Alcorn, other schools need settlement funds

Published 12:00 am Saturday, April 17, 2004

For years now, Alcorn State University has been planning what it could do with about $200 million in funds set aside in a settlement favoring historically black colleges in Mississippi.

But the university’s hands have been tied as plaintiffs have made appeals. On Tuesday, the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans brought Alcorn a step closer to the money.

Plaintiffs argue that the settlement is unfair, but in the meantime all three schools must put on hold needed academic programs and facility improvements.

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At Alcorn, for example, plans for a master’s in accountancy program at the Natchez campus and a biotech program in Lorman have been in limbo. Furniture has yet to be ordered for the MBA school in Natchez. Renovation to the undergraduate business school on the main campus is on hold.

Alcorn, Jackson State and Mississippi Valley State have waited too long for this funding. At a time when state universities across the country are raising tuition as they struggle to do more with less, the $503 million settlement is a necessary component of plans for the future.

The next six weeks or so will tell, but we hope the appeals process ends with this ruling &045; and that Alcorn and its sister schools can move on with their future plans.