Hundreds of students and supporters of Maryland's historically black colleges and universities rallied Monday in Annapolis to press for increased state funding to make up for decades of discrimination.
The presidents of Morgan State University, Coppin State University, Bowie State University and the University of Maryland Eastern Shore joined civil rights leaders and several politicians in front of the State House to call on Gov. Martin O'Malley to settle a lawsuit alleging the schools have been underfunded at least since the 1930s. They called on the administration to pledge $70 million over the next five years to increase student financial aid and hire more full-time faculty at the schools.
"We're here today to seek justice for historically black colleges and universities in the state of Maryland," said Del. Aisha N. Braveboy, a Prince George's County Democrat. Braveboy, who heads the Legislative Black Caucus, called on O'Malley to "be a leader in providing parity" for the schools.
School officials and their supporters say graduation rates at Maryland's historically black schools suffer because of inadequate financial aid for their students, who are often poorer than those at other colleges and universities. The historically black schools also argue their students are being short-changed by faculties heavy on part-time adjunct instructors.
Raquel Guillory, the governor's communications director, noted that O'Malley has proposed spending $14 million more on the four schools next year, an increase of 7.7 percent. Included in that is $1 million for Morgan to hire more full-time faculty, plus $250,000 in additional financial aid for students close to graduation at all four institutions.
But Braveboy pointed out that all the state's public colleges and universities are in line for a similar funding increase. The historically black colleges need extra funding, she argued, so they can catch up from past underfunding.
Guillory declined to comment on the lawsuit, which sought $2.1 billion from the state. It was argued in Baltimore federal court last year and awaits a ruling.