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Florida Governor SeeksTo Boost Minority College Enrollment

Florida Governor SeeksTo Boost Minority College Enrollment

Gov. Jeb Bush has recommended sharp budget increases to boost minority enrollments in Florida’s universities and colleges.

The governor wants state lawmakers to spend an additional $52.4 million in the 2006-2007 budget to provide more scholarships and need-based financial aid.

The largest chunk, $35.8 million, would be for those faced with the most severe financial barriers.

Bush says the money could provide an average of $1,152 in financial assistance to nearly 117,000 students and help more minorities achieve their dream of a college education.

State Rep. Al Lawson, D-Tallahassee, a graduate of Florida A&M University, is shepherding the measure through the Senate. Other Democrats, however, have been unimpressed by Bush’s recommendations. They claim their efforts to achieve similar improvements in recent years were rejected by the Republican-dominated Legislature.

Don’t ply us with token dollars when double-digit tuition hikes are making it harder and harder for lower income kids and their families to afford higher education,” says Senate Minority Leader Les Miller Jr., D-Tampa.

“The $35.8 million he’s proposing to add to student aid is a trinket compared to the more than $8 billion he’s lavished on his tax breaks for the super rich over the same period,” Miller says. “If the governor and other state officials are truly concerned about boosting the enrollment of Blacks and other minorities, we urge them to match the rhetoric with serious action.”

With dozens of students from nearby FAMU, a historically Black university, on hand for the announcement, Bush said more minority students are attending Florida universities now compared to when he came into office. But he said he received “a wake-up call” when African-American enrollment dropped last year.

Another $6.5 million was earmarked for scholarships to go to students who are the first in their families to attend college — an idea suggested by University of Florida President J. Bernard Machen.

The governor asked for more money to pay for programs that help high school students prepare for college such as tutoring services and SAT preparation.

Bush’s proposal would also create a mentoring program focused on providing more help to middle school students.

— Associated Press

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