Maryland General Assembly approves $580M funding for state’s black colleges and universities

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COLLEGE PARK, MD - MAY 17: Graduates cheer as First lady Michelle Obama delivers the commencement speech during the Bowie State University graduation ceremony at the Comcast Center on the campus of the University of Maryland May 17, 2013 in College Park, Maryland. Obama received and Honorary Doctor of Laws degree before addressing the 600 graduates of Maryland's oldest historically black university and one of the ten oldest in the country. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

On March 15th, the Senate house in Maryland passed a unanimous bill to provide $580 million to the state’s four historically Black colleges and universities. 

The four institutions namely, Bowie State University, Coppin State University, the University of Maryland Eastern Shore, and Morgan State University will receive additional funding for the next 10 years. The state’s House of Delegates already passed

The General Assembly, the objective of ending years of a long lawsuit which has accused the Maryland government of inequitable funding and harmed the viability of the state’s HBCUs, will now head to Republican, Gov. Larry Hogan ’s desk for signing. 

The state’s House of Delegates already passed the measure 129-2. The said measure’s overwhelming support in the General Assembly means a Hogan veto easily could be overridden.

Speaking with the press, Democratic Sen. Obie Patterson who applauded the measure as a “great, great compromise bill,” said “certainly, there will be some who say we did not go far enough or we did not get as much as we could.”

He further said he had spoken with leadership at the four HBCUs, “they guaranteed me that they were satisfied with the progress we made.”

The generated funds are expected to support a number of projects, including the expansion of scholarships and the creation of new academic programs at the colleges. The money would also help in faculty recruitment, as well as marketing efforts.

The bill which was introduced by the state’s first Black House speaker, Adrienne A. Jones, serve as a means of settling a 13-year-old suit brought by the  Coalition for Equity and Excellence in Maryland Higher Education in 2006. According to reports, the HBCU advocacy group alleged the state of “allowing well-funded academic programs at traditionally white universities to sabotage similar ones” at the state’s HBCUs.

A report from the Lawyer’s Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, representing the Coalition, reads thus: “The suit seeks equality between the state’s HBCUs and its traditionally white schools,” adding, “specifically, plaintiffs want the state to stop allowing traditionally white schools to duplicate programs at the HBCUs, the development of unique programs at the HBCUs, and funds for needed capital improvements.”

The House Speaker addressed the case in a statement on Monday, breathing a sigh of relief that the long-running battle had finally come to an end. 

“The HBCU case has been an ongoing issue and underscored the marked inequity that exists in our higher education system,” Jones said. “We have taken the necessary action to eliminate the vestiges of program duplication and level the playing field for all students.”

The plaintiffs in the case had filed a complaint that traditionally white colleges in the state were imitating academic programs offered by the Maryland HBCUs, making it difficult for those schools to attract non-Black students.

President of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, Kristen Clarke applauded Sunday’s vote as dubbed “historic.”

“We laud lawmakers for putting in place bipartisan legislation that can bring overdue relief for HBCUs in Maryland,” she concluded.

Africh Royale

Africh Royale

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