Six students given $40,000 on the spot

FAMU's president awards scholarships and reassures supporters of the troubled school.

By DONG-PHUONG NGUYEN, Times Staff Writer
Published September 23, 2007

TAMPA - Embarking on his most ambitious recruiting effort to date, Florida A&M University president James Ammons awarded on-the-spot scholarships to six incoming students Saturday night, giving them educational packages worth about $40,000 each.

Ammons made the announcement during a banquet at the DoubleTree Hotel, making it the second year the school has reached out to potential students in Hillsborough, Pinellas and Pasco counties. Ammons also used the opportunity to reassure supporters that the school is repairing its image, which has been tainted recently by a string of controversies.

"We are fixing the problems at FAMU," he said. "We have identified the root of all the problems and have put in place policies and procedures to ensure the financial stability of FAMU."

Among the issues were students not getting their financial aid on time and staff members not receiving paychecks on schedule. The school is also under probation. Despite the problems, the school has never lost its focus, which is the academic success of its students, he said.

Freshman enrollment is up 18 percent, he said. About 650 of the school's students are from Hillsborough and Pinellas counties, but the school wants to double that number, he said. In addition to recruiting top students, they are bringing in high-profile professors to carry out their goal of "developing scholars for global leadership."

During Saturday night's celebration, school officials reviewed students' applications and selected six recipients for the scholarships. "We are going to be accountable to our students, our parents, our alumni, the people of this state ..." Ammons said. "I am very optimistic about the future of Florida A&M."

Dong-Phuong Nguyen can be reached at 813 269-5312 or nguyen@sptimes.com.