Are Historically Black Colleges Short-Changed Financially?

Written by  //  09/11/2013  //  College News  //  2 Comments

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The Morrill Act of 1862 allowed the creation of land-grant colleges, state-designated institutions of higher education that include many of today’s large public universities and a few private universities such as Cornell and MIT. The original act was followed by the Morrill Act of 1890, aimed squarely at states where race was often used as an admissions criterion.

Historically Black State Colleges

The second act helped pave the way for the establishment of what are known today as historically black state colleges (HBSCs), institutions that are funded by the states. That funding by the states, however, has not matched what these schools should receive according to a news policy brief released by the Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities (APLU) late last week.

In, “Land-Grant But Unequal: State One-to-One Match Funding for 1890 Land-Grant Universities,” the APLU found that the schools were unfunded by $56 million from 2010 to 2012. Federal aid for these schools is supposed to be conditioned upon state funding, a shortfall that the APLU says can and should be fixed.

The APLU notes that the black land-grant universities did not receive more than $31 million in matching extension funds and about $24 million in research funding in 11 out of 18 states.

APLU Recommendations

What may be keeping states from complying with funding are the budget challenges many have faced over the past few years. Unlike the federal government, state governments must provide a balanced budget each year. To that end the APLU recommends that 1890 land-grant universities receive their one-to-one matching funds from the state in a separate line-item budget.

The APLU also recommends that both 1862 and 1890 land-grant universities “receive the percent of matching funds in their appropriate dollars.” Also, the process for requesting and receiving matching funds should be the same for both 1862 and 1890 institutions, what often is not.

Lastly, the APLU recommends that oversight by federal legislators, currently lacking, would “ensure that states meet their obligation for providing the one-to-one matching requirement.” The federal government might also provide an incentive to help “…states to provide the same percentage of formula match funding to both 1862 and 1890 land-grant universities within their state.”

Other Challenges

HBSCs face other challenges, including some that are tied in with state policies.

In North Carolina, for example, the state-supported universities may not use taxpayer money for marketing purposes. That puts these schools at a disadvantage as competing institutions can tap unrestricted and larger sources, such as endowments, to reach under-represented groups. Endowments for these schools are typically low as many students receive training for needful, but low paying positions such as teaching.

The Tarheel State’s 11 HSBCs have asked Gov. Pat McCrory for financial support. In July, the governor said he would work with the schools’ chancellors and presidents to develop a plan for assistance.

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