The Maryland Legislative Black Caucus is doubling down on getting extra funding for the state Historically Black Colleges and Universities, making a five-year, $70 million allocation their top legislative priority this year.
Their efforts to coax extra money from the governor, who recently presented his budget, are set against the backdrop of a 7-year-old lawsuit, as a group of students and alumni tries to get the state to make up for decades of underfunding.
At the caucus’ annual breakfast with Gov. Martin O’Malley on Thursday, members pressed for a supplemental allocation of $14 million a year for five years to support the institutions, said caucus chairwoman Del. Aisha N. Braveboy (D-Dist. 25) of Mitchellville. The request followed up on a December letter that the caucus sent the governor.
O’Malley’s fiscal 2014 budget increases funding for the HBCUs by 7.7 percent, to $194.7 million.
Braveboy said the institutions need the additional $14 million a year, however, because they “want to compete for students, they want to have a diverse student body,” including more students of other ethnicities.
To do that, Braveboy said, the state must make up for decades of disparate funding, during and after segregation, to upgrade facilities and programs.
The caucus’ proposal would allocate $1.5 million to each institution — Bowie State University in Bowie, Coppin State University in Baltimore, Morgan State University in Baltimore, and University of Maryland Eastern Shore in Princess Anne — for student aid, and $2 million each to convert some adjunct faculty to full-time faculty, giving those professors more opportunity for grants and research money.
The HBCUs rely heavily on adjunct faculty, Braveboy said, moreso than their traditionally white peer institutions.
According to analysis by the Department of Legislative Services, per-student funding for all four of Maryland’s HBCUs has generally surpassed that for their peer institutions. In fiscal 2011, the state provided an average of $3,174 more per student at HBCUs than at their peer institutions. About 21,700 students attend the four schools.
The capital budget also allocates money for projects including $60.4 million for a science and technology center at Coppin State University, $50.5 million for a School of Business complex at Morgan State University and $22.7 million for an engineering and aviation science building at the University of Maryland Eastern Shore.
But the amount is insufficient, Braveboy said, hence the request for the supplemental funds.
“The governor reiterated to the [caucus] members the amount of funding in this year’s budget for those institutions, and that’s his priority,” said Raquel Guillory, a spokeswoman for O’Malley.
After the caucus met with O’Malley, Braveboy said she thinks the governor needs more information about the cumulative effects of decades of underfunding.
“Bringing the HBCUs to parity [with other universities] doesn’t mean just giving them the same amount of money,” Braveboy said. “It means bringing them up to the level of other universities, and that means the need to be infused with resources. That’s what I’m not sure he fully appreciates.”
As to whether O’Malley’s position might jeopardize the caucus’ support for his legislative priorities, Braveboy said that they would negotiate during the session, and that “everyone’s interests will be considered.”
The money that the caucus is seeking is just a stopgap measure, Braveboy said, to see the HBCUs through until some conclusion is reached in the 2006 lawsuit brought by the Coalition for Equity and Excellence in Higher Education against the Maryland Higher Education Commission. The coalition of students and alumni from the schools is seeking restitution for the historic inequity.
Final arguments were heard in the case in October in U.S. District Court in Baltimore, but a decision has not been rendered, and the parties are in discussions to reach a possible settlement, Braveboy said. Both sides have said they would appeal a ruling against them.
“The ultimate goal is to settle this in a way that is fair and acknowledges the history of underfunding for these historically black institutions,” Braveboy said.
Guillory said that the governor shares that goal.
Since 1937, the state had commissioned several studies looking at state policies for funding the historically black institutions, the oldest of which, Bowie State, was established in 1865. The studies, Braveboy said, consistently found that the HBCUs suffered from lack of funding, preventing them from being competitive with traditionally white institutions.
One study cited by the caucus estimates that from 1984 to 2010, the HBCUs missed out on $910 million in state appropriations, tuition and fee revenues compared to their traditionally white peers.
“The state has studied the issue, but has never done anything about it,” Braveboy said. “We keep talking about it, but no one’s doing anything about it.”