Black College Advocates Praise Report Calling for More Equitable Funding of Maryland HBCUs

The formula to bringing Maryland’s historically Black universities on par with the state’s traditionally White institutions will require increased funding for critical improvements, according to an expert panel established by Maryland state officials.

The six-member Panel on the Comparability and Competitiveness of Historically Black Institutions in Maryland released a 33-page report earlier this week calling for numerous enhancements to Maryland’s four historically Black universities, including the construction of new science and technology facilities and increased investment in undergraduate retention efforts as well as in doctoral programs at Morgan State University and the University of Maryland-Eastern Shore.

Dr. Earl Richardson, the president of Morgan State University, praised the report for validating what Morgan State officials and Black college advocates in Maryland have been saying about the state’s Black universities being seriously underfunded and lacking resources. Between 2000 and 2005, the state of Maryland was under order by the U.S. Education’s Office of Civil Rights to improve programs and facilities at historically Black institutions in the state, a remedy to vestiges of past discrimination. Black college advocates have since contended that the state has failed to fulfill its obligations to the predominantly Black campuses.

“I welcome the report. It has been long in the making,” Richardson said. “I think that while it’s not a perfect report, it’s a very important report. It confirms what many of us have said for a long time, that our Black colleges have not had the investment necessary to achieve our vision for these institutions and to ensure equal educational opportunities for the students they serve.”

The report was commissioned in order to help set guidelines and formulas for state support of historically black institutions. The report identified four broad areas needing improvement: undergraduate education, doctoral-level education and research, general institutional facilities and operations, and state program approval and funding.

“There are many indicators that suggest that substantial additional resources must be invested in HBIs to overcome the competitive disadvantages caused by prior discriminatory treatment: the lack of modern ‘state of the art’ science and technology labs, the aging physical plant and lack of consistent funding for maintenance, the poor retention and graduation rates of students as compared to TWIs, and the large number of low income and educationally underserved students in need of financial assistance,” the report states.

The report does not specify overall funding increases for the four Maryland historically Black institutions, but it provides a list of facilities that are needed at Bowie State University, University of Maryland-Eastern Shore, and Morgan State University. For Coppin State University, the report recommends an independent study to determine how the Baltimore-based campus should be revitalized. The report also recommends that funding for Access and Success, an undergraduate academic retention program operating at the HBI campuses, be doubled from the current annual operating level of $3 million.

The chair of the Maryland General Assembly’s Affordability Committee cautioned that any new funding for Maryland HBIs would be scarce given the state’s current budget woes. “It could be in some cases they need so much that we’re not going to get there so the institutions will need to determine what’s really important to them. There’s not going to be a whole slew of new money,” Del. John L. Bohanan told The Baltimore Sun.

For more information, see http://www.mlis.state.md.us/other/Funding_Higher_Ed/2008Oct27_FinalDraftFromPanel.pdf for a final draft of the report.

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