efforts are needed to keep minorities enrolled in college after they are accepted.
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