Black enrollment grew by only 1.6 percent in Florida’s state universities since last year compared to an overall increase of 2.6 percent, Gov. Jeb Bush and university officials announced Friday.
Hispanic enrollment, though, shot up by 7.3 percent.
The new figures are further evidence that Bush’s 1999 decision to abolish affirmative action for university enrollment and replace it with a program dubbed One Florida isn’t working, says Senate Democratic leader Les Miller of Tampa.
“It is an I-told-you-so situation,” he says.
Critics such as Miller had predicted that One Florida, which includes a provision granting university admission to the top 20 percent of each high school’s graduating class, would do little or nothing to increase Black enrollment.
State university system figures show Black enrollment has grown 19.7 percent since 1999 compared to an overall increase of 24 percent. Blacks now make up 13.7 percent of the university system’s enrollment, down from 14.2 percent in 1999.
Hispanic enrollment has grown 49 percent since 1999, increasing from 14.1 percent of the total then to 16.9 percent now.
Both minorities remain under-represented based on U.S. Census figures that show 15.7 percent of Florida’s population was Black and 19 percent Hispanic in 2004.
The overall 2.6 percent enrollment increase added 7,300 students to Florida’s 11 state universities, for a total of 288,413.
Bush issued a statement focusing on a combined minority enrollment growth of 4.8 percent since last year, which resulted mainly from the dramatic increase in Hispanic student numbers. He said the increase shows that the university system is reflecting the state’s diversity by “providing greater access to higher education to all our students.”
“For the governor to combine these numbers and say ‘look what we’ve done’ is wrong,” Miller says.
Bush also said his A-Plus system, which grades public schools based largely on the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test, or FCAT, has improved student performance and meant more graduates are going to college.
But the governor also acknowledged that the state hasn’t done enough in the past to provide financial aid for minority students. Last year, he met with the Florida A&M University Student Government Association to discuss that issue and appointed an Access and Diversity Commission to make recommendations.
That decision resulted in the Legislature passing the $11.5 million First Generation Matching Grant Program.
The program is designed mainly to help minorities by providing assistance to students whose parents do not have four-year degrees.
But even with that program, the state still doesn’t provide enough need-based financial aid, Miller says.
— Associated Press
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