The Biden administration is calling on governors in 16 states to address a more than $12 billion funding disparity between land-grant Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) and their non-HBCU counterparts, according to the US Department of Agriculture(USDA).
They noted that HBCUs have “not been able to advance in ways that are on par” with other land-grant institutions in those states “in large part due to unbalanced funding.”
There are HBCU land-grant institutions in 18 states; however, only Delaware and Ohio have equitably funded their respective universities, according to the USDA.
A land-grant institution is a college or university that teaches agriculture, science, military science, and engineering. The Morrill Act of 1862 established them to assist people in pursuing higher education in farming and technical skills. The law was revised in 1890 and again in 1994 to “address educational inequality among African Americans and Native Americans,” according to the USDA.
The schools were also built on federal land or funded with proceeds from the sale of federal land that was granted to state governments. By law, according to the USDA, these schools and their HBCU counterparts “were required to receive equitable distribution” of funds from their state governments.
However, according to the USDA news release, the “unequitable appropriated funding” of the 1890 institutions in each state ranged from $172 million to $2.1 billion.
The governors of the following states were sent letters: Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Mississippi, Missouri, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, and West Virginia.
To calculate the amount each HBCU would have received if funds were provided equally, administration officials used data from the National Center for Education Statistics Integrated Postsecondary Education Survey 1987-2020.
“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,” Cardona said.
Land-grant HBCU underfunding has been a contentious subject for many years. ESSENCE previously reported that six Florida A&M University students filed a federal complaint against the state in 2022, alleging years of underfunding and discrimination.