Sixteen states have over $12 billion disparity in funding between land-grant Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) and their non-HBCU land-grant peers in their states.

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In a letter sent to 16 governors, U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona and U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Thomas Vilsack emphasized the over $12 billion disparity in funding between land-grant Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) and their non-HBCU land-grant peers in their states.

“Unacceptable funding inequities have forced many of our nation’s distinguished Historically Black Colleges and Universities to operate with inadequate resources and delay critical investments in everything from campus infrastructure to research and development to student support services,” said U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona. “I am continually inspired by all that HBCUs have achieved despite having to punch above their weight. Our HBCUs graduate a huge share of our nation’s Black educators, doctors, engineers, judges, and lawyers. These institutions and the talented, diverse students they serve must have equitable funding to reach their full potential and continue driving innovation. The Biden-Harris Administration is proud to have made record investments in our HBCUs, but to compete in the 21st century we need state leaders to step up and live up to their legally required obligations to our historically Black land-grant institutions.”

Sixteen states identified

The 16 governors receiving the letter are:

  • Alabama – Gov. Kay Ivey
  • Arkansas – Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders
  • Florida – Gov. Ron DeSantis
  • Georgia – Gov. Brian Kemp
  • Kentucky – Gov. Andy Beshear
  • Louisiana – Gov. John Bel Edwards
  • Maryland – Gov. Wes Moore
  • Mississippi – Gov. Tate Reeves
  • Missouri – Gov. Michael Parson
  • North Carolina – Gov. Roy Cooper
  • Oklahoma – Gov. J. Kevin Stitt
  • South Carolina – Gov. Henry McMaster
  • Tennessee – Gov. Bill Lee
  • Texas – Gov. Greg Abbott
  • Virginia – Gov. Glenn Youngkin
  • West Virginia – Gov. James C. Justice, II

While there are HBCU land-grant institutions in 18 states; Delaware and Ohio have equitably funded their respective universities.

Under the Second Morrill Act of 1890, states choosing to open a second land-grant university to serve Black students were required to provide an equitable distribution of state funds between their 1862 and 1890 land-grant institutions. 1862 land-grant universities were founded through the First Morrill Act of 1862 which provided states with federal land that could be sold to support the colleges.

Impacted land-grant HBCUs

The schools identified include:

  • Alabama A&M University (Alabama)
  • University of Arkansas at Pinebluff (Arkansas)
  • Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University (Florida)
  • Fort Valley State University (Georgia)
  • Kentucky State University (Kentucky)
  • Southern University and A& M College (Louisiana)
  • University of Maryland Eastern Shore (Maryland)
  • Jackson State University (Mississippi)
  • Lincoln University (Missouri)
  • Langston University (Oklahoma)
  • South Carolina University (South Carolina)
  • Tennessee State University (Tennessee)
  • Prairie View A&M University (Texas)
  • Virginia State University (Virginia)
  • West Virginia State University (West Virginia)
  • North Carolina A&T State University (North Carolina)   

“Some of the brightest minds and most impactful advancements in food and agriculture have taken root in our country’s 1890 land-grant universities, and I’m incredibly proud of the partnership USDA maintains with these invaluable institutions. We need governors to help us invest in their states’ HBCUs at the equitable level their students deserve, and reflective of all they contribute to our society and economy,” said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. “The documented discrepancies are a clarion call for governors to act without delay to provide significant support for the 1890 land-grant institutions in their respective states. Failing to do so will have severe and lasting consequences to the agriculture and food industry at a time when it must remain resilient and competitive.”

The data

Using data from the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) Integrated Postsecondary Education Survey (IPEDS) backdated from 1987 to 2020, the departments were able to calculate the amount that these institutions would have received if their state funding per student was equal to that of 1862 institutions.

The report details the inequitable funding of the 1890 institutions in the states ranging from $172 million to $2.1 billion, causing severe financial gaps for the students and institutions. Specifically in the last 30 years alone, these funds could have supported vital and much-needed infrastructure and student services and would have better positioned the recipient universities to compete for grants to increase educational opportunities for students.  

Current legislation

During the current legislative session, several pieces of legislation have been introduced to address these disparities. U.S. Senators Raphael Warnock (D-GA) Sherrod Brown (D-OH) and U.S. Representatives Alama Adams (D-NC-12), and Marilyn Strickland introduced the Land-Grant Research Equity and Accountability Act which would require governors to annually attest publicly whether or not the states plan to provide funding to each 1890s land-grant institution.

“Our 1890 Land-Grant institutions have been punching way above their weight for far too long, so this legislation will bring us one step closer to ensuring historically Black Land-Grant universities get the funding they’re due,” said Senator Reverend Warnock in an October statement. “This is a win for Georgia students, Georgia farmers, and Georgia’s economy. I’m proud to join with Chairman Brown on this important legislation. Let’s get this done.”

There is currently proposed legislation in the 2024 legislation sessions to address some of the concerns raised by the letters. In Tennessee, legislators are considering eliminating Tennessee State University’s Board of Trustees citing concerns about how the land-grant institution is being overseen.

The Departments of Education and Agriculture have offered to work with each state’s budget office to examine the funding data to bring balance to investments in 1890 HBCUs that have been severely underfunded.

Each letter outlined the amount each state’s 1890 HBCU has been underfunded per student in state-appropriated funds between 1987 and 2020 and suggests possible remedies.

For fifteen years Franchesca taught English/Language Arts in two urban districts in Atlanta, Georgia,...

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