UF Ends Financial Aid Based on Race Scholarships Cut in Federal Agreement

Article excerpt

Byline: Joe Humphrey, Times-Union staff writer

Scholarships based on race will no longer be awarded by the University of Florida, the school announced this week.

No students currently receiving one of the 200 to 250 race-based scholarships awarded by UF or the estimated 50 awards given by the UF Foundation will lose their aid, Provost David Colburn said yesterday.

News of the policy shift came just as UF's latest enrollment figures were released, revealing a freshman class with fewer black and Hispanic students at the Gainesville school.

Some observers are blaming the One Florida initiative -- Gov. Jeb Bush's plan that prohibits the use of race or ethnicity in the admissions process -- for the slip at Florida's largest and most prestigious university.

But One Florida, a headline-grabbing initiative that has Democrats hungry to challenge Bush at the ballot box next year, is not the reason scholarships are changing.

Nor is a decision made this week by the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta, which ruled unconstitutional the University of Georgia's admissions policy that allows the use of affirmative action. Though that decision was cited publicly this week as a reason for the change, Colburn said that isn't the case.

Instead, the provost points to a December 2000 agreement reached by UF and the U.S. Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights, which required that UF stop using race as a scholarship criterion. The settlement resolved a 1990 complaint that claimed UF was discriminating against white students by precluding them from minority-only scholarships. It prevents UF from using race as the basis for scholarships.

The settlement surfaced publicly this week after the UF Foundation announced its plans to eliminate racial preferences in its scholarships.

The school can continue to base scholarships on socioeconomic factors or use a student's high school as criteria. Thus, UF scholarships given to select graduates of Raines and Ribault high schools, predominately black schools on Jacksonville's Northside, are allowed, Colburn said.

The settlement with the Office of Civil Rights also permits UF to honor national programs such as the National Achievement Scholars award, given to black students who excel on the SAT. …