These HBCUs and the State of Maryland Have Been Locked in Court Battle for 13 Years

Advocates for four HBCUs have waged a court battle against the state of Maryland for the last 13 years. After the most recent court action, it looks as though the fight will continue.

According to The Baltimore Sun, HBCU advocacy group, the Coalition for Equity and Excellence in Maryland Higher Education, accused the state of “allowing well-funded academic programs at traditionally white universities to undermine similar ones at their schools,” writes Baltimore Sun reporter Talia Richman.

A more in-depth explanation of what is at the center of this fight is stated on the Lawyer’s Committee for Civil Rights Under Law’s website:

The suit seeks equality between the state’s HBCUs and its traditionally white schools to ensure that all students attending Maryland’s public colleges and universities receive a quality education. Specifically, plaintiffs want the state to stop allowing traditionally white schools to duplicate programs at the HBCUs, the development of unique programs at the HBCUs, and funds for needed capital improvements.

The HBCUs involved in the lawsuit are: Morgan State University and Coppin State University in Baltimore; Bowie State University; and the University of Maryland, Eastern Shore.

The problem in a nutshell, as explained by Education Dive, is that the plaintiffs claim that Maryland is allowing “traditionally white colleges to duplicate unique programs offered at its HBCUs, undercutting the latter’s ability to draw a diverse pool of students. As a result of this duplication, they argue, the HBCUs had only 11 unique programs in high-demand as of the lawsuit’s filing, compared to 122 at the state’s traditionally white institutions.”

The most recent court action was a court-appointed mediation which yielded no resolution. The case will go back to the 4th circuit court.

“We’re disappointed that this mediation failed,” Michael Jones, one of the lawyers for the HBCU advocates, told The Baltimore Sun. “The plaintiffs are hopeful this case can be resolved as soon as possible, since justice delayed is justice denied.”

HBCUs have been beleaguered by lack of funding and insufficient resources. Earlier this year, Bennett College lost its accreditation due to a lack of “sound financial resources” as per the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on College (SACSCOC). A court ruling has since–temporarily–restored the school’s accreditation.

Concordia College, an HBCU in Selma, Alabama, that educated black students for nearly a century, shut down last year.

Recently, senator and presidential candidate Kamala Harris, proposed a plan that would provide billions of dollars in funding for HBCUs, with a focus on programs for entrepreneurship, science, and technology. Harris is a graduate from HBCU Howard University.