Courts Support Maryland HBCUs In Educational Disparities

Patience and persistence pays off. It’s been 10 years and counting, but alumni from four Maryland Historically Black Colleges and Universities finally see progress.

According to the Washington Post, former students of Morgan State University, Coppin State University, University of Maryland Eastern Shore and Bowie State University have been entangled in court with the state to dismantle what they say is racial segregation.

At issue, according to group, is the state’s underfunding of the schools’ programs and that it allowed other institutions to duplicate the HBCU’s signature programs. The alumni contend that these two things have worked to undermine enrollment, which has significantly decreased.

For many years the group has been asking for what they see as a solution – increased state funding for their school and for the merger of the University of Baltimore with Morgan State, the state’s largest public historically black school to achieve parity.

According to the Washington Post, U.S. District Judge Catherine Blake ruled that neither of those plans were going to happen, saying that neither idea is “practical, educationally sound, and sufficient to address segregative harms of program duplication.”

However, she didn’t leave them hanging in the wind. Judge Black issued an injunction against the state, barring it from “maintaining vestiges of the prior…system of segregation in the form of unnecessary program duplication in the public higher education system.”

The bottom line – Maryland must appoint an independent monitor who will create the programs, building on each school’s strengths. The monitor will be able to provide annual funding for marketing, student recruitment, financial aid and any related initiative over the next 5-10 years, according to the order.

It goes further, any program proposed by a Maryland university must be reviewed by the monitor to ensure it will not harm the historically black schools. According to the Washington Post, Blake has asked the coalition and the Maryland Higher Education Commission, the defendant in the case, to provide a list of public higher education experts who could lead the initiative. She will select someone from that pool to oversee the plan in the coming months.

Kristen Clarke, the president and executive director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, a party to the case, told theWashington Post, “The remedial order issued by the court is truly historic and places Maryland on a long overdue path to achieving racial desegregation and more equitable outcomes for students. Our historically black colleges and universities play a critical role in the educational landscape of our country, and with proper support and funding from the state, they can attract racially diverse pools of students.”

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