Florida A&M University Was Once a Mecca for the Nation’s Highest-Achieving Black Students: Those Days Are Gone

In 1996, Florida A&M enrolled 73 National Achievement Scholars, more than any other college or university in the nation. The success of the university in attracting so many of the nation’s top black students resulted in Time magazine selecting Florida A&M University as its 1997 “College of the Year.”

But over the past decade, numerous financial irregularities, turmoil in administrative ranks, and a drop in enrollment have tarnished the university’s reputation. In the fall of 2006 only one of the 800 National Achievement Scholars enrolled at Florida A&M.

The generous merit-based financial aid awards once used by then FAMU president Frederick Humphries to attract the best black students are no longer available. A decade of financial problems and scandals, many of them involving the financial aid office, have rocked the campus. Some state legislators in Florida have even hinted that they might consider closing the university if it does not quickly take steps to right the financial ship.

James H. Ammons, former chancellor of North Carolina Central University and an alumnus of Florida A&M, recently was named president of the university. He has a monumental task of restoring the financial footing and the academic reputation of what was once the mecca for the nation’s best and brightest black students.