(WGHP) — A law firm is demanding action to fill a substantial funding gap for historically Black colleges and universities in North Carolina.

The Biden administration highlighted the gap.

The federal government said NC A&T State University has been underfunded over the past 30 years by more than $2 billion.

 “Without question, we want and need more,” Winston Salem State University’s Interim Chancellor Anthony Graham said.

The topic is back on the table for North Carolina leaders to discuss equal funding for North Carolina’s HBCUs. 

“Without our HBCU’s across this nation, there’s a whole segment of the population that we would not serve,” Graham said. 

WSSU receives around $70 million in state funding each year. 

“We rely a great deal on private partnerships, fundraising, working with private entities, private organizations, individual donors,” Graham said. 

The university faces challenges like being unable to increase enrollment, being unable to replace old buildings and limited educational opportunities due to a lack of funds.

“HBCUs could have dental schools, medical schools … opportunities that we are not able to have oftentimes,” Graham said.

The Biden administration shined a light on the large funding gap between HBCUs and predominately white institutions recently by sending a letter to 16 states asking them to invest more money in HBCUs.

“We’re in a very cruel jest. We say to institutions that, ‘You’re separate but equal,’ but funding hasn’t been equal,” Graham said.

The Cochran law firm picked up on that report and sent those same governors another letter demanding action or face a lawsuit.

Governor Roy Cooper responded with a statement:

“North Carolina is proud to have more four-year HBCUs than any state in the country, and these great institutions of higher learning have been instrumental in our state’s economic success. The Governor appreciates the Biden administration’s work to quantify and address the historical underfunding of HBCUs. Our office has heard from individuals and groups who share this concern and will continue to engage them and urge legislators and others to take action to fully fund these vital institutions,” 

Meanwhile, Republicans who control the state legislature blame the funding disparity on previous Democratic led legislatures with this statement: 

“It’s about time people admit that when Democrats controlled the legislature, they ignored the needs of HBCUs. Over the last decade, the Republican majorities have made significant efforts to support North Carolina’s HBCUs. For instance, N.C. A&T has received more than $1 billion in funding from the state since 2011, and this year’s state budget includes the necessary funding for the school to pursue a Carnegie R1 classification – which would make it the only HBCU with that classification. The N.C. Promise program played a major role in revitalizing Elizabeth City State and UNC-Pembroke, and Fayetteville State was just added. Additionally, the General Assembly created the Cheatham White scholarship for students attending NCCU and N.C. A&T. The General Assembly recognizes that our HBCUs are an integral part of the UNC System and remains in close contact with HBCU leaders.”

Cooper has directed the Office of State Budget and Management to examine the data sent to the state by the Biden administration.

The Cochran law firm says it will take the matter to court if the state doesn’t come up with a satisfactory solution.