Florida fought the affirmative action fight years ago, and the data is in

by | Jul 2, 2023

The United States Supreme Court’s affirmative action ruling sparked a raft of shrieking rhetoric from the usual Florida suspects last week, but those voices are 24 years too late, and as it turns out, they don’t have much to shriek about.  In 1999, during then-Governor Jeb Bush’s first months in office, Florida embarked on the same journey away from race-based admissions quotas upon which the entire nation is now about to embark.

A quick survey of Florida’s most respected colleges and universities, seeking answers on how the court ruling might impact their admissions practices, yielded an almost universally identical answer: it won’t.

That’s because, as State University System Chancellor Raymond Rodrigues pointed out immediately after the ruling, Florida “has not utilized affirmative action in our higher education system since the One Florida Initiative in 1999. The State University System of Florida provides students equality of opportunity through color-blind admissions.  In addition to being the number one state in the nation for higher education, as ranked by U.S. News and World Report since 2017, Florida also has one of the most diverse Systems in the country.  Florida is proof that diversity can be achieved without affirmative action.”

And data collected over the past 20 years backs that up.

Jeb Bush’s One Florida Initiative aimed to maintain diversity by guaranteeing admission to at least one state public university for the top 20 percent of high school graduates, irrespective of their race. The admissions statistics collected over the first decade reveals there was no significant change in overall diversity, but there has been a change in Florida’s college and university standings, as U.S. News and World Report has concluded for the last six years running – a change for the better.

Sadly, our state’s hopelessly compromised legacy media outlets sifted the data points and then leapt before they looked, hyping the fact that in 1999, when the policy was implemented, 23% of Florida’s high school seniors were black, while black students made up 18% of undergraduate university freshmen. They then compared those figures to 2007, when 22% of high school seniors were black, while the share of black freshmen that fall had dropped to 15%.

But upon closer inspection, this decline was primarily driven by falling enrollment at Florida A&M University, the state’s historically black public university. At most other public universities, the share of black students actually increased. Notably, the share of black freshmen at the University of Florida, with the state’s most rigorous admission standards, nevertheless rose from 11 percent to 14 percent between 1999 and 2007.

Here’s what UF had to say about the ruling yesterday.

“The University of Florida adheres to non-discrimination practices in admissions, and we do not consider race as a factor in our admissions decisions,” said Cynthia Roldán, Director of Strategic Communications for the school. “We are guided by a comprehensive, holistic review process that evaluates the academic and nonacademic criteria of applicants, in addition to requirements under federal and state laws as well as the Florida Board of Governors’ regulations.”

Indeed, our state’s most elite academic school has somehow found a way to avoid a discrimination apocalypse through a race-blind admissions process.

It’s true that a handful of other Florida schools, including Florida State University, experienced a very slight drop in black enrollment over those first 10 years. But so what? There’s always fluctuations in such things – and the overall outcome across the state positively nukes the notion that there’s any sort of systemic exclusion of racial groups from university admissions, period. Full stop.

Former Bush staffers have also pointed out that more students of all races enrolled in college following the One Florida Initiative, with significant gains among Hispanic students as the state’s demographics evolved. And that’s exactly what should happen. The state’s system shouldn’t give preference to the nebulous idea that one racial group should be preferred over another – it should be broadly reflective of the population as a whole, while giving a hand up to disadvantaged students regardless of their skin color and the patently absurd stereotypes that admissions offices must necessarily adopt under affirmative action.

It’s true that landmark court cases always bring challenges when it comes to implementation. There will be some hurdles for many students whose academic performance might put them at a disadvantage against higher achieving students. But Florida seems to have figured out a way to overcome those challenges so that young men and women who have faced significant challenges can still access opportunities for higher learning. And we’ve done it quite successfully for more than two decades, despite similar doomsday rhetoric voiced back then, too…


  1. Nancy Epps

    Thank you for pointing out the obvious, that student population’s demographics should adjust as the state’s population changes, which it has in the absence of affirmative action in Florida. Thank you, Jeb.

  2. Kevin James Miller

    While Black people make up 14 percent of Florida’s population, they make up 48 percent of the state’s prison population. The gap widens
    In the spring of 2021, 1 in 5 seniors from Florida public high schools were Black. That fall, they made up just 1 in 10 freshmen at one of Florida’s 12 public universities. From 2010 to 2021, the share of freshmen at the University of Florida who are Black fell by half, from 9% to under 5%.

  3. It’s Complicated

    JEB was definitely Florida’s ‘Education Governor,’ setting into motion fundamental directional changes intended to affect ‘long game’ improvements to public education.

  4. Odin Blackburn

    Easily 500USD from this without having online working skills . Simply give it a shot on the accompanying site… Here is I started.…… http://www.aprichs.blogspot.com

  5. MH/Duuuval

    Jeb was the first GOP disrupter of Florida public education, an initiative carried on by his successors. Ron has gone furtherest, throwing out Jeb’s alterations. The outcome, chaos and an erosion of confidence in public education, is twinned with handing out taxpayers money to every tom dick and harry opening a “school”. Not that this is a problem when you imagine that you can also create your own accrediting agency and either set your own standards, or ignore standards altogether in the name of the First Amendment.

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