While clear evidence of a "brain drain" is hard to come by, many in Florida's academic community contend the state's new laws are pushing talented faculty to other states. [ Photo illustration by LISA MERKLIN | Times; Shutterstock ]

Our Tampa Bay reporters take you inside the hiring challenges at Florida universities after a tumultuous year. And, a guide on the return of Pell to prisons.

The Dispatch
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A newsletter about role of higher education in society — plus Open Campus developments.

Florida’s governor Ron DeSantis has reshaped the state’s higher education system over the last year, weakening tenure and prohibiting DEI spending at public universities. (Here’s a full recap of the changes.)

Divya Kumar and Ian Hodgson, our reporters at The Tampa Bay Times, dug into whether those laws — and the state’s political climate overall — are making it harder for universities to hire and retain faculty. A few examples they found:

  • At the University of Central Florida, 103 faculty didn’t return for the 2022-23 academic year, the highest number in the last five years.
  • Florida State University lost 136 faculty to resignation in 2022, also a five-year high.
  • The African American studies department at the University of Florida made nine offers while trying to fill three positions. None accepted.

Plus, changes that affect life off-campus are playing a role too. Last year, the state’s medical boards voted to prohibit the use of puberty blockers, hormone, therapies, or surgeries to treat gender dysphoria for minors.

That was one factor that led Hope “Bess” Wilson to leave the University of North Florida for Northern Illinois University. Her 14-year-old daughter is trans and considering whether to proceed with gender-affirming care.

Candidates are turning down jobs in Florida State University’s music department because of “the perceived anti-higher education atmosphere,” Matthew Lata, a music professor at Florida State University, told board members.

“More and more often we are hearing ‘Florida? Not Florida,” he said. “Not now. Not yet.’”

SCOTUS coverage for local readers

The Supreme Court’s rulings against race-conscious admissions was huge national news last month. Instead of focusing solely on what will happen next at Harvard and the University of North Carolina, our reporters zoomed in on the local stakes.

Their stories explain what the rulings mean in ChicagoClevelandColoradoIndianaPittsburghMississippi, and Texas. And in Florida, where race-conscious admissions has been banned for years, Ian wrote about how the gap has grown between Black and Hispanic students and their white counterparts.

Amy Morona, our reporter at Signal Cleveland, summed up the power of our coverage:

Accreditation warning in Texas

A sign welcomes UTEP students back to campus. (Corrie Boudreaux/El Paso Matters)

The University of Texas at El Paso has been put on notice by its accreditor, a notable step for a large public university. UTEP has until December to remedy problems including failing to show it has enough faculty to oversee its academic programs.

It’s the second time in five years that UTEP has been put on warning status. If a college loses its accreditation, its students are no longer eligible for federal financial aid.

Elsewhere on Open Campus

From College Inside: Incarcerated students have once again become eligible for federal Pell grants. Charlotte West, our reporter covering prisons, put together an FAQ to help you understand the implications of this momentous shift.

From Chicago: Amid declining enrollment for Black students in Illinois, Chicago State University President Zaldwaynaka “Z” Scott is trying to reverse the trend.

From Mississippi: Presidential turnover is roiling Mississippi’s colleges and universities. Molly Minta digs into the implications.

“Future presidents should know it’s not forever,” William LaForge, the former Delta State University president said. “And you should know it’s not on your terms.”

From Work Shift: What the Supreme Court rulings mean for corporate America.

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