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Tennessee State Owed Millions by State

April 8, 2021

The state of Tennessee owes Tennessee State University, its only historically Black public university, between $151 million and $544 million in land-grant funding, according to a new report by the Office of Legislative Budget Analysis released Monday.

Tennessee State was supposed to receive funds matching its federal land grant, which usually come from the state, The Tennessean reported. But the analysis found that the state allocated no land-grant funds to the institution between the fiscal years of 1957 and 2007. The University of Tennessee, however, consistently received its full match.

“We have to acknowledge that TSU did not get their funding,” said State Senator Brenda Gilmore, according to Fox 17 WZTV Nashville. “This is not pitting TSU against UT. It’s just trying to get some equal funding, equity funding, for both the schools.”

The ratio of how much state funding the University of Tennessee was intended to receive relative to Tennessee State University -- a 75/25 split between the land-grant institutions -- hasn’t been upheld since 2008.

“The problem is that we have not abided by a law that our predecessors passed,” Representative Harold Love Jr. told the news channel. Love is a Tennessee State University graduate and chair of the Joint Land-Grant Institution Funding Study Committee, established in 2019 to look into the shortchanged funds.

The breakdown of funds, established by the General Assembly in 1913, was based on the ratio of white students to Black students in the state at the time. Some state lawmakers are now questioning whether the ratio should still apply, or if a new one should be established, given that the universities are no longer racially segregated.

Glenda Glover, president of Tennessee State University, expressed hope that the state would correct the historic underfunding.

“It’s never too late to do what’s right and we are pleased that lawmakers are rectifying this,” she tweeted.

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