Jeb Bush wants you to think he opened the doors to higher education for students of color. Hillary Clinton wants you to think he shut them in their faces.
When Bush took the stage last Friday at the annual National Urban League meeting, he said, “We found that with fewer obstacles imposed by government, more people had the opportunity to achieve earned success ... We expanded our community-college system and made it more affordable for low-income families. Florida in those years helped thousands more first-generation college students make it all the way to graduation.”
He extolled his history of raising the Advanced Placement exam results and performance by students of color. The former Florida governor didn’t address Clinton’s comments directly, but the implication was clear: Bush has made it easier to go to college.
Rhetoric and politicking aside, what actually happened—particularly when it comes to students of color—while Bush was in office?
It’s a compelling question, considering that Bush became the first governor in 1999 to end the use of race and ethnicity in admissions decisions at Florida’s public universities through executive order. Black enrollment fell nearly 11 percent at Florida universities between 2000 and 2013, while black enrollment rose nationally by more than 3 percent.