Governor’s higher education budget would mean funding boosts for HBCUs and faculty recruitment

The Governor's administration has faced criticism for underfunding HBCUs and promulgating policies driving faculty away.

Gov. Ron DeSantis’ budget proposal would deliver $26 million more to the state’s Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) than he proposed last year — after the feds criticized the state’s neglect in funding the institutions.

Appropriations for Bethune Cookman University, Florida Memorial University and Edward Waters University would remain essentially unchanged from last year. Still, Florida A&M University would be getting about $15 million more than last year, and $10 million would go to a new item: HBCU facility hardening.

Democratic Sen. Shevrin Jones, who serves on President Joe Biden’s Board of Advisors on HBCUs, calls it money well spent.

“It’s clear that investments in HBCUs boost our economy and open doors of opportunity for students,” said Jones, a barrier-breaking graduate of FAMU, in a text. “Our shared future depends upon getting schools the resources they need.”

It’s believed that Edward Waters University in Jacksonville narrowly missed being the focus of a racist gunman who burst into a nearby Dollar General on Aug. 26 and killed three people before shooting himself. Just before the outbreak of deadly violence, a campus security guard had confronted the shooter, who then left the grounds.

No comments about the boosted HBCU funding at Tuesday’s news conference were offered. DeSantis did highlight how tuition at the state’s higher education institutions would not be rising and how grandchildren of Florida residents are entitled to in-state tuition.

In September, however, DeSantis and 15 other Governors received a letter from the U.S. Education Secretary Miguel Cardona and U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack about underfunding of land grant Black institutions compared to the non-HBCU land grant counterparts and urged the Governors to make good.

State administration officials disputed the finding of that letter. Jones said the allocation announced Tuesday doesn’t come close to equalizing the support the state’s non-HBCU higher education institutions have received.

“I think the state should follow the guidance of the White House and their direction in how states can FULLY fund HBCUs,” Jones texted Florida Politics. “I am more than willing to meet with the Governor to present that information to him.”

DeSantis did highlight the increased investment that the state’s higher education institutions will receive to recruit and retain faculty — $50 million more than last year. He alluded to the criticism he’s received for other higher education initiatives that the New York Times reported as driving faculty away.

DeSantis supported legislative efforts that require faculty performance to be reviewed every five years and prohibit state higher education spending on diversity, equity and inclusion.

“There’s been gnashing of teeth about this in the media and stuff — ‘Oh, some of these professors are leaving this or that’ — but just understand, if you have Marxist professors leaving, that is a gain for the state of Florida,” he said.

He cited the recent pro-Palestinian demonstrations on some college campuses as “really chilling” evidence of a sickness in the country’s higher education institutions.

And then he slipped into presidential campaign mode.

“You know, MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) was saying, ‘Well, look, a lot of these are foreign students on visas,’” he said.

“Well, I’ll tell you what I’ll do. I’ll cancel their visa, and I’ll send them home,” he said as the room burst into cheers. “I don’t want them coming here. We should be putting Americans in those slots.”

Anne Geggis

Anne Geggis is a South Florida journalist who began her career in Vermont and has worked at the Sun-Sentinel, the Daytona Beach News-Journal and the Gainesville Sun covering government issues, health and education. She was a member of the Sun-Sentinel team that won the 2019 Pulitzer Prize for coverage of the Parkland high school shooting. You can reach her on Twitter @AnneBoca or by emailing [email protected].


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