Land-grant HBCUs Seeking Aid from Congress
Diverse Issues in Higher Education, December 4, 2016
by Reginald Stuart
The nation’s 19 historically Black land-grant colleges (the so-called 1890 HBCUs), are expected this week to have a Congressional hearing on a plan to specifically strengthen the institutions’ financial abilities to provide formal education to minorities and others pursuing studies in the agricultural sciences.
The full House Committee, chaired by Rep. Mike Conaway, R-Texas, plans to hear Wednesday morning from two panels — one of lawmakers and one of university presidents — about a House resolution (6020) that would provide each of the 19 institutions $1 million a year for five years to fund scholarships for students planning to pursue careers in the field of agriculture.
The scholarship funds proposal by Rep. David Scott, D-Ga., represent what Scott notes is a “drop in the bucket” from the billions spent annually by the federal government to help higher education.
Still, he says, there is positive action on the proposal for a variety of reasons. It would come at a crucial time in history, as the ranks of the nation’s agricultural farming and producer population are declining rapidly. The average age of the declining ranks — 60 years old, according to federal population studies — is getting higher and higher.
Scott’s proposal also would give a needed boost to the 1890 colleges, a specific group of public colleges created to fulfill a post-Civil War effort by the government to provide agricultural education training and services to Blacks in 19 states.
The 1890s have never been funded to address their mission on a comparable basis to their historically White counterparts regardless of the potential size of their target population, federal, state and private research reports say.
The federal and state funding policies and practices are oft times cited as playing an important role in the demise during the last century of Black farms and Blacks in agriculture.
Until the 1950s, Blacks were legally barred from attending the historically White land-grant colleges in those states.