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State-run, land-grant HBCUs are owed more than $13 billion, the White House says

The Tennessee State University Aristocrat of Bands  performs during the 2023 National Battle of the Bands, a showcase for HBCU marching bands, held at NRG Stadium Saturday, August 26, 2023, in Houston.
Michael Wyke
/
AP
The Tennessee State University Aristocrat of Bands performs during the 2023 National Battle of the Bands, a showcase for HBCU marching bands, held at NRG Stadium Saturday, August 26, 2023, in Houston.

Land-grant, historically Black colleges and universities have missed out on more than $13 billion they should have gotten in the last three decades or so, according to letters the Biden administration sent to the governors of 16 states appealing to them to invest more money in HBCUs.

Education Secretary Miguel Cardona and Agriculture Secretary Thomas Vilsack sent letters to the governors of Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Mississippi, Missouri, Oklahoma, South Carolina, North Carolina, Texas, Tennessee, Virginia, and West Virginia.

Cardona and Vilsack cited data from the National Center for Education Statistics and found that the gap in funding "could have supported infrastructure and student services and would have better positioned the university to compete for research grants," and that the HBCUs "would be much stronger and better positioned to serve its students, your state, and the nation if made whole with respect to this funding gap."

The schools mentioned in the letters were established under the Morrill acts. The Morrill Act of 1860 gave states 30,000 acres to establish public colleges and universities, such as Auburn University, University of Georgia, University of Kentucky and more.

But because of the discrimination and exclusion Black students faced at those schools, the second Morrill Act was passed in 1890, mandating that states either consider Black students equally or found separate land-grant schools for them, some of which included:

  • Alabama A&M University
  • University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff
  • Florida A&M University 
  • Fort Valley State University (Georgia)
  • Kentucky State University
  • Southern University and A&M College (Louisiana)
  • University of Maryland Eastern Shore
  • Alcorn State University (Mississippi)
  • Lincoln University (Missouri)
  • Langston University (Oklahoma)
  • South Carolina State University
  • Tennessee State University 
  • Prairie View A&M University (Texas)
  • Virginia State University
  • North Carolina A&T State University 


In Florida, Louisiana, Tennessee, Texas and North Carolina, the gap between majority-Black and majority-white land-grant institutions – including the University of Florida, Louisiana State University, University of Tennessee, Knoxville, Texas A&M University and North Carolina State University – ranged from about $1 to $2 billion.

"This is a situation that clearly predates all of us," Cardona and Vilsack said. "However, it is a problem that we can work together to solve. In fact, it is our hope that we can collaborate to avoid burdensome and costly litigation that has occurred in several states."

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Ayana Archie