Florida Legislators to Cut Support for Race-Conscious Scholarships
Florida’s race-conscious scholarships to help minorities attend law school may be headed for elimination now that the state is setting up new law schools.
With new law schools starting up in Miami and Orlando, Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and state legislators have agreed to cut support for two scholarship programs that have been used to pay tuition for minority students attending the state’s public and private law schools.
Lawmakers say they expect the new law schools set up by Florida A&M University and Florida International University — where Blacks and Hispanics make up a majority of students — to attract minorities.
Rep. Chris Smith, D-Fort Lauderdale, and a lawyer who earned his law degree from Florida State, said he reluctantly agreed to end the scholarship program.
“I prefer the scholarships because law school is expensive,” Smith says. “It’s great to open a law school, but what good is it if someone has to work two or three jobs and wind up flunking out?”
The Minority Participation in Legal Education program offers 200 scholarships a year to minorities. It includes an $11,000 living stipend as well as tuition money, and also lends money to undergraduate students who intend to go to law school.
Spending plans put together by the state’s House and Senate call for slashing nearly $2 million from the two law scholarship programs — a decision that would force the law schools at the University of Florida and Florida State to freeze enrollments.
The legality of race-conscious scholarships has come under question in recent years, especially after federal courts ruled against affirmative action policies used by the University of Texas law school.
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