By Sean Yoes
AFRO Senior Reporter
A 16-year court battle between the State of Maryland and its Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) may be coming to an end with the passage of the HBCU Funding Bill out of the Maryland Legislature with a price tag of $577 million.
“This lawsuit has been going on much too long and it is time to end it. Sixteen years is a very long time to wait for an outcome of the type that the legislature passed today,” said Dr. David Wilson, President of Morgan State University during an exclusive interview with the AFRO. But, hallelujah, it happened,” added Wilson whose school is one of the institutions, as well as Coppin State University, Bowie State University and the University of Maryland Eastern Shore, that sued the state for historic inadequate and inequitable funding rooted in the state’s former segregative policies.
House Bill 1, which was literally the first legislative priority declared by Speaker of the House Adrienne Jones passed 122-17 in the House and 47-0 in the Senate. The four HBCUs will receive $577 million over the course of 10 years beginning in FY2023, in addition to each school’s standard budget. The money will be distributed based on enrollment with the larger schools receiving a bigger percentage of the funds.
“One cannot over appreciate the leadership of Speaker Adrienne Jones,” Wilson said. “Last year she went into the legislative session, her first year as Speaker of the House and she said publicly that solving the HBCU lawsuit was one of her primary priorities. And she pushed that and it passed and it passed overwhelmingly…but the governor vetoed it,” Wilson added. “The legislature would have overridden the veto had it not been a truncated session.” However, coming into the 2021 session Speaker Jones continued to push hard for what she called a “Black agenda” and included the HBCU funding bill, which passed with overwhelmingly bipartisan support that also included strong leadership by Senate President Bill Ferguson.
“President Bill Ferguson in the Senate said the HBCU bill would be the first bill that he introduced and he did. And so on this historic day I express appreciation for the terrific leadership of Speaker Adrienne Jones, the support of Senate President Bill Ferguson, the leadership of Sen. Charles Sydnor, the support from the entire Maryland Legislative Black Caucus and the entire Senate and the entire House,” said Wilson.
“We’re going to use these funds in very strategic ways to continue the elevation of Morgan State University as one of the most consequential, relevant and significant universities in American higher education today.”