4 Maryland HBCUs Awarded $577 Million Settlement in State Discrimination Case

Following a 15-year court battle, the state of Maryland has reached a settlement in a case alleging that it had discriminated against four historically Black universities and colleges, segregating and making it harder for them to compete with other nearby predominately white schools. 

Bryn Stole of the Baltimore Sun has reported that Bowie State University, Coppin State University and Morgan State University in Baltimore, and the University of Maryland, Eastern Shore will now receive a $577 million settlement allotted as extra state funding to the institutions over the next 10 years.

According to Stole, “the lawsuit, filed by alumni and supporters of the schools, argued the state systematically undermined the institutions even after the end of legal segregation” and made it difficult for the schools “to compete with the state’s other public universities for students and resources.”

Stole reported that although the trial began in 2006, U.S. District Judge Catherine C. Blake “ruled [in 2013] that Maryland had harmed the HBCUs by allowing nearby historically white universities to add similar degree programs.” And now, after numerous delays in the trial, Blake has ruled that the proposed settlement “adequately addresses” failings she identified at the conclusion of the original case.

“The Maryland General Assembly set the stage earlier this year to end the 15-year-old lawsuit by overwhelmingly passing legislation to force the state to settle and fund the deal,” Stole reported, adding that Gov. Larry Hogan signed the legislation this spring, forcing movement on the settlement. The Republican governor had previously vetoed a similar bill in 2020, but in 2019, he claimed a proposed $200 million settlement in the case was his “final offer.”

With the settlement now in place, the state will begin providing the schools with extra funding starting in 2023 and lasting for the next decade. 

“The extra money will go toward creating new academic programs and enhancing existing ones, bolstering online offerings, boosting financial aid, marketing the schools and recruiting and training faculty,” Stole said.

In a statement, David Burton, who graduated from Morgan State University in 1967 and who was the lead plaintiff in the lawsuit, called the end of the case “a significant step forward in the fight for equity and parity in Maryland higher education” and “will go a long way in helping these universities overcome decades of neglect and increase their competitiveness among other public colleges and universities.”

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