That’s the amount that Tennessee State University — the only public HBCU (Historically Black Colleges and Universities) in Tennessee — is owed by the state, according to a recent legislative study. For decades, the state has failed to meet its obligations to match dollar-for-dollar federal land-grant funds to TSU, resulting in a massive shortfall. Yet while TSU was starved for funds for 50+ years, its predominantly white land-grant counterpart, the University of Tennessee, received its full state match and more.
Unfortunately, Tennessee is not alone. The nation’s 19 HBCU land-grant institutions have been shortchanged by billions of dollars in state and federal dollars that they were owed due to rampant, persistent racial discrimination. Congress has an opportunity to rectify these inequities this year through the renewal of the Farm Bill, which was last reauthorized in 2018.
The Farm Bill is the main vehicle by which the federal government supports the teaching and research of the nation’s 111 land-grant colleges and universities, a system that was first established by the Morrill Land Grant Act of 1862. Black Americans were excluded from these institutions , however, which led to the passage of the Morrill Land Grant Act of 1890, which created land-grant institutions for Black students. Yet while federal land and funds were set aside for the 1890 land grant institutions, allowing these schools to raise funds to grow their endowments and expand their campuses, no guaranteed land or funding was provided to them — discrimination that has persisted.