Bracy’s push leads to $33 million in state funding for HBCUs

By St. Clair Murraine
Outlook staff writer

Randolph Bracy Jr., couldn’t help having the conversation with his son when Bethune-Cookman University was enduring financial struggles that could have shut down the HBCU.

After all, the older Bracy has vested interest in the university. He is dean of BCU’s School of Religion. His son, Randolph Bracy III, is a Florida senator. 

The senator felt compelled to do something, taking the lead on a funding measure that came to fruition last week when Gov. Ron DeSantis signed the state’s $92.2 billion budget. It includes $33 million of funding for B-CU, Edward Waters College and Florida Memorial University.

Bracy Jr. couldn’t hold back his emotions while reacting to the funding during a telephone interview on Hallelujah 95.3 last week. 

“It was a great day being a graduate of Bethune-Cookman,” said Bracy whose ties to B-CU go back to being a student. “Whenever you come on the campus of Bethune-Cookman, you get the spirit of (founder) Mary McCleod Bethune. One of the things that she would share was her dream that we would make a difference in the lives of our children. Yesterday brought tears to my eyes to see the answered prayer of a dream.”

Bethune-Cookman will get the bulk of the funding with $17 million. That is up from $13 million last year. The governor also left intact $6.4 million for Edward Waters College, which is an increase of $3.5 million. Florida Memorial University will get $7 million, which is up from last year’s 3.5-million.

Senator Bracy shepherded the effort to get funding for the HBCUs during the last session. Bracy, who represents Orlando, held a press conference outside of City Hall just hours after DeSantis announced the funding on the campus of B-CU.

 “This funding commitment should convey to the community, parents, alumni, current and future students that we as a state government are committed to the success of Bethune-Cookman,” Bracy said.

Rev. RB Holmes, a member of Edward Waters College’s Board of Trustees, also reacted to the HBCU funding.

“Senator Bracy, the Florida legislature and Governor DeSantis saved Bethune-Cookman University in particular and strengthen Florida’s private HBCU’s in general,” said Holmes, who is also a former BOT member at Florida Memorial. “We appreciate and applaud Governor DeSantis for not slashing those dollars from the budget.

Bethune-Cookman University, which was facing financial hardship, received $17 million in Gov. Ron DeSantis’ budget.

“This was an historic and unprecedented moment. The over $33 million will provide the needed dollars to keep the doors of the great Bethune-Cookman University wide open for years to come. Furthermore, these additional dollars will enable both Edward Waters College and Florida Memorial University to extend and expand  their  respective academic and financial vision. Most significantly, these dollars are recurring. This is indeed “transformational.”

Just before B-CU hired its president LaBrent Chrite, who has been on the job one year, the university announced several measures to cut cost. Salary cuts and furloughs were part of the discussion.

“This commitment, particularly at this unique time in the state’s recent history, represents a powerful affirmation of the critical role this university assumes in developing Florida’s human capital,” Chrite said. “Our job now is to effectively and transparently steward these resources in order to improve and sustain the vitality, competitiveness, and impact of B-CU for another 116 years.”

DeSantis said he didn’t veto the funding from the budget because of the universities’  history and importance to the state.

“They said wait until next year, but you know it may not happen next year,” DeSantis said at his press conference. “I wanted to make sure we preserve this support for HBCUs.”

During the governor’s press conference, Republican state representative James Bush III from Miami recalled how his alma mater was started with five girls and not much money. He praised DeSantis for not vetoing the funding.

“Govern DeSantis has extended more gratitude to the dream, the vision and the legacy of founder Dr. Mary McCleod Bethune,” Bush said. “With the stroke of a pen you have afforded thousand of boys and girls an opportunity to enter this institution of higher learning to achieve the vision to learn and to serve humanity.”