Maryland HBCUs Offered $100M to Create ‘Unique’ Programs to Compete with PWIs

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Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan says he’s open to paying as much as $100 million to settle a decade-long legal case brought by a coalition of historically Black colleges in the state.

Hogan’s administration announced Wednesday that the governor is considering using the funds to supplement the state’s support for HBCUs over a span of 10 years, the Baltimore Sun reported.

“It represents a serious, multi-year commitment which we believe goes well beyond what the law requires,” legal counsel Robert Scholz wrote in a letter to legislative Black caucus chair Del. Cheryl D. Glenn this week.

In 2006, a coalition of four HBCUs — Bowie State, Coppin State, Morgan State and the University of Maryland Eastern Shore — filed suit against the state accusing it of running a segregated university system. Critics argued that well-funded academic programs at predominately white institutions underscored similar programs at HBCUs, denying the latter a fair shot at attracting a diverse student body.

Attorneys for the four HBCUs argued the state should foot the bill in helping the schools develop new and advanced academic programs, according to the newspaper. The state tried to go another route, however, offering $50 million to support marketing and scholarships aimed at boosting diversity at historically Black schools.

Judge Catherine C. Blake, who in 2013 ruled the state’s actions perpetuated segregation, didn’t like either group’s proposals. So, she appointed a “special master” to help the groups devise a plan focused on creating unique, high demand programs at the historic institutions.

The state just took a major step in making that a reality.

“It’s a very legitimate offer,” Glenn said, calling it a “tremendous victory” for the state’s HBCUs. “It gets us to the table. I hesitate to say with any finality whether this is the end of it or not. The devil is in the details and this settlement really needs to be spelled out in detail.”

In his letter to Glenn, Scholz noted that the governor’s offer would come in addition to  money already allotted to HBCUs by the state. It’s also more than double what Maryland proposed in the remedial trial, he said.

“Ultimately, I am writing to let you know that Governor Hogan wants to bring this litigation to an end in a manner satisfactory to all parties,” Scholz said.

While the $100 million proposal is a step in the right direction, HBCU advocates say it doesn’t necessarily signal then end of the process.

“What the state seems to have done is just pick a number — $100 million — and then say, from this, we can come up with the programs,” Michael Jones, a lawyer for the HBCUs, told the Baltimore Sun. “It could be a useful first step, but if they see this as the end of the process, the appeals will continue.”

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