Law & Courts

Mississippi Reaches Accord In Higher Education Desegregation Case

By John Gehring — May 02, 2001 3 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

Representatives in a long-running desegregation lawsuit involving Mississippi’s higher education system have reached a $503 million settlement that is intended to address decades of deliberate racial segregation in state colleges and universities.

Filed last week in federal court in Oxford, Miss., the agreement seeks to improve academic programs and facilities at the state’s three historically black universities-Jackson State, Alcorn State, and Mississippi Valley State universities.

The settlement was reached between the three schools, the U.S. Department of Justice, and Mississippi’s Board of Trustees of State Institutions of Higher Education.

U.S. District Court Judge Neal B. Biggers Jr. still must approve the plan. The class action was brought in 1975 by Jake Ayers Sr. on behalf of his son and 21 other students who argued that Mississippi maintained a segregated higher education system and funded historically black colleges at lower levels than the state’s five predominantly white institutions.

Judge Biggers ruled in 1987 that the state had done enough to desegregate the system. But in 1992, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the state’s historically black institutions were still underfunded, and that Mississippi continued to operate separate and unequal systems of higher education.

Under the agreement, the state would provide Jackson State, Alcorn State, and Mississippi State $246 million for new academic programs at the three schools over 17 years.

Some $75 million would be spent over five years on capital-improvement projects at the schools; $70 million would be earmarked for a publicly financed endowment; and $35 million would be allotted for a privately financed endowment.

The plan also calls for increasing the amount of financial aid for high school graduates attending summer remedial classes who otherwise would not qualify for regular admission to Mississippi’s university system.

Members of the board of trustees agreed to seek, and the state legislature is expected to provide, special funding of $500,000 annually for the next five years—and $750,000 for five additional years—to increase the amount of financial aid available for those summer classes

Reverse Enrollment

The state’s historically black universities would be required to maintain an integrated student enrollment under the plan. For at least three years in a row, at least 10 percent of their enrollment would have to be students who were not African-American.

The colleges would not have access to either the publicly or privately financed endowment until they achieved that percentage. The mandate has been strongly opposed by some plaintiffs in the case and some faculty members and students at the three institutions.

Officials at the three universities say they have spent millions of dollars to attract whites and other nonblack students, but have had a difficult time doing so because of the perception that the schools still are inferior to traditionally white institutions. More than half the black students who graduate from public colleges in the state now obtain degrees from traditionally white schools.

Faculty members, students, and alumni from historically black universities in the state formed the Mississippi Coalition for Black Higher Education last fall to push for what they would consider to be a more equitable ruling in the Ayers case.

The group has filed a federal court motion seeking to divide the plaintiffs into two groups, so that those who opposed the agreement would not be bound by the settlement if the federal judge approves it.

Among other issues, the group opposes linking increased money for historically black institutions to their ability to attract white students.

It also wants the agreement to change the governance structure of the state’s universities to make sure historically black universities are better represented on the state’s public college board.

A version of this article appeared in the May 02, 2001 edition of Education Week as Mississippi Reaches Accord In Higher Education Desegregation Case

Events

This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Budget & Finance Webinar
Innovative Funding Models: A Deep Dive into Public-Private Partnerships
Discover how innovative funding models drive educational projects forward. Join us for insights into effective PPP implementation.
Content provided by Follett Learning
Budget & Finance Webinar Staffing Schools After ESSER: What School and District Leaders Need to Know
Join our newsroom for insights on investing in critical student support positions as pandemic funds expire.
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Student Achievement Webinar
How can districts build sustainable tutoring models before the money runs out?
District leaders, low on funds, must decide: broad support for all or deep interventions for few? Let's discuss maximizing tutoring resources.
Content provided by Varsity Tutors for Schools

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Law & Courts District Can Deny Opt-Outs on LGBTQ+ Books, Court Rules
Religious parents objected to a Maryland district's policy ending opt-outs for elementary school 'storybooks' with LGBTQ+ themes.
5 min read
A pedestrian passes by the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals Courthouse, June 16, 2021, on Main Street in Richmond, Va.
A person walks near the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit's courthouse in Richmond, Va. A panel of the court denied an injunction seeking to restore religious parents' opportunity to opt their children out of LGBTQ+ "storybooks" in a Maryland district.
Steve Helber/AP
Law & Courts Brown v. Board of Education: 70 Years of Progress and Challenges
The milestone for the historic 1954 U.S. Supreme Court decision striking down racial segregation in schools is marked by a range of tributes
12 min read
People mill around the third floor of the Kansas Statehouse in front of a Brown v. Board of Education mural before hearing from speakers recognizing the 70th anniversary of the landmark Supreme Court case on April 29, 2024 in Topeka, Kan.
People mill around the third floor of the Kansas Statehouse in front of a Brown v. Board of Education mural before hearing from speakers recognizing the 70th anniversary of the landmark Supreme Court case on April 29, 2024 in Topeka, Kan.
Evert Nelson/The Topeka Capital-Journal via AP
Law & Courts Republican-Led States Sue to Block New Title IX Rule
A pair of lawsuits focus on the rule's protections for students' gender identity.
5 min read
Demonstrators advocating for transgender rights and healthcare stand outside of the Ohio Statehouse on Jan. 24, 2024, in Columbus. Four Republican-led states filed a lawsuit Monday challenging the Biden administration's new Title IX regulation, which among other things would codify protections based on sexual orientation and gender identity.
Demonstrators advocating for transgender rights and healthcare stand outside of the Ohio Statehouse on Jan. 24, 2024, in Columbus. Four Republican-led states filed a lawsuit Monday challenging the Biden administration's new Title IX regulation, which among other things would codify protections based on sexual orientation and gender identity.
Patrick Orsagos/AP
Law & Courts Why It Will Now Be Easier for Educators to Sue Over Job Transfers
The case asked whether transferred employees had to show a 'significant' change in job conditions to sue under Title VII. The court said no.
8 min read
Light illuminates part of the Supreme Court building at dusk on Capitol Hill in Washington, Nov. 16, 2022.
Light illuminates part of the Supreme Court building at dusk on Capitol Hill in Washington, Nov. 16, 2022. The high court on Wednesday, April 17, 2024, made it easier for workers, including educators, to sue over job transfers.
Patrick Semansky/AP