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Florida's first historically Black college to become a university

Anna Savo-Matthews
Walton Sun

Edward Waters College, the first historically Black college in Florida, is on its way to becoming a university.

President A. Zachary Faison Jr., who declined interview requests, recently announced at a news conference with Gov. Ron DeSantis that the college has received much more in state funding than expected.

The 2020-2021 state legislative budget allocated an additional $3.5 million to Edward Waters for a $6.4 million total. “This is truly transformative,” Faison said at the time.

The college has announced it intends to expand its program offerings and ultimately become a university with the creation of its first graduate-level program, a master’s degree in business administration.

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Faison said the money would be used as additional support for students who may be struggling financially.

“Many students who come to EWC do not drop out, they stop out, due to financial hardships and difficulties. This additional support will help lessen that unfortunate trend,” he said during the news briefing.

EWC was originally founded in 1866 by the African Methodist Episcopal Church as an institute to educate recently freed slaves and their children.

Over time, it expanded from a high school to a college, first awarding bachelor’s degrees in 1979. Now with the inclusion of a graduate-level program, Edward Waters can become a university.

In an interview with WJXT TV-4, Faison said the college will be able to expand its curriculum not just with a graduate program, but undergraduate programs in computer and information science, forensic science and social work as well.

The governor announced the budget at Bethune-Cookman University, another historically Black university in Daytona Beach that received an additional $13 million for a total of $17 million in operating funds.

The state budget allocated about $123 million overall for historically Black colleges and universities, a $19 million increase in funding over last year. The majority went to Tallahassee’s Florida A&M University at $92.8 million, an increase of $1.3 million. The remaining $7 million went to Florida Memorial University in Miami Gardens, which saw an increase of $3.5 million.

“HBCUs play an important role in Florida’s educational fabric and continue to be trailblazers for innovation, talent, and leadership,” DeSantis said of historically Black colleges and universities. “This funding will provide students additional opportunities and will continue to transform higher education in Florida, especially for Black students across the state to meet the demands of the 21st century.”

Faison agreed, noting the funding comes in the middle of troubling times.

“This is a commitment you don’t usually see for private historically black colleges,” Sen. Randolph Bracy, a Jacksonville native, told WKMG-TV in Orlando.

Anna Savo-Matthews: (904) 359-4097

This story originally published to jacksonville.com, and was shared to other Florida newspapers in the USA TODAY Network - Florida.