Maryland lawmakers approved a measure paying $577 million over 10 years to settle a federal lawsuit alleging discrimination and underfunding of the state’s Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs).
The House approved the settlement with state HBCUs by a 120-14 vote to send the measure to Gov. Larry Hogan. The Senate approved the settlement by a 47-0 vote earlier in the day. Under the settlement, the payments would not begin until 2023 in order for the state to account for the fiscal challenges of the pandemic.
“The Maryland state legislature today took a significant step toward addressing historic inequities in Maryland higher education,” Morgan State University President David Wilson told the Minnesota Star Tribune.
The lawsuit, which was filed in 2006, 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.
In 2013, a federal judge determined the state maintained a dual and segregated education system, which violates the constitution. Six years later the Fourth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ordered a fourth mediation attempt.
Gov. Hogan has also attempted to settle with state HBCUs. In 2018 he proposed a $100 million settlement to be distributed over a 10-year period. The plaintiffs rejected the offer and offered to settle the case for $577 million. Hogan counteroffered with a $200 million settlement, which was also rejected.
According to CBS Baltimore, the money would be used for scholarships and financial aid support services. The money may also be used to expand and improve existing academic programs including online and new academic programs.
In addition to the funds, the settlement will also create a new academic program evaluation unit that would be formed in the state’s Higher Education Commission.
HBCUs were in the spotlight last year amid the Black Lives Matter movement. MacKenzie Scott, the ex-wife of Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, gave $160 million to various HBCUs including Hampton University, Tuskegee University, Howard University, Spelman College, and Morehouse College.