Rectifying Funding Disparities for Black Land-Grant Institutions

August 10, 2023

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Title: Nourishing the Nation While Starving: The Underfunding of Black Land-Grant Colleges and Universities

Author: Denise A. Smith

Source: The Century Foundation

A new report from the Century Foundation highlights the underfunding of the nation’s Black land-grant colleges and universities, as Congress has the opportunity to increase funding and improve equity for these institutions through renewal of the federal Farm Bill later this year.

With the reauthorization of the Morrill Act in 1890, land-grant designations were provided to 19 Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs). This legislation serves as an important historical marker as it prohibited the distribution of funds to states that excluded race in admissions and those that did not have an HBCU land-grant institution.

However, this provision did not stop federal and state agencies from continued bias and discrimination in funding land-grant institutions, leading to great disparities in endowments, revenue, and research grants. Several examples of such disparities appeared in the report, including:

  • In the last decade, HBCU land-grant institutions lost approximately $200 million in funding because states declined to provide matching funds.
  • Predominantly White land-grant institutions have $45 billion in endowment assets in comparison to $1 billion in endowments at HBCU land-grant institutions.
  • While HBCU land-grant institutions had $272 million available to produce research, predominantly White land-grants had $6.3 billion available at institutions in the same states.

The report also shares that many of the HBCU land-grants are designated as R2 (high research activity), and they produce over 33,000 graduates a year, with 11 percent of them in STEM fields. Additionally, these institutions create $5.5 billion in economic impact annually and provide their local economies with 41,000 jobs, which amount to $53 billion in lifetime earnings. Their significance in their respective communities is also to be noted as HBCU land-grant institutions provide multifaceted programming for youth, elderly, and other community members, as well as Black, low-income, and otherwise marginalized farmers—all while doing innovative and transformative research in agricultural, environmental, and ecological sciences.

As Congress prepares to reauthorize the Agricultural Improvement Act of 2018 (the federal Farm Bill), which funds land-grant institutions, the Century Foundation recommends the following for repairing the inequities between HBCU land-grants and other land-grants:

  • New, guaranteed funding over the next five years totaling $600 million to compensate for decades of inequitable funding.
  • Phasing out waivers for one-to-one state matching of federal research and extension formula funds.
  • Double the minimum funding percentages in appropriations for HBCU land-grants’ research and extension programs (based on the Hatch Act of 1887 and the Smith-Lever Act).
  • Provide $100 million to grow and expand scholarships for Black undergraduate students with financial need in the agricultural sciences.
  • Increase other resources for HBCU land-grant institutions (including the development of a national center of excellence at each institution, which will aid in developing diverse pipelines into STEM fields).

To read the full report, click here.

—Tabatha Cruz

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