Filed in 1975, Mississippi's college desegregation case finally came to an end last week when the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear an appeal on the $503 million settlement.
Plaintiffs in the case filed the lawsuit alleging gross inadequate funding over the years for the state’s three historically black universities. With the final appeal rejected by the nation's high court, all funds from the settlement are now free to be dispersed to the universities. However, since the settlement in 2000, officials at Jackson State, Alcorn and Mississippi Valley say they have already been receiving a small portion of what each is due.
"As of this past May we had received approximately $6 million of Ayers’ funding," says Alcorn State University President Dr. Clinton Bristow.
"We've gotten some enhancement funds. We've gotten some funds for other race scholarships," says Mississippi Valley State President Dr. Lester Newman.
"We actually have gotten about $10 million to do 'Ayers programs.' Now, we'll get an additional $2 million for about five years and that will decrease over time," says Jackson State University President Dr. Ronald Mason.
Over the next 17 years the three schools are set to receive roughly $166 million from the settlement. This is money that will be used for academic and structural enhancement programs and projects at each school including a School of Engineering for Jackson State and additional masters programs at Valley and Alcorn.
Meanwhile, it appears that the three universities will not be the only ones affected by the court's recent action. Political analysts project that it could speed up similar cases in Louisiana, Alabama and Tennessee, perhaps even bringing an end to all of them within the next two years.