She envisions an investment in the HBCUs that would help them create new programs.

At the University of Maryland Eastern Shore, President Juliette B. Bell said she would welcome the opportunity.

"We're always looking for opportunities to develop new, high-interest academic programs," Bell said. She noted that UMES has been more successful than its sister institutions in attracting a more diverse population, largely because of a collaboration with nearby Salisbury University.

UMES is less segregated than the other HBCUs, with a 13.3 percent white population, and its programs are the least unnecessarily duplicated, Blake wrote.

At Coppin State University in Baltimore, President Mortimer H. Neufville said he would certainly consider additional funding and programming should it be presented, but that he is single-minded on his current task, which involves overhauling the institution to make it more successful.

The state's HBCUs have the lowest graduation rates in Maryland, and several have struggled to maintain programs and facilities.

Burnim, at Bowie, was not surprised that segregation is still being discussed today, despite decades of progress in some areas.

"Our country, I think, had such an ingrained history of racism and segregation, mired in slavery and all of the aftermath from that horrible system, that it's going to take us a while to move completely beyond that," Burnim said. "One doesn't have to look too far in any direction to see evidence of that past."

Facts about the lawsuit

Who filed the lawsuit against whom?

A group of alumni and students at the state's public historically black institutions, calling themselves the "Coalition for Equity and Excellence in Maryland Higher Education, Inc.," filed the lawsuit in 2006 against the Maryland Higher Education Commission. The state was added as a defendant in 2010.

How did it come about?

The coalition alleged that the state never met its desegregation commitments to the U.S. Department of Education Office of Civil Rights, which were supposed to be complete by spring of 2006. The coalition sought to prevent the state from maintaining "a dual system of education based on race."

Why did it take so long to rule?

The complaint was amended four times, and several attempts at mediation were made. But the complicated case ultimately went to trial in January of last year, with more arguments heard in October 2012. The judge then took a year to issue an opinion.

Examples of program duplication

The "crowding" of Baltimore with four-year undergraduate institutions has worsened the unnecessary duplication of programs offered at historically black colleges and universities, according to a federal court ruling.

The ruling pointed out the expansion of the University of Baltimore, which began admitting freshmen in 2007 and continues to increase its undergraduate offerings. Other examples of program duplication include:

•A joint UB/Towson University master's of business administration program approved by the state in 2005, over objections from Morgan State University, which offers its own program. Citing enrollment decreases at Morgan, the Maryland Higher Education Commission made the decision despite advice from the attorney general's office that it would be unnecessary duplication.

•Towson's master's degree in computer science, a program that was already offered at Bowie State University. According to the ruling, enrollment in Bowie's program dropped from 119 in 1994 to 29 in 2008, while enrollment at Towson grew from 23 in 1994 to 101 in 2008.

•University of Maryland Baltimore County's master's degree in teaching, also offered at Morgan, Bowie and Coppin State University. Enrollment in the HBCUs' teaching programs all dropped substantially between 2002 and 2008, according to the ruling.