Episode #27: Maryland's HBCUs

Friday, April 5, 2013

Welcome back to our series on inequality, “The Lines Between Us.”

About 40 percent of African-American students in Maryland’s public four-year colleges attend one of the state’s four Historically Black Colleges and Universities, or HBCUs – Morgan State University, Coppin State, Bowie State and the University of Maryland-Eastern Shore.

HBCUs say they’re suffering the consequences of underfunding during segregation and for decades after it. In 2006, a group of HBCU students and alums, called the ‘Coalition for Equity and Excellence in Higher Education,’ sued the Maryland Higher Education Commission in federal court, arguing it would take $2 billion dollars to make up for past underfunding. The case has not yet been decided.

Today, we ask, what does Maryland owe its HBCUs?  And Why does Maryland still need HBCUs, if most African-American students attend traditionally white schools?

First, we talk with Professor Ray Winbush, director of the Institute for Urban Research at Morgan State University. Winbush went to Oakwood University, a small HBCU in Alabama. We ask him how that experience shaped who he is today.

Then, we talk with Antonio Johnson. He began college at an HBCU, Morgan State, but didn’t graduate from there. That’s because he transferred to Towson last year to avoid waiting several years for two required courses to be taught. We asked what other factors he considered in his decision to leave Morgan.

Plus, we’ll speak with Delegate Aisha Braveboy of Prince George’s County, who chairs the Legislative Black Caucus of Maryland. A top priority of the Legislative Black Caucus of Maryland this year was to get more money for the Historically Black Colleges and Universities, HBCUS, in the state budget.  They ended up getting about $4 million, less than a third of what they sought.We reached out to the state’s Chief of Litigation Steven Sullivan; he declined to be interviewed. But, he supplied budget letters showing that in recent years Maryland has budgeted more, especially for buildings and facilities, for the historically black institutions than the traditionally white ones.

You can read more about the the case from the Lawyer's Committee, which is helping to represent The Coalition for Equity and Excellence in Maryland Higher Educational.