In September 2022, six students at historically Black Florida A&M University in Tallahassee filed a federal class-action lawsuit against the state of Florida. A federal judge recently ruled that the litigation can move forward. The suit claims that the state is discriminating against African Americans because Florida A&M receives less funding per student than the University of Florida.
The plaintiffs call for the state to commit to equity in its support of historically Black colleges and universities. They seek injunctive relief under various laws, including Title VI of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, which prohibits racial discrimination in federally funded programs.
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.
Founded more than 130 years ago, Florida A&M University is “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,” said Josh Dubin, the attorney representing the plaintiffs. “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.”