HBCUs have been shortchanged by $12 billion, cabinet secretaries tell governors

HBCUs have always been historically underfunded, but now we know just how much money they are owed – $12 billion.

Yesterday, the U.S. Departments of Education and Agriculture sent letters to 16 governors in states with land-grant HBCUs calculating the disparity in funding from 1987 to 2020.

“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 U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona.

With 19 land grant HBCUs across the country, a lack of funding has impacted everything from building repairs to academic tutoring services.

Cardona and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, outlined in each letter that under the Second Morrill Act of 1890, states opening land-grant universities serving Black students are required to provide an equitable distribution of state funds to institutions founded between 1862 and 1890. However, of 18 states with HBCUs only two — Delaware and Ohio — are upholding the law.

To calculate the $12 billion disparity, the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) and Integrated Postsecondary Education Survey (IPEDS) compared HBCU budgets in the remaining 16 states to predominantly white institutions that existed in 1862.

“Some of the brightest minds and most impactful advancements in food and agriculture have taken root in our country’s 1890 land-grant universities, and I’m incredibly proud of the partnership USDA maintains with these invaluable institutions. We need governors to help us invest in their states’ HBCUs at the equitable level their students deserve, and reflective of all they contribute to our society and economy,” said Vilsack.

Cardona and Vilsack expressed in the letters that governors should not decrease the funding at other institutions across their state to rectify funding gaps at the land grant HBCUs.

Underfunded by billions

North Carolina and Florida have underfunded their HBCUS more severely than other states. North Carolina A&T State University, an HBCU in Greensboro, has a $2 billion funding disparity, the letter said.

Read more: Edward Waters University: 7 facts about the HBCU in Jacksonville, Fla.

Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University, an HBCU in Tallahassee, has a $1.9 billion funding disparity. This comes on the heels of FAMU students recently filing a class action lawsuit alleging racial discrimination in state funding, according to the Tallahassee Democrat. 

“The longstanding and ongoing underinvestment in Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University disadvantages the students, faculty, and community that the institution serves,” according to the letter. “Furthermore, it may contribute to a lack of economic activity that would ultimately benefit Florida. It is our hope that we can work together to make this institution whole after decades of being underfunded.”

Here’s how each 16 state’s 1890 HBCUs have been underfunded, according to the secretaries’ letters:

Alabama – Alabama A&M University

$527.3 million

Arkansas – University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff

$330.9 million

Florida – Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University

$1.97 billion

Georgia – Fort Valley State University

$603 million

Kentucky – Kentucky State University

$172 million

Louisiana – Southern University and A & M College

$1.1 billion each

Maryland – University of Maryland Eastern Shore

$321 million

Mississippi – Alcorn State University

$257 million

Missouri – Lincoln University

$361 million

Oklahoma – Langston University

$418.9 million

South Carolina – South Carolina State University

$470 million

Tennessee – Tennessee State University

$2.1 billion

Texas – Prairie View A & M University

$1.1 billion

Virginia – Virginia State University

$277.5 million

West Virginia – West Virginia State University

$852.6 million

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