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The president of Bowie State University, joined by Maryland’s U.S. senators, called it “unfathomable” Wednesday that the Senate is holding up millions of dollars in funding for historically black colleges and universities in Maryland and around the nation. Bowie State; Morgan State University in Baltimore, shown in this file photo; Coppin State University in Baltimore, and the University of Maryland, Eastern Shore, are the state's HBCUs.
The president of Bowie State University, joined by Maryland’s U.S. senators, called it “unfathomable” Wednesday that the Senate is holding up millions of dollars in funding for historically black colleges and universities in Maryland and around the nation. Bowie State; Morgan State University in Baltimore, shown in this file photo; Coppin State University in Baltimore, and the University of Maryland, Eastern Shore, are the state's HBCUs. (Algerina Perna, Baltimore Sun)

The president of Bowie State University, joined by Maryland’s U.S. senators, called it “unfathomable” that the Senate is holding up millions of dollars in funding for historically black colleges and universities in Maryland and around the nation.

“Imagine trying to lead a business without knowing what budget you have,” university President Aminta H. Breaux said Wednesday at a Washington news conference. "It is unfathomable to think about our young men and women who are on our campuses aspiring to achieve their goals and contribute back to our communities, and not supporting them in that endeavor.”

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More than $250 million in annual funding mandated by federal educations laws for HBCUs and other minority-serving institutions expired after Sept. 30 because the Senate did not approve it. The funding is mandated by Title III to level the playing field for those schools serving a large percentage of minority students.

Maryland’s four HBCUs — Bowie, Morgan State University and Coppin State University in Baltimore, and the University of Maryland, Eastern Shore — collectively stand to lose more than $4 million per year, according to Sen. Chris Van Hollen, a Maryland Democrat, who spoke at the news conference and on the Senate floor on behalf of the funding.

The funding has passed unanimously in the House. But Senate Republicans say they want to address the funding as part of an update of the Higher Education Act, which is designed to make college more affordable.

Maryland Sen. Ben Cardin, also a Democrat, said that overhaul is “going to take time.”

In the meantime, Cardin said, “Don’t hold these institutions hostage.”

The funding disagreement comes as a coalition of HBCU advocates remains locked in litigation with the state over allegations that Maryland for decades fostered segregation in its higher education system by providing more money to traditionally white schools at the expense of historically black ones. The coalition filed its lawsuit in 2006.

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