As he courts Republicans across the country, Jeb Bush boasts that an executive order he signed that ended race-based college admissions in Florida upheld conservative principles while helping minorities.
“We ended up having a system where there were more African American and Hispanic kids attending our university system than prior to the system that was discriminatory,” the former governor and likely presidential contender said recently at a conference of conservative activists.
But at Florida’s two premier universities, black enrollment is shrinking. At the University of Florida in Gainesville and at Florida State University in Tallahassee, administrators say they worry that the trend risks diminishing their standing as world-class universities and hurts the college experience.
The black share of the UF freshman class, for instance, plunged to 6 percent in 2013, the most recent year for which data is available. That is down from 9 percent in 2011.
“If we don’t address this in the next two or three years, I think we’re going to have a problem,” said Brandon Bowden, assistant vice president for student affairs at Florida State, which had a 15 percent drop in the number of black freshmen enrolled between 2000 and 2009. “There will be so few black students on our campus that prospective students [who are black] will choose not to come here because they see no one who looks like them.”