Historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs) have been underfunded by their states for decades as billions of dollars have been withheld. Now HBCU leaders are fighting to get the money they’re owed.
College presidents and lawmakers in states including Maryland and Tennessee have spent months digging into past state budgets to determine how much money states have kept from HBCUs and how to put that money to the best use on campus.
According to CBS News, more than $1 billion is at stake for up to 50 HBCUs that have found a way to educate Black men and women with limited resources.
Lawmakers in Maryland have approved a measure paying $577 million to Coppin State University, Maryland Eastern Shore, Bowie State University, and Morgan State University. The payments will be made over a decade, beginning in 2022.
The settlement stems from a 15-year legal battle between the state and its HBCUs, which alleged the state underfunded the state’s four HBCUs while developing programs at traditionally white universities that directly compete with and take prospective students from HBCUs.
An investigation by state budget officials in Tennessee determined Tennessee State University, a public HBCU, has been underfunded by $544 million since 1950. Harold Love, who helped lead the effort to determine how much the state owed TSU, told CBS it’s about more than the money.,
“That $544 million figure represents not just how much money Tennessee State did not receive from the state — it also represents how much money Tennessee State had to take out of its own reserves to fulfill the [federal] match requirements,” Love told CBS.
According to a study conducted by the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities discovered between 2010 and 2012, more than half of the nation’s HBCUs did not receive their full funding.
HBCU athletics have been affected as well.
According to the Houston Chronicle, while many non-HBCU schools enjoy pristine athletic facilities and stadiums, HBCU athletics are forced to make due.
TSU’s baseball team does not have its own stadium; instead, they practice and play in a city park. The football team has to play its games off-campus at BBVA stadium, a field largely used for soccer and track and field that has been deemed unsafe for football due to its track and field elements.
Additionally, the school’s 18 collegiate athletic teams all share one weight room, which requires the staff to keep an airtight schedule to make sure every athlete gets a workout.
The efforts in Maryland and Tennessee have led to similar efforts in several Southern states, including Alabama, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Virginia.