ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP) — Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan on Wednesday signed a measure to settle a 15-year-old federal lawsuit relating to underfunding at the state’s four historically Black colleges and universities for $577 million over a decade.
Hogan signed the bill Wednesday afternoon with lawmakers at Bowie State University.
In his remarks, Hogan called it “a historic, bipartisan measure that will be an unprecedented step forward in addressing inequities in our higher education system.” He thanked “the presiding officers and legislators on both sides of the aisle for working together to make this possible.”
Hogan, a Republican, vetoed a similar bill last year after citing economic difficulties created by the COVID-19 pandemic. Lawmakers passed a new measure last week in a large bipartisan vote of support.
The measure would not begin payments until fiscal year 2023.
The measure’s provisions are contingent on a final settlement agreement June 1. Michael Jones, a leading attorney for the HBCUs, told The Associated Press last week he did not anticipate any problems reaching a settlement, once the settlement measure becomes law.
The lawsuit dating to 2006 alleged that the state had underfunded the institutions while developing programs at traditionally white schools that directly compete with and drain prospective students away from HBCUs.
In 2013, a federal judge found that the state had maintained “a dual and segregated education system” that violated the Constitution. In 2019, the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ordered a fourth attempt at mediation, but the case has remained unresolved.
Maryland’s four historically Black colleges are Bowie State University, Coppin State University, Morgan State University and the University of Maryland Eastern Shore.
The money in the settlement will be used for scholarships and financial aid support services, as well as faculty recruitment and development. The money also could be used to expand and improve existing academic programs, including online programs, as well as the development and implementation of new academic programs.
WTOP’s Rick Massimo contributed to this report.
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