Tennessee Found To Have Owed HBCU At Least $150M From Funds Dating Back More Than 100 Years
The HBCU's president criticized the disproportionate funding, saying that it has limited their ability to compete with white schools.
April 09, 2021 at 2:35 pm
A shocking report released this week found that Tennessee could owe Tennessee State University (TSU), an HBCU, anywhere from $150 million to $544 million in land grant funds from over 100 years ago.
According to the Tennessee Lookout, a funding formula for the state's two land grant colleges, TSU and the University of Tennessee, detailed that the HBCU was allotted $150 million less than it should have throughout a 65-year period. The information was revealed in House Budget Analysis Director Peter Muller’s report.
When other financial models were applied, the study found that the total could balloon to more than $500 million.
When the school was founded in 1912, the federal government put both TSU and UT on a land grant program. The state legislature was supposed to match each dollar sent by the federal government to fund each of the schools, News Channel 5 in Nashville reports. But the report contends that TSU didn’t receive funds for many years.
“You can’t have one university and put them out front and a second university and have them in the closet and then tell both of them: Go out there and compete,” TSU President Glenda Glover said.
Glover expressed that the issue of discrimination against HBCUs in regards to land grant appropriations is a historical problem that she’s “happy that Tennessee is taking the lead in” reforming.
This week, the Legislature’s Land Grant Institution Funding Committee deliberated over the findings without taking action on the report. Given the large amount of money that can be potentially awarded, Republicans are at odds with Democrats regarding Muller’s report, according to The Lookout.
Rep. Harold Love, a Democrat whose district includes TSU, said the numbers were based on budget books in the Legislative Library where, in a number of cases, the entries for payments made to the HBCU were nonexistent or zero.
“There was nothing in the budget books for Tennessee State from 1956 to 2006,” Love said.
Muller’s investigation found that the HBCU’s agriculture program was in existence during those years but it received no state appropriation in the budget document. Love added that any arguments alleging there isn’t a way to determine the funding discrepancy between the two schools are false.
"The argument that we don't know what the ratio is, that doesn't hold water," Rep. Love said. "We've been funding these 75-25 from the federal government. TSU sometimes is not getting their money [and] TSU is not getting paid dollar for dollar.”
Meanwhile, state Republicans Rep. Chris Todd and Sen. Janice Bowling offered resistance to the study’s findings. Todd suggested that lawmakers investigate how the 3:1 ratio was set and how long it has been adhered. Bowling was critical of whether the state is pursuing the wrong solution when both schools are no longer affected by “separate but equal” standards for white and Black students.
Both politicians questioned if it's possible that funding could have been influenced by a decreasing student population, fewer academic programs and less students on scholarship, according to The Lookout.
Knoxville Sen. Richard Briggs expressed that the legislature needs to figure out a “make-up number” to resolve the funds TSU is owed.
“Over a half-billion dollars is not going to happen” in one year, he said. However, Briggs suggested that amends could be made over the course of many years.