A federal judge has approved a $577 million settlement in a longstanding lawsuit over Maryland’s treatment of its four historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs).
The lawsuit, which began in 2003, accused the state of underfunding HBCUs Bowie State University, Coppin State University, and Morgan State University in Baltimore as well as the University of Maryland, Eastern Shore. This is in addition to developing programs at traditionally white schools which acted in direct competition with these HBCUs, thereby diverting a high number of prospective students.
The settlement will provide $555 million in additional funding spread across 10 years, beginning in 2023, for the four HBCUs. The other $22 million will go to legal costs for the plaintiffs who litigated the claims for the past 15 years.
Justice for Underfunded HBCUs
In a discussion with NPR host Michel Martin, Danielle Douglas-Gabriel of The Washington Post explained why the settlement was necessary and its impact on underserved communities. Douglas-Gabriel pointed to Morgan State University’s difficulties in expanding its research capabilities without full support from the state as an example of the underfunding.
“This lawsuit comes out of kind of generations of alumni and administration at these schools pleading with the state to provide more resources and never really fully being successful at that,” she said.
Douglas-Gabriel added that HBCUs provide a cultural legacy that Black students and their families still want.
“The idea of having the comfort of not always having to explain yourself, the idea of having the comfort of professors who look like you, who really have your best interests at heart and who you feel comfortable with is valuable,” she explained.
The settlement funds, which were approved on Wednesday, will be used for a variety of improvements at these HBCUs. This includes expanding and improving existing academic programs, developing and implementing new programs, supporting scholarships and financial aid, and helping faculty recruitment and development.