Whether Maryland's historically black colleges and universities can compete in producing graduates commensurate in ability with those of other institutions in the state should be the sole factor in determining their funding ("Md. fails to keep its promise to HBCUs," Dec. 28). The necessity to constantly compensate for past discrimination, real or imagined, has ended.

To the extent that Maryland's HBCUs feel their state funding hasn't kept pace with that of other state institutions of higher learning, their complaint could be addressed by merging the HBCUs more completely into the overall University System of Maryland.

The historically black schools can't "have their cake and eat it too." The very desire to maintain traditionally African-American educational institutions conflicts with the simultaneous claim of continuous discrimination. The cure for discrimination is wholehearted inclusion and equality of opportunity based on merit, not color.

Maryland's HBCUs would do better using their considerable skills and resources to promote the merger of HBCUs more fully into the statewide framework. Opening up student bodies to more diverse enrollment, stimulating enrollment competition and ending perceived or real discrimination in the allocation of funds could all be achieved by integrating the HBCUs more closely into the University System of Maryland.

The schools that provided a separate black student experience and identity may once have served a purpose, but no more. Today, the HBCUs are an anachronism; it's time to move on.

Barry Dennis, Woodstock