Between 2013-16, Maryland Illegally Spent $550 Million to Avoid Investing in HBCUs

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Historically black universities in Maryland have long been victimized by the state’s efforts to maintain two systems of higher education separating black students from white students. It has been a painful part of our reality of learning, teaching and graduating from HBCUs in the state for generations, but that pain is now a part of the federal legal record, thanks to an October 2013 federal court ruling by Judge Catherine Blake.

Bowie State University, Coppin State University, Morgan State University and the University of Marland Eastern Shore – four institutions which have yielded nearly all of the state’s remarkable history tied to African American innovation in governance, entrepreneurship, clergy, criminal justice, education and athletics, but have endured historically unprecedented discrimination from state lawmakers and education policy which has stolen trillions of dollars from the HBCUs in the way of redirected funding and student enrollment.

At some point, Maryland will have to pay for its racist history. And depending on how often the state appeals Judge Blake’s decision and how long the judicial system churns to produce a final result, it could be years before HBCUs are made whole. But one part of her more than 60-page ruling on this landmark case for HBCU parity stands out for just how much HBCUs have lost in the years where racism and politics have dictated the state’s higher ed industrial output.

The Frampton Commission recommended, for example, that Morgan would “serve as a branch of the University of Maryland in the Baltimore area far more logically than . . . Towson, as the Warfield report had recommended. The state ignored the Frampton Commission’s recommendation, and instead of turning Morgan into the University of Maryland’s Baltimore campus—to which it was well-suited—the state opted to create a new campus entirely, the University of Maryland at Baltimore County (“UMBC”). The state later acquired the University of Baltimore (“UB”) in 1973. The Baltimore Sun referred to the large number of public schools in Baltimore as the “mess in Baltimore.”  The problem of duplicative institutions in Baltimore has never been addressed. In fact, in 2007, MHEC approved the admission of freshmen at UB, which had been limited to third and fourth year undergraduates, adding an additional four-year institution to the region, and UB continues to seek an expansion of its four-year offerings.”

Maryland invested money two-times over in new schools to avoid growth at its historically black colleges. That effort has landed the state on the edge of a historic decision which could reverse much of the state’s race-based wrongdoing by transferring programs to HBCUs which have long-suffered as a result of the massive financial mismanagement and unconstitutional racial separation in higher learning.

Ironically, if HBCUs themselves had double-spent on any kind of construction project or initiative, the state would have brought hell to the campuses by way of legislative inquiry and nonstop media coverage. But in light of this lawsuit, what does Maryland’s long history of bad spending really mean for its four HBCUs?

The answer lies in a simple view of the state’s recent budget lines for the two schools specifically mentioned by Judge Blake in part of her ruling.

Between 2013 and 2016, the state of Maryland appropriated $418.8 million for UMBC and $131.1 million for the University of Baltimore for a total of $580 million that, according to a federal judge, would have been legally and more efficiently spent at HBCUs instead of schools which should have never existed in the state system of higher education.

Bowie State University – $156.8 million
Coppin State – $165.6 million
Morgan State University – $323. 4 million
UMES – $136.9 million

Total HBCU Funding – $782 million
UMBC and University of Baltimore- $550 million

This figure doesn’t include Towson University and the exclusively online University of Maryland University College, institutions named in Judge Blake’s order as direct beneficiaries of program duplication and the state’s unlawful development of PWIs over HBCUs. These are just two schools identified as the most egregious examples of the state willfully ignoring constitutional law and placing HBCUs at a competitive disadvantage for the sole reason of racial separation.

What’s worse is that this list only shows money allocated from Maryland taxpayer funds. It does not show the trillions of dollars invested by the federal government in student aid and Pell Grant awards, research contracts and grants, and private foundation awards for which HBCUs could have been eligible and likely would have received, if only Maryland had not committed to a racist path of progress for its students and workforce development objectives.

By way of illegal development of two schools which a federal judge says the state should have never built, purchased or supported, Maryland cost taxpayers and HBCUs throughout the state more than $200 million beyond what was invested in four black colleges over the last four years alone. What would like number look like over the last 50 years?

Recouping that number, and the trillions withheld which have permanently damaged public perceptions of Maryland HBCUs and their outputs is the historic work which lies ahead. But we should never pretend as if that damage is irreversible, or isn’t as bad as it may seem on the outside.

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