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Land-grant university

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia


A land-grant university (also called land-grant college or land-grant institution) is an institution of higher education in the United States designated by a state to receive the benefits of the Morrill Acts of 1862 and 1890.

The Morrill Acts funded educational institutions by granting federally controlled land to the states for them to sell, to raise funds, to establish and endow "land-grant" colleges. The mission of these institutions as set forth in the 1862 Act is to focus on the teaching of practical agriculture, science, military science, and engineering (though "without excluding... classical studies") as a response to the industrial revolution and changing social class.[1][2] This mission was in contrast to the historic practice of higher education to focus on a liberal arts curriculum. A 1994 expansion gave land-grant status to several tribal colleges and universities.

Ultimately, most land-grant colleges became large public universities that today offer a full spectrum of educational opportunities. However, some land-grant colleges are private schools, including Cornell University, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and Tuskegee University.

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  • ✪ The Legacy and the Promise: 150 Years of Land-Grant Universities
  • ✪ The Morrill Act And Today's Land-Grant University
  • ✪ Land-Grant Universities Need to Go Back to Their Roots
  • ✪ The Nation's Pioneer Land-Grant University | Michigan State University
  • ✪ The Land Grant University System: Affordable education for all


Erin Calandra Penn State Outreach Reporter <<Many scholars believe it was one of the most important pieces of legislation in the history of our country. The Morrill Land-Grant Act of 1862. Named for Vermont Congressman Justin Morrill, and signed by President Abraham Lincoln, the act gave federal lands to the states, which in turn sold that land to establish universities that shared knowledge with the public.. And without it.>> President Graham Spanier Penn State <<We wouldn’t have the dramatic advances that we’ve seen over the 150 years in areas like agriculture and engineering.>> Erin Calandra Reporter <<In 1863 Penn State became one of the nations’ first and Pennsylvania’s only land-grant institution. The Morrill Act gave Penn State a three-part mission, teaching, research and service. >> Craig Weidemann VP, Penn State Outreach <<It made higher education available for and relevant for the children of the working class in the Commonwealth and every state across the country. It made an opportunity for people to transition their lives through education and it also provided research to help improve the lives of people across the commonwealth and across the country.>> Roger Williams Affiliate Associate Professor, Penn State <<Land-grant universities have made a huge difference in the success of this country in the opportunity that it has provided to men and women>> Erin Calandra Reporter <<The historical significance of the Morrill Act is recognized nearly 150 years later, at a Penn State land-grant conference. President Graham Spanier Penn State <<Penn State is one of the great land-grant universities, it is in our blood here.>> Erin Calandra Reporter <<It’s here that scholars from across the country dissect the history of land-grants and look forward. >> Hiram Fitzgerald Michigan State University <<The future is incredibly exciting!>> Erin Calandra Reporter <<Today land-grant universities continue to share research and knowledge with the public which many say is especially important in tough economic times.>> Roger Williams Affiliate Associate Professor, Penn State <<Because of what is happening the role of land-grant universities such as Penn State is going to be more important, more essential, more critical to the way this country moves forward, than it has ever been.>> Craig Weidemann VP, Penn State Outreach <<If you look at the complex issues that this country is facing we need smart, researched solutions.>> Erin Calandra Reporter <<Although scholars believe that land-grant universities will be asked to do more in the future, they do worry about government support.>> President Graham Spanier Penn State <<So many of us believe in the land-grant mission and I would hope that we will be able to continue with that emphasis in perpetuity but the land-grant mission is being challenged now because there is very little support from the federal and state government that helps us specifically with that mission.>> Erin Calandra Reporter <<But they say that land-grant universities won’t lose sight of the real meaning>> Theodore Alter Professor, Penn State <<It’s not just about the science and technology, it’s about people, it’s about human development, its about community development, it’s about fostering democracy through our interaction with people.>> Erin Calandra Reporter <<For Penn State Outreach, I’m Erin Calandra.>>



Painting of an early land-grant college (Kansas State University) from the Westward Expansion Corridor at the U.S. Capitol
Painting of an early land-grant college (Kansas State University) from the Westward Expansion Corridor at the U.S. Capitol
Education in the United States
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United States portal

The concept of publicly funded agricultural and technical educational institutions first rose to national attention through the efforts of Jonathan Baldwin Turner in the late 1840s.[3] The first land-grant bill was introduced in Congress by Representative Justin Smith Morrill of Vermont in 1857.[3] The bill passed in 1859, but was vetoed by President James Buchanan.[3] Morrill resubmitted his bill in 1861, and it was ultimately enacted into law in 1862.

Upon passage of the federal land-grant law in 1862, Iowa was the first state legislature to accept the provisions of the Morrill Act, on September 11, 1862.[4][5] Iowa subsequently designated the State Agricultural College (now Iowa State University) as the land-grant college on March 29, 1864.[5][6] The first land-grant institution actually created under the Act was Kansas State University, which was established on February 16, 1863, and opened on September 2, 1863.[7] The oldest school that currently holds land-grant status is Rutgers University, founded in 1766 and designated the land-grant college of New Jersey in 1864. The oldest school to ever hold land-grant status was Yale University (founded in 1701), which was named Connecticut's land-grant recipient in 1863. This designation was later stripped by the Connecticut legislature in 1893 under populist pressure and transferred to what would become the University of Connecticut.[8]

A second Morrill Act was passed in 1890, aimed at the former Confederate states. This act required each state to show that race was not an admissions criterion, or else to designate a separate land-grant institution for persons of color.[9] Among the seventy colleges and universities which eventually evolved from the Morrill Acts are several of today's historically black colleges and universities. Though the 1890 Act granted cash instead of land, it granted colleges under that act the same legal standing as the 1862 Act colleges; hence the term "land-grant college" properly applies to both groups.

Later on, other colleges such as the University of the District of Columbia and the "1994 land-grant colleges" for Native Americans were also awarded cash by Congress in lieu of land to achieve "land-grant" status.

In imitation of the land-grant colleges' focus on agricultural and mechanical research, Congress later established programs of sea grant colleges (aquatic research, in 1966), space grant colleges (space research, in 1988), and sun grant colleges (sustainable energy research, in 2003).

West Virginia State University, a historically black university, is the only current land-grant university to have lost land-grant status (when desegregation cost it its state funding in 1957) and then subsequently regained it, which happened in 2001.

The land-grant college system has been seen as a major contributor in the faster growth rate of the US economy that led to its overtaking the United Kingdom as economic superpower, according to research by faculty from the State University of New York.[10]

The three-part mission of the land-grant university continues to evolve in the twenty-first century. What originally was described as "teaching, research, and service" was renamed "learning, discovery, and engagement" by the Kellogg Commission on the Future of State and Land-Grant Universities, and again recast as "talent, innovation, and place" by the Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities (APLU).[11]

State law precedents

Postal Service commemorative stamp
Postal Service commemorative stamp

Prior to enactment of the Morrill Act in 1862, Michigan State University was chartered under Michigan state law as a state agricultural land-grant institution on February 12, 1855, as the Agricultural College of the State of Michigan, receiving an appropriation of 14,000 acres (57 km2) of state-owned land. The Farmers' High School of Pennsylvania (later to become The Pennsylvania State University) followed as a state agricultural land-grant school on February 22 of that year.

Michigan State and Penn State were subsequently designated as the federal land-grant colleges for their states in 1863.

Older state universities – such as the University of Georgia, which was established with a grant of land in 1784 – were also funded through the use of state land grants.[12] Indeed, land grants to educational institutions are a practice inherited from Europe, and are traceable all the way back to the societies of classical antiquity.[13] These earlier examples, however, offered a different "mission" than the practical education offered by land-grant institutions established under the Morrill Act (or the Michigan legislature).

Hatch Act and Smith–Lever Act

The mission of the land-grant universities was expanded by the Hatch Act of 1887, which provided federal funds to states to establish a series of agricultural experiment stations under the direction of each state's land-grant college, as well as pass along new information, especially in the areas of soil minerals and plant growth. The outreach mission was further expanded by the Smith–Lever Act of 1914 to include cooperative extension—the sending of agents into rural areas to help bring the results of agricultural research to the end users. Beyond the original land grants, each land-grant college receives annual federal appropriations for research and extension work on the condition that those funds are matched by state funds.


While today's land-grant universities were initially known as land-grant colleges, only a few of the more than 70 institutions that developed from the Morrill Acts retain "College" in their official names; most are universities.

The University of the District of Columbia received land-grant status in 1967 and a $7.24 million endowment (USD) in lieu of a land grant. In a 1972 Special Education Amendment, American Samoa, Guam, Micronesia, Northern Marianas, and the Virgin Islands each received $3 million.

In 1994, 29 tribal colleges and universities became land-grant institutions under the Improving America's Schools Act of 1994. As of 2008, 32 tribal colleges and universities have land-grant status. Most of these colleges grant two-year degrees. Six are four-year institutions, and two offer a master's degree.


Land-grant universities are not to be confused with sea grant colleges (a program instituted in 1966), space grant colleges (instituted in 1988), or sun grant colleges (instituted in 2003). In some states, the land-grant missions for agricultural research and extension have been relegated to a statewide agency of the university system rather than the original land-grant campus; an example is the Texas A&M University System, whose agricultural missions, including the agricultural college at the system's main campus, are now under the umbrella of Texas A&M AgriLife.

Relevant legislation

See also


  1. ^ 7 U.S.C. § 304
  2. ^ What Is A Land-Grant College? (PDF), Washington State University, retrieved 2011-07-12
  3. ^ a b c The Land-Grant Tradition, NASULGC, 2008, p. 3, archived from the original on 2010-12-04, retrieved 2010-07-28
  4. ^ "History of Iowa State: Time Line, 1858–1874". Iowa State University. 2006. Archived from the original on 13 May 2009. Retrieved 9 July 2009.
  5. ^ a b "Sesquicentennial Message from President". Iowa State University. Retrieved 8 July 2011.
  6. ^ "Iowa State: 150 Points of Pride". Iowa State University. Archived from the original on 21 June 2015. Retrieved 8 July 2011.
  7. ^ "The National Schools of Science", The Nation: 409, November 21, 1867
  8. ^ Roger L. Geiger & Nathan M. Sorber, The Land-Grant Colleges and the Reshaping of American Higher Education (Transaction Press, 2013)
  9. ^ 7 U.S.C. § 323
  10. ^ Isaac Ehrlich, Adam Cook, and Yong Yin. What Accounts for the US Ascendancy to Economic Superpower by the Early Twentieth Century? The Morrill Act–Human Capital Hypothesis. Journal of Human Capital 12, no. 2 (Summer 2018): 233-281.
  11. ^ Gavazzi, S. M.; Gee, E. G. (2018). Land-grant universities for the future: Higher education for the public good. Johns Hopkins University Press.
  12. ^ UGA Graduate School: About the University of Georgia. Retrieved on 2013-07-15.
  13. ^ "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2012-10-21. Retrieved 2013-02-06.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)

This page was last edited on 4 November 2019, at 15:35
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