In 2005, the Maryland Higher Education Commission approved the creation of a joint MBA program at Towson University and the University of Baltimore. Morgan State University, a historically Black educational institution in Baltimore, believed that the new MBA threatened the viability of its own MBA program. A lawsuit was filed.
In October 2013, a federal district court judge ruled that the state of Maryland had made it difficult for its four historically Black universities to succeed by permitting nearby predominantly White universities to have similar and competing academic programs. The presence of competing programs at predominantly White institutions, the judge ruled, siphons students away from the HBCUs, making it more difficult for the Black universities to succeed financially. Judge Catherine Blake wrote in her ruling that the state “offered no evidence that it has made any serious effort to address continuing historic duplication.”
The judge did not order specific remedies to solve the problem and urged the universities to enter into mediation. The state and the four HBCUs agreed to mediation but were unable to agree on a solution. In 2018, the state of Maryland appealed the 2013 decision and the case was heard by the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals in December.
The HBCUs want some high-demand academic programs to be transferred or developed on their campuses that would be attractive to students of all races and ethnic groups. The plaintiffs also want several hundred million dollars for marketing, scholarships, and the enhancement of multicultural centers on the HBCU campuses. The state has offered $100 million over a 10-year period. This would amount to just $2.5 million annually to each of the state’s four HBCUs. The plaintiffs believe that such allocations will make little difference in addressing the inequity that has persisted in Maryland higher education for more than a century.
A three-judge panel of the Appeals Court again ordered the parties of the litigation once again to enter into mediation and gave them only to April 30 to come up with a solution.
In its January 2 decision, the court stated that they were “of the firm conviction that this case can and should be settled. Otherwise, the parties will likely condemn themselves to endless years of acrimonious, divisive and expensive litigation that will only work to the detriment of higher education in Maryland.”
Maryland’s four HBCUs are Morgan State University, Coppin State University, Bowie State University, and the University of Maryland Eastern Shore.