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Florida A&M University Sues State as Students Claim HBCUs are Underfunded

By Francesca Maglione

 A group of students at Florida A&M University filed a lawsuit accusing the state of racial discrimination for failing to provide resources to historically Black colleges and universities as promised under a 1998 agreement with the US government.


Florida has engaged “in a pattern and practice of racial discrimination” for years by spending more on traditionally white universities and underfunding so-called HBCUs like Florida A&M, according to the complaint filed Thursday in a Tallahassee federal court. The students are seeking class-action status.

In 1998, Florida signed an agreement with the US Department of Education to increase access for minority students and to “disestablish its segregated system of higher education,” which included the state’s record of deficient financing, according to the suit.

A spokesperson for the State University System of Florida declined to comment. 

Lawyers for the students estimated the funding gap in Florida had reached at least $1.3 billion since the late 1980s, hurting HBCUs like Florida A&M that are more dependent on state funding than traditionally white schools. FAMU, located in Tallahassee, is one of the largest historically Black universities with about 9,000 students. 

In one example cited by the students, Florida A&M received a state appropriation of $11,450 per student in 2019, while the appropriation at the University of Florida was $14,984 per student, according to the complaint.  

The students want Florida to commit to parity for HBCUs within five years.

There are more than 100 colleges in the US that are identified by the US Department of Education as HBCUs, mostly in the South. Four are in Florida.

The case is Denton v. Board of Governors, 22-cv-00341, US District Court, Northern District of Florida (Tallahassee).

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