When Gov. Larry Hogan signed legislation in March that will provide $577 million over the next decade for Maryland’s historically Black colleges and universities, top officials at those schools rejoiced.
Hogan’s signature – he vetoed a similar measure last year — brought the landmark bill one giant step closer to settling a 15-year-old legal battle.
And, it brought the four schools one giant step closer to a dream of improving their programs.
“I’m very pleased and very relieved,” said Dr. Arminta Breaux, president of Bowie State University, one of the four schools. “This allows us to move forward with many of our goals and plans.”
“This could be a significant game-changer for us,” said Dr. Anthony L. Jenkins, president of Coppin State University, in Baltimore. “This is going to allow us to advance, to do what we do and do it at a much higher level.”
The HBCU battle dates back to 2006, when the Coalition for Equity and Excellence in Maryland Higher Education, a group of alumni from the four schools, sued the state for alleged longstanding and systemic inequities in funding.
The state must still finalize the settlement with the coalition, but both sides predicted success in that effort.
The legislation calls for the state to spend $57.7 million annually on the four schools, divided based on their student enrollment.
Morgan State would receive $24 million next year, Bowie State $16.8 million, Maryland, Eastern Shore $9.7 million and Coppin State $9 million.
The funding will begin in fiscal year 2023, which means it will start July 21, 2022.
The schools already are working on their plans to spend it.
Breaux said Bowie State would use the money to build up those programs that are the school’s strengths. The school has not worked out specifics, she said, but among the programs are education, including a heavy emphasis on recruiting and training more black male teachers; STEM programs, especially data analytics, cybersecurity and nursing; the performing arts; and social sciences, such as social justice.
In addition, she said, the money will be used for scholarships to help needy students. “We want to close the financial gap for students,” she explained.
The University of Maryland, Eastern Shore, in Somerset County, plans to use the money to develop new programs in its “signature areas,” according to President Dr. Heidi M. Anderson. Those areas, she said, include health care and agriculture.
Specifically, she said, UMES hopes to work toward establishing a veterinary sciences program and a Doctor of Osteopathy program.
“Gov. Hogan’s signing of this landmark legislation on March 24 is truly historic for Maryland’s HBCUs,” Anderson said.
She added that the funds also will strengthen her school’s position as a Carnegie High Research Institution.
Coppin State President Jenkins said the settlement funds are earmarked for scholarships and financial aid support services, faculty recruitment and development, expansion and improvements to existing academic programs, including on-line programs.
In addition, he said, they will be used to develop and improve new academic programs at the Baltimore-based school.
Jenkins said he as asked his cabinet members to meet with their respective department to discuss specific priorities for the funding.
“I am eager to work with our campus community, as well as our external stakeholders to develop strategies that will help to move Coppin forward in providing the state of Maryland with the quality education that the people deserve,” Jenkins said in a letter to campus faculty, students and other stakeholders.
Morgan State President Dr. David Wilson said he planned to use the money to invest in research and innovation, and increase the caliber of the staff and students.
“This infusion of money will enable us to put in place new high-demand academic degree programs that are in alignment with the work of the future,” Wilson said in an interview with WBAL-TV. “Morgan is ready to move from the second floor of the research house to the penthouse.”