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Secretaries of Education, Agriculture Call on Governors to Equitably Fund Land-Grant HBCUs

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U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona and U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Thomas Vilsack today sent letters to 16 governors emphasizing 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.

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

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

“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 in order 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.”

“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’ HBCU’s 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.”

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.

Using data from the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) Integrated Postsecondary Education Survey (IPEDS) that ranges 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. Unequitable appropriated funding of the 1890 institutions in the states ranges from $172 million to $2.1 billion, causing severe financial gaps. 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 opportunity for students.  

Noting that it is more important than ever to compete at a high level and remain the world’s top producer of talent and innovation, 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 offers a suggestion on possible remedies. To view the letters, click here.

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