ORLANDO, Fla. – Sen. Randolph Bracy (D-Ocoee) praised the resilience of historically Black colleges and universities Monday, thanking Florida’s governor for increasing funding for the schools in the state budget.
Bracy hosted a news conference outside of the Orlando City Hall building about an hour after Gov. Ron DeSantis announced he signed a $92.2 billion budget for the state, slashing $1 billion from the proposed budget lawmakers approved in March.
DeSantis warned of his plans for budget cuts due to the drop in revenue caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
“My goal was to try to safeguard the historic achievements that we were able to do, while also realizing historic savings so that we could put Florida on a solid fiscal foundation,” DeSantis said at a news conference announcing the budget signing.
Bracy had started an initiative prior to the pandemic, aiming to secure additional funding for Florida’s HBCUs after leaders at Bethune-Cookman University expressed financial struggles.
“This is a historic funding initiative and I would like to commend the governor for signing this appropriation into law,” Bracy said.
Florida is home to four HBCUs with Florida A&M University listed as the only public institution. Bethune-Cookman University, Edward Waters College and Florida Memorial University are private schools.
“We traveled to Tallahassee on numerous occasions,” the senator said. “Bethune-Cookman will receive over $16 million in funding from the state legislature. This is a commitment you don’t usually see for private historically black colleges.”
The state budget for the fiscal year that begins Wednesday will provide $123.2 million for Florida’s HBCUs, an increase of $18.9 million.
Bethune-Cookman University received an increase of $13 million, according to the governor’s office, meaning the school will receive a total of $16.96 million in operating funds.
Florida’s budget does not include any tuition increases for the state’s colleges and universities.
“I would just like to say that Mary McLeod Bethune started this school with $1.50, five girls, and a dream in a pocket. And through the years we have seen that dream expanded to educate young black males and females all across this country to go out and make an impact in this world,” Bracy said. “One of the main mantras of Bethune (is) enter to learn, depart to serve. We are grateful to partner with Bethune-Cookman and the state legislator to continue to fund the future of education for students to make an impact across this country.”
According to the governor’s office, Florida Memorial University received an increase of $3.5 million, for a total of $7 million in operating funds while Edward Waters College received an increase of $3.5 million, for a total of $6.4 million in operating funds. Florida A&M University received an increase of $1.3 million, for a total of $92.8 million.