A 15-year struggle between Maryland and a group of advocates for historically Black colleges and universities is nearing an end with the signing of legislation to send $577 million in additional funding to the state’s four HBCUs over 10 years.
Maryland’s governor, Larry Hogan, signed legislation Wednesday to spend the additional money. Hogan vetoed similar legislation last year, pointing to an unclear fiscal outlook in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic. But state lawmakers took up the bill again and passed it by a veto-proof margin this year.
Hogan’s signature will likely bring to a close a 2006 lawsuit brought by students and alumni from Maryland’s four HBCUs -- Morgan State University, Coppin State University, Bowie State University and the University of Maryland Eastern Shore. The lawsuit alleged the state unnecessarily duplicated HBCUs’ programs with similar programs at predominantly white institutions.
In 2013, a federal judge ruled in favor of the HBCU advocates, finding that program duplication had essentially drawn prospective students and resources away from the HBCUs, segregating higher education. But the sides struggled to agree to a fix through appeals and mediation.
In 2018, Hogan offered $100 million to close the case, The Baltimore Sun reported. In 2019, he called $200 million the state’s final offer. But the coalition of HBCU advocates held their ground, seeking $577 million.
The money will be disbursed provided the parties officially settle the case by early June. It will go toward academic programs.
“Several years after courts ruled that the state of Maryland must fully commit to pull apart funding policies that directly targeted and disadvantaged HBCUs, we are pleased with this significant step forward today,” said David Burton, a Morgan State University alumnus and member of the group bringing the court case, the Coalition of Equity and Excellence in Maryland Higher Education. “Today should be celebrated as a new beginning for Maryland HBCUs and higher education statewide. Our coalition looks forward to seeing this through to the end.”