Six students at Florida A&M University (FAMU) are taking on the Sunshine State in the name of fighting funding inequities between historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs) and predominately white institutions (PWIs).
The lawsuit was filed this past Thursday, and the disparities between how Florida funds FAMU and the University of Florida are at the center of the matter.
Today, six #FAMU students filed a class action lawsuit against the State of Florida & the FL Board of Governors, alleging that decades of underfunding have sustained a segregated environment with inferior resources & facilities compared to state public PWIs! pic.twitter.com/JN7V1Z5BUp
— DrDStew_87 (@oldschool20) September 23, 2022
“There is a vast difference between the two universities in the city of Tallahassee,” Britney Denton, a doctoral student at FAMU, told The Washington Post.
“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,” she expanded.
Denton went on to share that it’s clear FAMU, Florida’s lone public HBCU, isn’t receiving equitable or sufficient funding to thrive.
“We could see the bigger picture. The university needs resources from the state and local government, which haven’t provided enough support,” she observed.
In fact, Forbes published a report on the issue of HBCU underfunding earlier this year, noting that, “FAMU is far more dependent on state funding than its white counterpart. State money accounted for 41% of its $330 million in total revenue, compared with 24% at the University of Florida, which makes more in tuition revenue and private grants and contracts.”
FAMU’s state appropriations per student came out to $2,600 less than the University of Florida’s, meaning that the historically underserved HBCU is still not getting state-sponsored support that’s on par with what its PWI counterpart receives.
Attorneys allege that, had FAMU received the same support as the University of Florida did from 1987 to 2020, the HBCU should have received approximately $1.3B more in funding.
“We drilled into the numbers and the obligations to fund the school at parity, and not only is that not the case currently, but it’s also not been the case for quite some time historically,” Barbara Hart, an attorney who’s representing the six FAMU students in the lawsuit, stated to The Washington Post.
“Any state that is discriminating against historically Black colleges and universities by underfunding them should be on notice,” Joshua Dubin, another attorney who represents the students, added, according to Forbes. “There should be no disparity, period, and we’re going to help bridge that gap.”
This lawsuit coincides with Miguel Cardona, the U.S. Secretary of Education, advocating for HBCUs to get more support, as Blavity previously reported.
“It’s about making sure that, number one, states are paying their fair share. [HBCUs have] been underfunded for decades. It’s not going to be fixed overnight, but we have to get the ball moving in the right direction,” he said, according to NewsOne.
FAMU is not directly involved in the lawsuit, and representatives haven’t spoken on the situation; the Board of Governors for the State University System, a defendant in the case, has also not released a public statement.