Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. (D-Calvert) on Thursday joined the chorus of elected officials calling on the Hogan administration and alumni of Maryland’s historically black colleges and universities to settle a 13-year-old lawsuit over inequity in public higher education.
“It needs to be settled,” Miller said in remarks on the Senate floor that he said were mainly directed to the office of Gov. Larry Hogan (R).
Maya Rockeymoore Cummings, the head of the state Democratic Party, also pushed Thursday for a resolution of the case.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit ordered settlement talks last month. But there has been no sign of movement despite pressure from the Legislative Black Caucus of Maryland.
Black lawmakers want the state to increase its $100 million settlement offer, which would be divided among Morgan State University, Coppin State University, Bowie State University and the University of Maryland Eastern Shore over 10 years.
Members of the caucus say Maryland has impeded enrollment at the four schools by allowing other state colleges to duplicate programs that once attracted a diverse student body to the historically black colleges and universities. The offer of $100 million is not enough, they say, to remedy decades of disparities allowed by the state.
Miller said that “there are no easy answers” but suggested the state make capital improvements at the affected schools as part of an agreement. He suggested building a law school at Bowie State, allowing Morgan State to acquire property in Northeast Baltimore and making enhancements to the University of Maryland Eastern Shore.
While traditionally white public universities in Maryland have 122 academic programs not duplicated elsewhere within the state system, historically black schools count only 11 such offerings.
In a letter to Hogan last month, Del. Darryl Barnes (D-Prince George’s), the chair of the caucus, called the state’s offer “woefully inadequate.” The caucus met with Hogan recently to discuss its legislative agenda, including putting an end to the lawsuit.
“We are in the process of mediation and remain interested in reaching an agreement that will conclude the case in a way that is fair and equitable for Maryland’s college students,” Shareese Churchill, a spokeswoman for Hogan, said in an email on Thursday.
Miller said the litigation needs to be settled to keep it from being taken up by the U.S. Supreme Court. A ruling by the Supreme Court, he suggested, could have dire consequences for the historically black colleges and for the state.
“We need a win-win for historically black colleges and all of the state of Maryland,” Miller said.
Danielle Douglas-Gabriel contributed to this report.