DEI came to colleges with a bang. Now, these red states are on a mission to snuff it out.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has been on a high-profile crusade to remove diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives from the state’s colleges. Funding for DEI – and a collection of topics lumped together as critical race theory – “will wither on the vine,” DeSantis said earlier this year as he unveiled legislation that would cut such programs.

The Republican-controlled Legislature is expected to pass the bill as well as other proposals to restrict how race and identity are discussed and handled in educational settings. Observers worry such laws, if passed, could overturn or at least chill efforts at schools and colleges to foster a sense of belonging among all students and improve access for marginalized groups.

Florida is hardly the only state to face a DEI crackdown, however.

At least two dozen bills on the question have been introduced in 15 states this year, according to the Chronicle of Higher Education, all seeking to somehow undo DEI efforts at colleges. In some states, institutions are already rolling back their DEI programs in anticipation of a crackdown.

Here’s a look at some state efforts to remove DEI from public colleges.

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Iowa: New DEI programs on pause at state universities

A bill advancing through the Iowa House would effectively require state universities to disband their DEI programs. Specifically, the legislation would prohibit the the University of Iowa, Iowa State University and the University of Northern Iowa from spending any state or private money on DEI officers, providing an expansive definition for such work, including “any effort to promote or promulgate trainings, programming, or activities designed or implemented with reference to race, color, ethnicity, gender identity or sexual orientation.”

Mariana Gonzalez, a senior at Iowa State and first-generation college student, said the bill "shows a lack of empathy from the Iowa GOP."

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It "threatens the ability of someone like me to succeed at an institution like Iowa State," Gonzalez told USA TODAY, and "rips a system of support out from under" us.

The native Iowan said she wants to stay in the state after graduation but is now looking elsewhere because of its political direction. "If this legislation actually passes, I can’t even begin to imagine the detrimental impact it will have on our universities," Gonzalez said. "No one will want to come to spend thousands of dollars to study at unaccepting and intolerant colleges, much less stay in the state."

Separately, the president of Iowa’s Board of Regents announced last week that the body will conduct “a comprehensive study and review” of all DEI programs at the state's public universities. Schools, he advised, should hold off on implementing any new DEI programs until the review is complete.

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Missouri: Bill targets diversity statements

Despite significant opposition, a Missouri bill that would prohibit state universities from requiring diversity statements recently passed out of committee and now faces the House.

The legislation would ban public higher education institutions from stipulating that prospective employees submit statements in support of DEI.

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South Carolina: Lawmakers probe DEI at public colleges, universities

As part of broader budget negotiations last week, South Carolina representatives debated and ultimately shot down amendments that would have in part cut DEI funding at specific colleges.

Still, DEI at the state’s universities remains under scrutiny. As have their counterparts in other red states, South Carolina Republicans recently requested information from the state’s nearly three dozen public higher-education institutions regarding spending on programs and activities related to race or sexual orientation. According to one state representative, that spending totals nearly $8 million.

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Texas Gov. Greg Abbott speaks during a news conference on March 15, 2023 in Austin, Texas. Gov.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott speaks during a news conference on March 15, 2023 in Austin, Texas. Gov.

Texas: Anti-DEI provision added to budget bill

Gov. Greg Abbott issued a directive last month warning state universities that the use of DEI in hiring is illegal. In response, institutions including Texas A&M University and the University of Houston have since announced they will no longer use diversity statements when hiring. The University of Texas Board of Regents, meanwhile, has “paused any new DEI policies on our campuses” and is reviewing existing ones.

“The topic of DEI activities on college campuses has received tremendous attention nationally and here in Texas. To be clear, we welcome, celebrate, and strive for diversity on our campus with our student and faculty population," Board of Regents chairman Kevin Eltife said in a statement. "I also think it’s fair to say in recent times, certain DEI efforts have strayed from the original intent to now imposing requirements and actions that, rightfully so, raised the concerns of our policymakers."

Now, Texas lawmakers seek to take restrictions a step further with a provision that was recently added to the budget bill making its way through the House. The provision, approved by the appropriations committee, would ban colleges and universities from using state funds on DEI initiatives or similar programs.

More: Texas House panel sticks funding ban for college DEI programs in draft budget. Here's why.

Contact Alia Wong at (202) 507-2256 or Follow her on Twitter at @aliaemily.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Anti-DEI bills in these red states are targeting diversity in colleges