Savannah State, University, Gerogia, lawsuit, bias

Lawsuit Accusing The State Of Georgia Of Underfunding HBCUs Has Been Quietly Dropped 

Alumni of the HBCUs initiated the suit after claiming the board had a consistent pattern of redirecting resources.

A highly publicized lawsuit that accused the state of Georgia of underfunding the state’s public HBCUs (Historically Black Colleges and Universities) was quietly dismissed due to limited action. 

The plaintiffs agreed to dismiss the civil case after a federal judge in Atlanta ruled that “no action has taken place in this case since plaintiffs filed their complaint on October 24, 2023.”

The Georgia Board of Regents, overseer of the state’s three public HBCUs — Fort Valley State University, Albany State University, and Savannah State University — was listed on the complaint as a defendant, but claimed legal paperwork was never served. 

Alumni of the HBCUs initiated the suit after claiming the board had a consistent pattern of redirecting resources geared towards the HBCUs for academic program enhancements to predominantly white schools (PWIs). The suit highlighted how buildings on HBCU campuses were of diminishing quality compared to those of PWIs and how the institutions were more dependent on state funding compared to others. 

It was added that the absence of graduates from these HBCUs on the board was also concerning.  

According to Clutch Points, the U.S. Secretary of Education, Miguel Cardona, sent a letter to governors of states with land-grant HBCUs after the suit was filed in October 2023. Two are Fort Valley and the University of Georgia (UGA). In the letter, state leaders learned Fort Valley State would have received an additional $603 million in state funding over the past 30 years if it matched per-student funding to that of UGA.

“Unacceptable funding inequities have forced many of our nation’s distinguished Historically Black Colleges and Universities to operate with inadequate resources and delay critical investments in everything from campus infrastructure to research and development to student support services,” the letter read. 

“I am continually inspired by all that HBCUs have achieved despite having to punch above their weight. Our HBCUs graduate a huge share of our nation’s Black educators, doctors, engineers, judges, and lawyers. These institutions and the talented, diverse students they serve must have equitable funding in order to reach their full potential and continue driving innovation.”

In response, the University System of Georgia said work is being done to collect data on underfunding. 

Supporters of the lawsuit are vowing to continue to fight for significant funding for HBCUs despite the dismissal. The lawyer for the three alumni, John A. Moore, pushed for more research to be done.

“We always knew this case was going to take a lot of work and a long time to reach any conclusion, so we are remaining nimble in order to represent our clients zealously and to the best of our abilities,” Moore said. 

“This case is still No. 1 on our docket, and we are in weekly consultations on the matter.” 

A study done by the U.S. Department of Education and the Department of Agriculture compared funding for land-grant universities and found both Savannah State and Albany State are not classified as land-grant institutions. University System of Georgia Chancellor Dr. Sonny Perdue disputed the claims, describing it as “disappointingly reliant on an oversimplified ‘one size fits all’ analysis.”

He noted the University System prompted some funding cuts Fort Valley would have experienced over the past ten years due to a decrease in enrollment.