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Local NAACP chapters want more state funding for historically black universities

Harris-Stowe State University is celebrating its 160th anniversary in 2017.
Camille Phillips | St. Louis Public Radio
Two local NAACP chapters are pushing the state of Missouri to equally fund its historically black public universities: Lincoln University and Harris-Stowe State University.

Members of two local NAACP chapters are urging the state of Missouri to give equal funding and treatment to the state’s historically black universities: Harris-Stowe State University in St. Louis and Lincoln University in Jefferson City.

Harris-Stowe’s NAACP Youth and College Branch established the Coalition for Equity and Excellence in Higher Education to push for more funding from the state. The St. Louis City NAACP chapter announced Monday its support of that effort and added that litigation may be the next step if the state fails to provide more funding.

St. Louis City NAACP President Adolphus Pruitt said the state is operating a segregated higher education system that puts historically black colleges and universities at a disadvantage when compared to universities with predominantly white student populations.

“When they visit those institutions, they see the unique and high-demand programming and courses that are a part of those institutions that you don’t get at Harris-Stowe and Lincoln University,” he said.

Administrative officials at Harris-Stowe declined to comment, as did a spokesperson with the Missouri Department of Higher Education.

According to Pruitt, Lincoln and Harris-Stowe educate 3 percent of the college population throughout the state. However, together the two universities educate roughly 20 percent of the African-American student population at higher education institutions throughout Missouri.

Pruitt said equal funding from the state legislature could begin to turn things around.

“They [can] begin to rectify it by building up their campuses,” he said. They [can] begin to rectify it by offering graduate programs and higher quality programs that attract enrollment.”

For the 2018 fiscal year, Harris-Stowe University received $9.7 million from the state, while Lincoln University got $17.8 million. That’s in addition to a $2.5 million land grant match from the state.

Telayah Richards, the president of the Harris Stowe NAACP organization, said she notices a difference in how her university is treated compared to predominantly white universities in the state. Richards said Harris-Stowe often gets the “butt-end” of the deal.

“They have more majors than we have, which kind of sucks for us because we have to transfer to those schools in order to get the proper education that we need,” Richards said.

Two bills introduced this legislative session, sponsored by Rep. Courtney Allen Curtis, D-Ferguson, and Rep. Karla May, D-St. Louis, would provide more funding for the two universities, but Pruitt said they’ve had little traction.

He said if similar legislation doesn’t pass next session, a lawsuit may be the next move.

Follow Marissanne on Twitter: @Marissanne2011

Marissanne is the afternoon newscaster at St. Louis Public Radio.

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