Students and alumni from Maryland’s four historically black colleges (Bowie State University, University Of Maryland Eastern Shore, Morgan State University and Coppin State University) rallied Wednesday for resolution to a 13-year-old federal lawsuit over disparities in academic programs.
The rally was held about a block from the state Capitol, as members of the Legislative Black Caucus of Maryland were urging lawmakers to support a settlement of at least $577 million, more than double the $200 million offered by Gov. Larry Hogan over 10 years.
Del. Darryl Barnes, who chairs the 59-member black caucus, said lawmakers plan to file legislation for a settlement, which he said would be positive for the state by helping students prepare for good jobs and boost the economy.
“This is not just good for our HBCUs, but this is good for the state of Maryland,” Barnes, a Prince George’s County Democrat, said.
Students attending the rally came from as far as Princess Anne — about 110 miles (170 kilometers) away on Maryland’s Eastern Shore — home to one of the colleges.
Vernon Johnson, a sophomore at the University of Maryland Eastern Shore, said HBCUs need more financial support, for academic programs as well as financial aid.
“We’re standing for HBCUs,” Johnson said. “Today, we need to understand the importance of our HBCUs. We need to get funded.”
The lawsuit from 2006 alleged the state had underfunded the institutions while developing programs at traditionally white schools that directly compete with and drain prospective students away from HBCUs.
In 2013, a federal judge found that the state had maintained “a dual and segregated education system” that violated the Constitution.
Michael Jones, an attorney who has been representing a coalition in support of the schools, noted a 10-1 discrepancy in unique high-demand programs and unnecessary duplication of programs.