The Coalition for Equity and Excellence in Maryland Higher Education Inc., et. al. v. Maryland Higher Education Commission, et. al.
The Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law and pro bono counsel Kirkland & Ellis LLP represent a group of current and former students from four historically Black colleges and universities in Maryland, who claim the state deliberately underfunded and undermined the academic programs at their schools. The students argue that Maryland let other state colleges duplicate programs that had previously attracted a diverse student body to the HBCU’s, and therefore, directly impeded enrollment at the HBCU schools.
HBCUs play a critical role in the educational landscape of our country, and with meaningful support and proper funding from the state, they can attract racially diverse pools of students and positively impact students across Maryland. This long-standing litigation is about dismantling dual systems of education in Maryland and remedying decades of programmatic disparities that have infected the system for far too long.
Case Timeline and Key Documents
May 12, 2021
U.S. District Court Judge Catherine C. Blake signs-off on the settlement agreement, which was negotiated by the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under law and Kirkland & Ellis LLP. The landmark settlement agreement cures the constitutional violation Judge Blake found in 2013, and the four Maryland HBCU’s will receive the funding over the next decade to bolster their academic programs, financial aid offerings, faculty recruitment, and more.
March 24, 2021
Maryland Governor Larry Hogan signs the emergency appropriations bill. The $577 million in additional funding for the four HBCU’s will begin in 2023 and portions will be dispersed yearly for the next decade. However, the release of the funding is contingent on a final settlement agreement being reached between the two parties by June 1, 2021.
March 17, 2021
The Maryland House of Delegates votes 120-14 to send the emergency appropriations bill with $577 million in funding for the HBCU’s to Governor Larry Hogan.
February 5, 2021
The Maryland State Senate unanimously passes an emergency appropriations bill to send an extra $577 million to the state’s HBCUs over the next decade to settle the longstanding lawsuit. The bill is nearly identical to HB 1260, which Governor Hogan vetoed in 2020. The bill is also on the fast track in the Maryland House of Delegates.
May 7, 2020
Governor Larry Hogan vetoes the bill, citing the economic fallout from the COVID-19 crisis, arguing the costly education proposal would be “irresponsible to enact” at this time. Senate President Bill Ferguson and Jones vow to hold a vote to override the veto during the next legislative session.
February 7, 2020
Speaker of the Maryland House of Delegates, Adrienne A. Jones, introduces House Bill 1260, which would require the state of Maryland to spend $577 million over 10 years on the four colleges and universities, an amount similar to what the Coalition proposed in settlement, and nearly three times as much as the governor of Maryland offered ($200 million) to settle the lawsuit. Speaker Jones introduces the bill to force an end to the protracted and lengthy legal battle.
The mediation ends without a resolution.
January 2, 2019
The Circuit Court of Appeals orders the two sides to continue their mediation and enter into settlement discussions, stating that battling over a potential court-imposed remedy likely would mean “endless years of acrimonious, divisive and expensive litigation that will only work to the detriment of higher education in Maryland.”
December 11, 2018
The parties present oral arguments before the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals. Attorneys from both the Lawyers’ Committee and Kirkland & Ellis argue that Maryland’s failure to dismantle the vestiges of former segregation in the State’s public higher education system violated Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, as required by United States v. Fordice. The Coalition, which is comprised of students and alumni of Maryland’s HBCUs, call for the State to address its failure to dismantle the vestiges of segregation in its higher education system.
February 8, 2018
Maryland Governor Larry Hogan issues an initial financial settlement offer to the state legislature’s Black caucus. However, it is only $100 million, which is significantly lower than what is being sought by the Coalition for Equity and Excellence in Maryland Higher Education.
December 2017-September 2018
The State appeals the decision to the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, and the Coalition cross-appeals. Briefing occurs through the spring and summer of 2018.
November 8, 2017
Judge Blake orders Maryland to end the programmatic disparity between HBCUs and TWIs by establishing a set of unique, high-demand programs at each HBCU and providing additional funding for marketing and scholarships. The court creates a structure for a Remedial Plan that will be in place for 10 years. As recommended by the Coalition, the court orders the appointment of a Special Master with experience in higher education to work with the parties to develop further, implement, and monitor and the remedial plan.
After mediation fails, the court holds a seven-week trial on the remedy.
October 7, 2013
Following the six-week trial, Judge Catherine Blake of the United States District Court for the District of Maryland issues her decision finding Maryland violated the constitutional and statutory rights of HBCU students by duplicating the HBCUs’ distinctive programming, thereby limiting the HBCUs’ funding and capacity to compete with the State’s highly-resourced Traditionally White Institutions. The court orders the two parties into mediation to create a suitable plan to address the constitutional violation. If mediation is not successful, further proceedings in court will be scheduled.
The groups head to trial before for United States District Court for the District of Maryland.
The Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law files an amended complaint.
The Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law and co-counsel Kirkland & Ellis LLP join the case to represent the Coalition. They argued that the State continues to foster segregation and disadvantage Maryland’s HBCUs through three ongoing practices: (1) limiting the role and missions of Maryland’s HBCUs; (2) underfunding Maryland’s HBCUs which both prevents them from carrying out their current missions and prevents them from expanding their missions; and (3) unnecessarily duplicating the HBCUs’ distinctive programs, thereby disadvantaging the schools which must compete with the State’s Traditionally White Institutions (TWIs) who have more money and newer facilities. All of these practices—which trace back to Maryland’s de jure era of segregation–systematically impede enrollment at the HBCUs and perpetuate Maryland’s dual and unequal system of higher education.
The Coalition for Equity and Excellence in Maryland Higher Education, which is comprised of current and former students from Morgan State University, Coppin State University, Bowie State University and the University of Maryland Eastern Shore claim the state has failed to meet its commitments in the partnership agreement. The state’s continuing failures to the HBCUs span the areas of funding, capital improvements, and unnecessary program duplication. An extensive record documents the state’s failed efforts to enhance its HBCUs in a manner that would allow them to become comparable and competitive with Maryland’s traditionally white institutions (TWIs).
The state of Maryland enters into a partnership agreement with the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights to bring the state into compliance with the Equal Protection Clauseof the Fourteenth Amendment and Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.