Tennessee State University president Dr. Glenda Glover spoke with Inside Higher Ed about U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona and Secretary of Agriculture Thomas Vilsack's letter urging states to adequately fund their 1890 land grant HBCUs. The two federal agency leaders sent the letter on Monday to 16 governors in states that house HBCU land grant institutions, including Tennesse Governor Bill Lee.
Glover firmly believes that the hundreds of billions of dollars that haven't been allocated to HBCUs can help with several university functions and could help in further expansion of University activities. She specifically spoke about the additional $2.1 billion of funding Tennessee State is owed by the state could've been used to offer more scholarships, update older buildings, and build more competitive academic programs.
“We’ve accomplished so much with so little,” she said in the Inside Higher Ed feature. “This funding would take us to the stratosphere.”
The Land Grant College System, which was established in 1862 under the Morrill Land Grant Act, had the purpose of providing states with profitable land for the establishment of colleges that focused on agriculture and mechanical arts. However, these colleges were initially segregated, and it wasn't until 1889 that integration became a requirement for receiving federal funding. In order to evade integration, state leaders opted to create separate agriculture and mechanical colleges for black individuals. Regrettably, these colleges fell significantly short in comparison to their white counterparts.
In an effort to address this inequality, the Second Morrill Act of 1890 was enacted, aiming to expand educational opportunities in agriculture and mechanical arts. This legislation required state governments to allocate equal financial resources to both black and predominantly white land grant colleges. However, the interpretation of what constituted “fair and equitable” funding was left to the discretion of each state government.
Governor Bill Lee earmarked $250 million in his FY2022 state budget to allocate toward Tennesee State which was deemed a “one-time investment”. The money allocation was a step forward for the Nashville-based HBCU but is only a fraction of what's owed due to decades of underfunding. Cardona reported in the letter that the state owes $2.1 billion to Tennessee State based on an analysis by the Department of Education of data available between 1987 and 2020.
Glover applauded the Biden Administration for looking into the discrepancy between funding for 1862 and 1890 land grant institutions. She doesn't place blame on anyone for the funding issue but believes that the issue should be properly rectified.
“But once you find out something has happened you have a duty to look into it and have a conversation about it. Because it is never too late to do what’s right.”