Jones testifies that $577M is needed to remedy HBCU imbalance

Tim Curtis//February 25, 2020

Jones testifies that $577M is needed to remedy HBCU imbalance

By Tim Curtis

//February 25, 2020

House Speaker Adrienne Jones presents her HBCU funding bill to the House Appropriations Committee. (The Daily Record / Tim Curtis)
House Speaker Adrienne Jones, center, presents her HBCU funding bill to the House Appropriations Committee on Wednesday, Feb. 25, 2020. (The Daily Record / Tim Curtis)

ANNAPOLIS — Maryland House Speaker Adrienne Jones, testifying Tuesday in support of her legislation that would provide $577 million to the state’s four historically black colleges and universities, said long-running litigation over equitable funding for the institutions has gone on long enough.

“I agree that it is rare for the legislature to step into ongoing litigation, however we have now been litigating and mediating for years at the same time that we have lost time for tens of thousands of students waiting for the legal process to resolve itself,” Jones told the House Appropriations Committee in a room packed with HBCU students, alumni and supporters. “We need to act now to level the playing field for all students regardless of background or race or the school that they attend for the betterment of every student.”

The legislation would settle a suit brought in 2006 by the Coalition for Equity and Excellence in Higher Education, representing alumni of Maryland’s HBCUs.

Jones’ bill would offer the historically black colleges $577 million over 10 years in addition to their typical appropriation. The money would be split proportionally based on enrollment among the state’s four HBCUs: Bowie State University, Coppin State University, Morgan State University and the University of Maryland, Eastern Shore (UMES). The funding would start in 2022 and end in 2031.

The presidents of all four institutions testified in favor of the legislation Tuesday, saying they could significantly advance their universities with the funding, either by creating new programs or by using the money to help with scholarships and to enhance current offerings.

Jones’ legislation would pay attorneys’ fees – attorneys in the ongoing litigation have been working on a contingency basis – with the money coming out of the first year of additional funding. The fees would be between $14 million and $25 million.

The Maryland attorney general would be instructed to settle the lawsuit, but if a settlement is not reached by Dec. 1 the funding would not go to the colleges.

“The legislature has an important role to play in bringing to fruition the things that have been called for in a variety of state commissions (on the issue),” said Michael D. Jones, the coalition’s lead counsel. “I applaud the legislature’s leadership and suggest to you that you are on the verge of making history.”

The funding for the HBCUs would go toward scholarships and financial aid support services, faculty recruitment and development, the expansion of existing academic programs, the development of new academic programs, academic support and marketing.

Developing new programs is a key part of the agreement. The judge overseeing the lawsuit found that unnecessary program duplication had created a system of de jure segregation in Maryland’s universities.

The HBCUs have said that developing new programs has been difficult because they lack the infrastructure to build the programs and recruit the faculty necessary to run them. Under the bill, schools could hire consultants to help develop new programs. The University of Maryland, Global Campus would be required to help the universities develop online programs.

“I will be able to make much-needed enhancements in our academic programs,” Heidi Anderson, president of UMES, told lawmakers Tuesday. Anderson said the funding would help create a veterinary science program at her university.

The legislation also requires that the Maryland Higher Education Commission create two program evaluation units to review and evaluate proposals for new programs and for substantial changes to existing programs. Each unit would have five new staff members.


The legislation would settle legislation that dates back to 2006. Negotiations and settlement attempts have proven futile. Gov. Larry Hogan’s most recent offer came in at $200 million over 10 years.

In a letter last year to Jones, Hogan said he stood by his “strong” offer but also said it was within the legislature’s purview to pass a larger settlement.

“No one is more committed to resolving this issue than Governor Hogan, who has funded HBCUs at record levels and dramatically increased the state’s offer to settle this 13-year-long lawsuit,” said Shareese DeLeaver-Churchill, a spokesperson for the governor.

The lawsuit began when the Coalition for Equity and Excellence in Higher Education accused the Maryland Higher Education Commission of maintaining a policy of segregation by allowing traditionally white schools to duplicate programs that had been unique to the historically black colleges. The coalition represents alumni of the universities, not the universities themselves.

U.S. District Judge Catherine C. Blake ruled in 2013 that unnecessary duplication of programs by traditionally white institutions was a policy in Maryland. She held a separate trial on damages in 2017 after the parties failed to reach a settlement.



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