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Despite His Claims to the Contrary, Bush’s Executive Order Banning Affirmative Action Led to Decreased African American Enrollment

CAP Action analysis finds that Bush’s executive order banning affirmative action led to decreased enrollment of African American students.

Washington, D.C. — On the campaign trail, one of former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush’s (R) biggest selling points is that he can appeal to groups outside of the traditional Republican coalition, such as African Americans. He bemoans the lack of opportunity for Americans to rise up into the middle class. Nonetheless, according to a new analysis, "Opportunity for Some," released today by the Center for American Progress Action Fund, then-Gov. Bush erected new barriers for many African Americans hoping to attend a four-year state university by signing an executive order banning affirmative action in Florida.

While Gov. Bush claims his executive order banning affirmative action led to an increase in the number of African American students in Florida’s state university system, African American enrollment in selective, four-year public universities in Florida actually dropped 10.9 percent from 2000 to 2013. At the same time, African American enrollment increased 3.5 percent nationally. Moreover, during that same period of time, the African American share of Florida’s population grew by 7 percent. If black enrollment fell at the same rate nationwide as it did in Florida, it would have resulted in a 13.9 percent drop in the number of black students enrolled in four-year public universities—a total of 85,726 fewer African American college students across the country.

"Similar to many issues Republicans are talking about today, the gap between Jeb Bush’s rhetoric of inclusion and the reality of the impact of the policies he has enacted is massive," said Arkadi Gerney, Senior Vice President of Campaigns and Strategies at the Center for American Progress Action Fund. "From Stand Your Ground to purging voters and cutting off access to education, Bush’s record shows a disparate impact on communities of color."

Attending college is an essential step in upward mobility and expanding opportunity. African Americans receive one of the largest rates of return in employment and earnings benefits for earning a college degree. For example, black men who earn a bachelor’s degree see a median wage increase of 28 percent—or $10,000 annually—compared to those with an associate’s degree. A bachelor’s degree is far more beneficial for a black male than a white male, as a bachelor’s degree only results in an increased median wage of 13 percent—or $6,100 a year—for a white male.

Affirmative action does not just benefit African Americans. For example, diversity in the classroom is linked to higher levels of academic achievement and the improvement of intergroup relationships for all students. Employers also agree that a diverse workforce leads to innovation and creativity. When considering these facts, it is unsurprising that the American people support affirmative action in college admissions. According to a 2014 Pew Research Center poll, 63 percent of Americans support affirmative action on college campuses, including 84 percent of African American respondents, 80 percent of Hispanic respondents, and 55 percent of white respondents.

Read the full analysis: Opportunity for Some by Kristen Ellingboe and Anna Chu



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