FSU Donors Join Matching Fund Class Action Suit

Jul 25, 2017

Former Florida State University football player Tommy Warren and wife Kathleen Villacorta , both FSU law school grads, are joining  a class-action lawsuit over the state’s failure to match more than $600 million in private donations.

Tallahassee civil rights attorneys Tommy Warren and Kathleen Villacorta are joining a class-action lawsuit over the state's failure to match more than $600 million in private donations to colleges and universities.
Credit FSU College of Law

When the couple wanted to honor FSU’s first black football player, they donated $100,000 and established the Calvin Patterson Civil Rights Endowed Scholarship in 2003. The state matched it with $50,000.

But the state didn’t match another $100,000 donation the couple made to the scholarship in 2011, or another $100,000 they donated in 2015 to create the Coastal and Marine Conservation Research Student Endowment.

And that violates state laws requiring matching funds, says the couple’s Miami attorney, Grace Mead.

“They want the full benefit that they expected for the students that they gave the money to benefit. And they expected the match.”

Lawmakers suspended matching programs when the recession hit. But Mead says the state was obliged to restart them when budget surpluses returned in 2012.

“Not only was funding cut dramatically, but they hiked tuition the maximum allowable, which was 15 percent a year. So we come out of the Great Recession and they start to see billions of dollars in revenue surpluses and they still don’t fund the match.”

The suit is a companion to one filed earlier this month by two University of Florida students who say the lack of matching funds hurt their education.