LANGSTON, Okla. (KFOR) – Students are frustrated after federal agencies reported that Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) around the nation were underfunded by billions of dollars. Officials stated that Oklahoma’s Langston University was underfunded by more than $418,000,000.
“I just saw it today and the amount that I saw was underfunded was insane. I didn’t think that a school could be underfunded by that much money especially when we’re in a state with schools like Oklahoma State University and Oklahoma University,” said Lauren Moore, a Sophomore at Langston University.
The letter was sent from the U.S. Department of Education and the U.S. Department of Agriculture on Monday. It was sent out to 16 governors in each state that had a land-grant HBCU that was established under an 1890 law.
The law told states that to observe equality more they would have to equally disperse funding between a land grant institution founded in 1862 with an HBCU.
In this case, Langston was meant to receive an equal amount of funding compared to Oklahoma State University.
Officials claim from 1987 to 2020 that didn’t happen and the institution missed out on $418.9 million.
“Unfortunately we are seeing them being starved over time,” said Denise Smith at the nonprofit Century Foundation. Smith is a Senior Fellow who released a report titled Nourishing the Nation While Starving: The Underfunding of Black Land-Grant Colleges and Universities.
Her report came out months before the letter from federal agencies to governors.
At the center is the potential for somewhat relief for many of the HBCUs, the Farm Bill.
As Congress looks to renew the Farm Bill, which provides federal resources to support all land-grant universities, it should move equity and justice for Black land-grant colleges and universities to the center of the policy conversation.Denise A. Smith, The Century Foundation, Nourishing the Nation While Starving: The Underfunding of Black Land-Grant Colleges and Universities
“Their letter was just for the last 30 years or so. The challenge is finding what the true number could be that was underfunded from many of these institutions,” said Smith.
“I just feel like it goes into institutional racism, you know,” said Davian Wilson a student at Langston University. “My dad went here, my step-mom went here, my aunt went here, my great-grandfather went here. So just looking back it is easy to see that they have some things they need to fix.”
KFOR reached out to Governor Stitt’s office for a response to the letter who responded: “The Governor’s office has received the letter and we are reviewing it.”
“If I could sit in front of the governor right now I would beg him to fund our school because we need it. There are certain areas that could use the funding because even though agriculture brings money in, it specifically goes to them,” said Moore.
Langston University is aware of the letter authored by the Secretaries of Education and Agriculture to Governor Stitt. We appreciate the strides already made by the state in an effort to meet the mandated state match supporting agricultural extension and research at our institution. We are hopeful that these positive conversations will continue.Langston University official statement
The history of the laws goes back to the Morrill Act of 1860 when a law was put in place bringing necessary funding to white land-grant institutions like OSU. Then in 1890, there was the Second Morrill Act of 1890 for Black students.
Throughout the nation, there are 19 land-grant HBCUs.
“Even if you look at Oklahoma State University and Langston’s is vastly different. OSU has excellent resources and Langston deserves the same type of funding resources,” said Smith.
So, what can be done?
Smith and her colleagues said that something as big as reauthorizing the federal Farm Bill will secure scholarships and more for HBCUs nationwide.
“Today, the nineteen HBCU land-grant institutions, located primarily in Southern states, enroll over 117,000 full-time-equivalent students, of whom 75 percent are Black and 57 percent receive Pell Grants,” Smith’s report states. “The nineteen institutions contribute $5.5 billion in economic impact, demonstrating the critical role they play in supporting their local, state, and national economies. In addition, they generate more than $52 billion in lifetime earnings for each graduating class.”
“If I could get in close with the governor then I would definitely want him to try to come to our level and understand what we go through day by day,” said Wilson. “Because being up there where he is, is cool but try to come down to where we are and understand the things that we go through and our troubles.”
Many students on campus were frustrated and felt that they were left out of necessary funding that could have led to more resources.
“Honestly, I just feel like that goes into institutional racism because HBCUs across the world are always being underfunded. I just feel like that’s not right,” said Wilson. “But it’s the world we live in.”
“These institutions are public universities and it gives students in these states another option,” said Smith. “Not only are they serving these students but they are providing opportunities for critical roles in our states. They have an economic impact of $53 billion across all the institutions. They are doing that now imagine what they could do if they had more?”
KFOR reached out to the governors who served in the position during the years in question and heard back from Governor David Walters who said he would be available Friday to talk about the letter.