The panel “Teetering between Surviving and Thriving,” featured presidents from Florida’s four Historically Black Colleges and Universities.
Florida A&M University (FAMU) President Larry Robinson, Ph.D., joined his counterparts from the state’s three other Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) for a panel discussion, “Teetering between Surviving and Thriving,” at the 2022 Legislative Issues Conference Friday, November 18.
Hosted by the Black Legislative Caucus, the conference panel also featured Lawrence Drake, Ph.D., interim president of Bethune-Cookman University (BCU); Edward Waters University (EWU) President A. Zachary Faison, Ph.D., and Florida Memorial University (FMU) President Jaffus Hardrick, Ph.D.
The university presidents spoke of the challenge of their aging campus infrastructure and the need to construct new on-campus housing to accommodate the surge in freshman applications.
Robinson thanked legistators for their support of the FAMU’s 2022 legislative priorities in support of its student success initiatives. But the University needs continued funding to upgrade and maintain existing buildings.
“We received $26 million this year, but our need is eight times as high,” Robinson said. “Deferred maintenance continues to be a major issue for us at Florida A&M University.”
BCU’s Drake spoke of the need for infrastructure improvements for his Daytona Beach campus that was hit by two hurricanes, both of which forced students and staff to evacuate.
“We want this institution to persist for another 118 years, and our infrastructure is critical. That’s not just the fortification of our existing buildings but also the new buildings that we need for some of the new programs,” Drake said.
EWU President Faison highlighted his institution’s progress to add 16 new degree programs since the Jacksonville-based school transitioned from a college to a university. He also thanked legislators for their support increasing EWU’s recurring funding.
“My ask is for your continued advocacy and ensuring that the funding that you have provided to us stays at that level,” Faison told legislators. “I can assure you that we will continue to be good stewards over dollars that you have given us.”
Funding is needed not just for infrastructure for scholarship and salaries. FMU President Hardrick said more money is required if Florida’s four HBCUs will remain competitive in recruiting top students and professors.
“We are in a serious battle for talent, especially our faculty,” Hardrick said. “We can’t compete, especially with the money they are putting on the table.”
The annual conference convened to coincide with Florida Blue Florida Classic events in Orlando. The timing allows the state’s HBCU presidents to dicuss their legislative priorities with some of their staunchest supporters. The conference was held as legislators prepared to return to Tallahassee for organizational and committee meetings. The 2023 Legislative Session begins April 10.
FAMU has launched its inauguaral legislative internship program, which will place up to 10 interns at the State Capitol next year.