Congressman David Scott (D-GA) has introduced legislation in the House of Representatives aimed at permanently increasing scholarship monies for students at Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), specifically those who attend 1890 Land Grant institutions.
During the Civil War, the Morrill Land Grant College Act of 1862 set aside federal lands to create colleges to “benefit the agricultural and mechanical arts.” The Second Morrill Act of 1890 provided each state with annual funds to support these schools. It required states with racially segregated public higher education systems to provide a land-grant institution for Black students whenever a land-grant institution was established exclusively for white students.
The bill, H.R.4252, would provide additional funding for scholarships to students at 1890 institutions.
“Just weeks ago, we in Congress heard directly from each of the nineteen presidents of the 1890 Land Grant African American Colleges and Universities,” Scott, chairman of the House Agriculture Committee shared with ESSENCE. “The college presidents shared with [us] how greatly beneficial, how much needed, and how grateful and thankful they are with the initial $80 million that started up our student scholarship program through the 2018 Farm Bill. And, they emphasized how important it is that we continue this great student scholarship program on an ongoing, permanent basis.”
Several members of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) are among the original co-sponsors of the measure. They include: CBC Chair Rep. Joyce Beatty (D-OH); Rep. Sanford Bishop (D-GA); Rep. Alma Adams (D-NC); Rep. Emanuel Cleaver (D-MO), Rep. Stacey Plaskett (D-VI); and Rep. Jahana Hayes (D-CT).
“Now with this historic legislation,” Scott added, “we in Congress are very proud to make this student scholarship program for the 1890s Colleges and Universities a permanent student scholarship program, with this increase of $100 million.”
There are 101 HBCUs nationwide, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. These public and private institutions established before 1964 have a principal mission of educating Black Americans.
Today, there are 19 designated 1890 Land Grant African American Colleges and Universities: Alabama A&M University, Alcorn State University, Central State University, Delaware State University, Florida A&M University, Fort Valley State University, Kentucky State University, Langston University, Lincoln University, North Carolina A&T State University, Prairie View A&M University, South Carolina State University, Southern University System, Tennessee State University, Tuskegee University, University of Arkansas Pine Bluff,University of Maryland Eastern Shore, Virginia State University and West Virginia State University.
The House Agriculture Committee held a hearing on June 16 titled “1890 Land Grant Institutions: Investing for Agricultural Resiliency, Equity, and Global Impact.”Congresswoman Alma Adams, Vice Chair of the House Committee on Agriculture noted in a statement that while 1890s Land Grant Universities are “some of our largest and most impactful Historically Black Colleges and Universities. …these institutions still face major issues regarding state matching funds and insufficient infrastructure on campus to conduct cutting edge agriculture research.”
“It is a priority of mine to make sure the 1890s continue to have the resources to unlock the potential of millions of students across the country,” she added. “All stakeholders from Congress to the private sector must continue to ensure these engines of equity – the 1890s – continue to succeed.”
Plaskett, who chairs the Subcommittee on Biotechnology, Horticulture and Research, noted that she’s proud of the work done to ensure the 2018 Farm Bill helped provide critical support for HBCU scholarships, establishing centers of excellence, and addressing issues to ensure equity between the 1890s and their 1862 counterparts, Congress must continue those efforts.
“There is more work to be done to support our students, our researchers, and our extension professionals. The COVID-19 pandemic, and the challenges associated with it, have underscored the fact that more work needs to be done to support these institutions. Our next generation of farmers deserve substantive funding to support important research initiatives,” she said in a statement. “I look forward to supporting existing farm bill provisions that will assist in the success of these agriculture programs and their students.”
The bill has not yet gone to the Senate. Sources on Capitol Hill told ESSENCE they expect that the bill will pass both the House and Senate with strong bipartisan support.