Florida A&M: Judge Approves Lawsuit Alleging Chronic Underfunding of HBCU

A 2022 investigation by Forbes found Florida A&M received $2,600 less per student than the University of Florida in 2020.

Florida A&M: Judge Approves Lawsuit Alleging Chronic Underfunding of HBCU

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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — A Florida judge denied the state’s request to dismiss a class-action lawsuit accusing it of continued discrimination against a historically Black university for over three decades.

The suit, filed in September by six Florida A&M (FAMU) students, claims the University of Florida (UF) receives a larger state appropriation per student than FAMU, reports NBC News. Both schools are the state’s only two public land-grant colleges. The complaint alleges from 1987 to 2020, the difference amounted to approximately $1.3 billion.

According to The Washington Post, the lawsuit claims the state’s reluctance to provide increased funding to FAMU violates the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment. It also cites precedents found in cases such as U.S. v. Fordice, which determined the state of Mississippi failed to dismantle its segregated system of higher education in 1992.

The plaintiffs are demanding the state commit to equity in its support of HBCUs and are seeking injunctive relief under several laws, including Title VI of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, which prohibits racial discrimination in federally funded programs.

“Throughout its history and up to the present day, Florida has purposefully engaged in a pattern and practice of racial discrimination, principally through disparate funding, that has prevented HBCUs, including FAMU, from achieving parity with their traditionally White institution (‘TWI’) counterparts,” reads the lawsuit.

Britney Denton, a plaintiff and doctoral student at FAMU’s College of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences, says the disparities in funding are glaringly obvious, according to The Root.

“There is a vast difference between the two universities in the city of Tallahassee,” she said. “If you go to the north side, you’ll see the magnificent sports facilities and amazing housing. But when you get to the south side where the HBCU is, it’s a different world because we aren’t given the same resources.”

According to a 2022 investigation by Forbes, FAMU’s $123 million in state appropriations in 2020 amounted to $13,000 per student, compared with UF’s $15,600 per student. The school is also far more dependent on state funding than UF. State money accounted for 41% of its $330 million in total revenue in 2021, compared with 24% at UF, which makes more in tuition revenue and private grants and contracts. FAMU also has $111 million in facilities debt, says Forbes.

The lawsuit further accuses the state of allowing Florida State University (FSU), also located in Tallahassee, to duplicate more than 40 FAMU programs, making it difficult for the HBCU to attract potential students through its educational offerings.

The suit names the state of Florida, the State University System’s board of governors and its chancellor, Ray Rodrigues, the State Board of Education and its commissioner, Manny Diaz Jr., and Governor Ron DeSantis.

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About the Author

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Amy is Campus Safety’s Executive Editor. Prior to joining the editorial team in 2017, she worked in both events and digital marketing.

Amy has many close relatives and friends who are teachers, motivating her to learn and share as much as she can about campus security. She has a minor in education and has worked with children in several capacities, further deepening her passion for keeping students safe.

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