Six Florida A&M Students File Lawsuit Claiming the State Underfunds the HBCU

The law firm Grant & Eisenhofer and noted civil rights attorney Joshua Dubin have filed a class action complaint in federal court in Florida, alleging that the state deliberately and systematically maintains a racially segregated higher-education structure that favors traditionally White schools over historically Black colleges and universities.

The suit was filed on behalf of six graduate and undergraduate students at Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University (FAMU) in Tallahassee, whose more than 9,000 students make it one of the nation’s largest HBCUs. Their complaint names the state, the board of governors of the State University System, and system chancellor Marshall M. Criser III as defendants.

According to the complaint, the University of Florida receives a larger state appropriation per student than FAMU – over 33 years, from 1987 to 2020, that shortfall amounted to approximately $1.3 billion. Moreover, the complaint alleges that the state supports programming and courses of study at Florida State University, a traditionally White university also located in Tallahassee, that unnecessarily duplicates programming at FAMU, which steers prospective students toward Florida State.

“FAMU is more than 130 years old, opened as the result of a federal land grant to the state. It produces more African-American BA graduates than any four-year public college in the nation,” said attorney Dubin. “Yet it’s still playing catch-up in the state of Florida, which we feel has acted with an astonishing lack of good faith, despite decades of directives from the federal government that all students in the state receive equal educational opportunities. This deliberate indifference toward HBCUs is not unique to Florida, but FAMU is where we’re joining the fight to ensure the education is fair for everyone.”

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