December 4, 2009 | Diane Johnson | Leave a comment Governor Haley Barbour plans on merging Mississippi's three historically black universities. The atmosphere is tense because of the past issue with civil rights and decades-long battle over underfunding those schools. Students at a number of schools have gathered to sign a petition to block the merger. Students attended a state College Board meeting to discuss the proposal but it never happened. Marissa Simms a student at Jackson State University believes that by doing this they are "undermining the uniqueness of the black colleges and how far we've come with the little resources we have." Many of the nation's public historically black colleges and universities known as HBCU's were founded over 100 years ago. Nationwide there are 42 public HBCU's and dozens of private institutions. The plan is to merge some of the smaller schools so that they can save money by reducing administrative costs and eliminate duplication. The governor believes by restructuring they can save $35 million out of a $5.5 billion budget. Black university presidents are very clear and vocal about remaining independent. But Representative Wooten from Jackson said "I know there are certain universities that are having to come forward and prove why they should remain open. That's not right." On the other hand Barbour claims that the states 2.9 million residents can't afford eight universities. There is a lot of debate going on over this issue. And many representatives will not support the plan when the Legislature convenes in January. Mississippi's plan should be to look at reducing costs and making all universities efficient; not just the HBCU's.