More than 150 years ago, U.S. lawmakers realized the nation would be stronger if the federal government invested in public universities to nurture generations of farmers, scientists, engineers, military leaders, and more. Through legislation in 1860 and then 1892, lawmakers first established states’ flagship universities and then the nation’s historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs). Over all these years, the two sets of universities—one for White students and the other for Black students—have never been funded equitably. For example, while federal law requires states to match federal dollars to the predominantly White institutions, it doesn’t require it for HBCUs. In new NEA research, our experts dive into the history of federal “land-grant institutions,” and also, in a second brief, analyze the funding inequities which have led to many hundreds of millions of dollars missing from HBCU coffers.
Land Grant Institutions: An Overview
July 12, 2022, marks 160 years since the passing of the 1862 Morrill Act, which began federal support of postsecondary education in the United States. Land grant colleges and universities represent the country’s historical commitment to the democratization of higher education by providing federal support for the establishment or extension of state-sponsored postsecondary institutions. Initially funded through three legislative acts, land grant institutions provide students with affordable access to career-oriented higher education in the areas of agriculture, science and engineering, military science, and the liberal arts. The 105 public and 7 private land grant institutions in operation today serve students in every state, the District of Columbia, and the five inhabited U.S. territories and include 19 historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs) and 35 tribal colleges.
A Looming Crisis for HBCUs? An Analysis of Funding Sources for Land Grant Universities
While there are 19 historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs), 35 tribal colleges, and 58 non-HBCU and non-tribal institutions under the “land grant university” banner, these postsecondary institutions were launched under different federal funding systems and requirements. This brief explores the funding differences between HBCUs and universities that are neither HBCUs nor tribal colleges.