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Morgan State underfunded? That’s a myth. | READER COMMENTARY

Chinedu Nwokeafor, an alumnus of Morgan State University, speaks during a rally in support of Maryland's four historically black colleges in Annapolis last November.
Chinedu Nwokeafor, an alumnus of Morgan State University, speaks during a rally in support of Maryland's four historically black colleges in Annapolis last November.(Brian Witte/AP)

The recent Baltimore Sun editorial urging Gov. Larry Hogan to back the settlement plan for historically black colleges and universities proposed under House Speaker Adrienne A. Jones’ bill requiring a payout of $580 million over the next 10 years because of “severe underfunding and the undermining of crucial academic programs” at those schools, including Morgan State University, demands an examination of actual data, not myths (“Maryland governor should get behind House speaker’s HBCU settlement proposal,” Feb. 12).

Here are some facts comparing Morgan with its primary academic “target” in the on-going litigation regarding funding and academic programs, Towson University. Morgan’s operating budget shows that in 2018 it received $94.2 million in state funds to support 7,767 students. That’s $12,140 per student. By comparison, Towson received $119.1 million in state funds to support 22,705 students. That’s $5,247 per student. In other words, $25 million more in state funds for Towson to support almost three times as many students. Which is “severely unfunded?”

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Look also at the two school’s capital budget. According to recent testimony by Morgan’s president, Morgan’s capital budget for new buildings for 2018 alone was $833 million. By comparison, Towson’s capital budget for the next four years, through 2024, is $162.7 million. That’s 20% of Morgan’s capital budget over four years, compared to what Morgan received from the state in one year. Which is underfunded? And if you have any doubt, drive by Morgan and see all the new buildings.

Finally, look at performance. Morgan’s six-year retention rate is 37%. By comparison, Towson’s six-year retention rate is 74%, including a 74% retention rate for the almost 5,000 African American students enrolled at Towson. Which is the better guardian of state funds? Given these data, hopefully, the legislature and governor will stand firm against the myth about underfunding and make budget decision on data and merits, not race.

Maybe the time has come to listen to the words of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and make budget decisions based on “content” of all universities’ programs and character, including but not exclusively Morgan’s or the HBCUs', rather than the color of the skin of the students.

Thomas J. Maronick, Towson

The writer is an emeritus professor of marketing at Towson University.

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