It is indisputable fact that, over the last 33 years, the state of North Carolina has withheld more than $2 billion from NC A&T State University. It’s part of a $12 billion shortfall that the US departments of Agriculture and Education compiled earlier this year, comparing land-grant HBCU resources against their non-HBCU counterparts.

It happened in 16 states, but we’re second only to Tennessee, which shortchanged Tennessee State University by a slightly larger $2.1 billion as compared to the University of Tennessee.

A&T’s number comes as compared to NC State University, another UNC school of similar size and academic emphasis.

Gov. Roy Cooper responded to the missive from the federal government with a letter of his own, touting a budget line item granting A&T $20 million per year and a government contract with the school that would bring $23.7 million for research and development involving the clean-energy workforce.

Which is all well and good. Great, even. But those things happened before the shortfall was reported, things A&T earned on its own merit, not settlement of a decades-old debt. And it’s woefully short of the total debt. By our reckoning, the state of NC still owes A&T a couple billion dollars. This point was not addressed in Gov. Cooper’s letter.

The issue will certainly come before the NC General Assembly in April, when the short session begins.

To their credit, the Republican-controlled legislature has been spending money on HBCUs in North Carolina — particularly Elizabeth City State University, which was allocated more than $140 million in the 2023 budget, and Fayetteville State University, which got more than $164 million.

And to their shame, almost 20 years of this underfunding happened when Democrats controlled the state legislature, as they had done for 100 years before the GOP took over in 2010.

But what matters now is the debt owed, right here in the Triad, and a hefty sum it is. Two billion dollars is enough money to fund the entire city of Greensboro for three full years. And if history is any guide, it seems like A&T will have to fight for every penny.

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