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Biden Administration Offers Support to Underfunded Land-Grant HBCUs

The secretaries of education and agriculture sent a joint letter to the governors of 16 states Monday, urging them to make up for decades of underfunding of their land-grant HBCUs.

According to the Second Morill Act of 1890, states that opened a Black land-grant school were required to fund it equitably compared to their pre-existing land-grant schools. But over the decades, states have ignored this obligation, leading to a $12.6 billion funding deficit since 1987. The disparity has led to multiple lawsuits.

Secretary of Education Miguel CardonaSecretary of Education Miguel Cardona“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 Secretary of Education Dr. Miguel A. Cardona in a statement. “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.”

The missive was sent to the governors of Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Mississippi, Missouri, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia and West Virginia. The states with the biggest gaps—roughly $2 billion each—were Tennessee and Florida. The other two states with land-grant HBCUs that did not receive the letter—Delaware and Ohio—have funded them equitably.

The letter raises the possibility of future legal action, although Cardona and Secretary of Agriculture Thomas J. Vilsack write that they “hope that we can collaborate to avoid burdensome and costly litigation that has occurred in several states.” The departments offer their support in rectifying the inequities and suggest that the states with disparities match federal land grant funding two-to-one for the HBCUs that have been deprived.

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