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Monday, October 16, 2006

Lawsuit claims black colleges unequally funded

BALTIMORE - The state has not distributed equitable funds to historically black colleges, according to two Morgan State University students who filed a lawsuit in Baltimore City Circuit Court Friday.

The Coalition for Equity and Excellent in Maryland Higher Education, a recently formed Maryland based nonprofit organization, filed the suit in Baltimore City Circuit Court on behalf of two Morgan State students.

The students are seeking a level playing field and to fully fund all academic programs at black colleges.

The 39-page lawsuit alleges the Maryland Higher Education commission has not complied with the U.S Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights requirement to fund all colleges equally.

“We are disputing the claim that state of Maryland is in compliance with federal requirements to fund all institutions of higher learning equitably,” said David Burton, president of the coalition. “It’s been systemic over a long period of time.”

Burton pointed to the Maryland Higher Education Commission’s approval of duplicate programs for white colleges that traditionally were offered by historically black institutions as proof that funding is unfair.

“The approval of Towson’s MBA program and University of Baltimore’s four-year program triggered the lawsuit,” he said. “Allowing duplicate programs hurts the competitiveness of historically black colleges,” he said, citing Morgan State’s MBA program, which he said now must compete with Towson’s.

Maryland Secretary of Higher Education Calvin Burnett said approving Towson’s program expanded educational opportunities for Maryland residents. Burnett also said he obtained additional funding for Morgan’s MBA program after he approved Towson’s MBA program in 2005.

“After I approved the Towson program, I asked the governor for $1 million for Morgan State’s MBA program and he approved it,” he said. “I’m perplexed, we go to great lengths to provide equal funding.”

A spokesman for Morgan State University said the school had not seen the lawsuit.


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