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College Board Approves Ayers Funding

College Board Approves Ayers Funding

The state College Board in November approved $59 million in funding for historically Black colleges, money that had been stalled pending an appeal of Mississippi’s college desegregation case.

Board spokeswoman Sarah Nicholas said the proposal will be sent to lawmakers to consider during the 2005 Legislature.

The money is designated for academic programs, capital improvements, attorney’s fees and summer development programs at Jackson State University, Alcorn State University and Mississippi Valley State University.

Nicholas said the money was supposed to be paid out to the state’s historically Black universities between 2002 and 2005.

The funds had been earmarked for the colleges after the state and most plaintiffs agreed in 2002 to a settlement that would distribute $503 million over 17 years to the historically Black universities.

The payments had been on hold pending appeals by a small group of plaintiffs, including Lillie Ayers, widow of the late Jake Ayers Sr., who filed the suit in 1975 on behalf of his children and other Black college students. Ayers’ suit accused the state of neglecting its Black colleges.

The case finally ended in October 2004 when the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear an appeal of the lawsuit.

Higher Education Commissioner David Potter said the board will spread the restoration payments over four years.

In program funds, it’s roughly $14.2 million in new money, Potter said.

“We’re thankful that it was approved,” said Jackson State President Ronald Mason.

Mason said JSU would use the funding to start work on an engineering school building, hire additional faculty and staff and offer more scholarships.

Alcorn State spokesman Christopher Cason said the university immediately wants to begin work on four projects: construction of a biotechnology building; renovation of the business school building; construction of a fine arts facility; and completion of the master’s of business administration building.

The fine arts facility and the business administration building would be on Alcorn’s satellite campus in Natchez, Cason said.

“We’ve done all the homework, all the legwork. We just need the funds so that we can actually commence construction,” he said.

Dr. Roy Hudson, vice president of university relations at Mississippi Valley State, said the restoration funds weren’t assigned to a particular project.
“Some of the areas we are trying to apply our recovered funds are in the humanities and social sciences and general education,” he said.

—  Associated Press

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