Judge approves $577 million settlement for Maryland HBCUs

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FILE - In this March 24, 2021 file photo, Maryland House Speaker Adrienne Jones, third from left, points up while standing with the presidents of Maryland's four historically Black colleges and Universities after a bill signing ceremony in Bowie, Md., to set aside $577 million to settle a federal lawsuit. From left are, Aminta Breaux, president of Bowie State University, Heidi Anderson, president of the University of Maryland Eastern Shore, Jones, Sen. Charles Sydnor, David Wilson, president of Morgan State University, and Anthony Jenkins, president of Coppin State University. Maryland officials announced Wednesday, April 28 they have finalized the settlement with attorneys to end the 15-year-old federal lawsuit relating to underfunding at the state’s four historically Black colleges and universities. (AP Photo/Brian Witte, File)

ANNAPOLIS (AP) — A federal judge has approved a $577 million settlement in a lawsuit over underfunding at Maryland's four historically Black colleges and universities.

The deal approved Wednesday will provide $555 million in extra funding over 10 years, beginning in 2023, for Bowie State University, Coppin State University, Morgan State University in Baltimore and the University of Maryland, Eastern Shore.

The total amount includes $22 million in legal costs for the plaintiffs who spent 15 years litigating these claims.

The lawsuit accused Maryland of underfunding the institutions while developing programs at traditionally white schools that directly competed with them, draining away prospective students.

In 2013, U.S. District Judge Catherine C. Blake found that the state had maintained “a dual and segregated education system” that violated the Constitution. Blake issued an order Wednesday stating the settlement adequately addresses the problem.

The funds are expected to go toward scholarships and financial aid as well as faculty recruitment and development. Funds also can be used to expand and improve existing academic programs, including online programs, and to develop and implement new academic programs.

The Maryland General Assembly passed legislation this spring finalizing the settlement. Republican Gov. Larry Hogan had vetoed a similar bill last year, saying he would approve no more than $200 million, The Baltimore Sun reported.