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UAPB Funding Gap In Arkansas Exceeds $330 Million Over Past Three Decades

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UAPB Funding Gap In Arkansas Exceeds $330 Million Over Past Three Decades


U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona and U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Thomas Vilsack sent letters to Arkansas Gov. Sarah Sanders and 15 other governors urging them to repair the $12 billion disparity in funding between land-grant Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) and other universities in their states. 

In the letter to Sanders, Cardona and Vilsack noted that inequitable funding of the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff has caused a severe financial gap over the past 30 years that would have made an additional $331 million available to Arkansas’ largest HBCU. 

“These funds could have supported infrastructure and student services and would have better positioned the university to compete for research grants. University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff has been able to make remarkable strides and would be much stronger and better positioned to serve its students, your state, and the nation if made whole with respect to this funding gap,” Cardona and Vilsack wrote. 

Besides Arkansas, similar letters were also sent to governors in 17 other states that have so-called 1890 HBCU landgrant institutions. Each letter outlined the amount each state’s 1890 HBCU has been underfunded per student in state-appropriated funds between 1987 and 2020 and offers a suggestion on possible remedies. No letters were sent to governors in Delaware and Ohio, states that have “equitably funded their respective HBCUs,” officials said. 

Nationally, HBCUs, Tribal Colleges and Universities, and Minority Serving Institutions (MSIs) make innumerable contributions to the U.S. through the research produced by their faculty, achievements of their students and alumni, and services they provide to local communities. 

As noted in the HBCU PARTNERS Act, while HBCUs, including 1890 land-grant institutions, represent three percent of postsecondary institutions, they enroll about 10% of all Black college students. Furthermore, these institutions generate close to $15 billion in economic impact and over 134,000 jobs annually in the local and regional economies they serve. 

“To ensure we are able to compete at a high level and develop the strong workforce that will propel this country into the future, generate the next wave of job creators, and fuel our economy, it is imperative that high-quality educational opportunities are available to all students,” wrote the Education and Agriculture secretaries. 

Under the Second Morrill Act of 1890, states choosing to open a second land grant university to serve Black students were required to provide an equitable distribution of state funds between their 1862 and 1890 land-grant institutions. 1862 land-grant universities such as the UA-Fayetteville were founded through the First Morrill Act of 1862 which provided states with federal land that could be sold to support the colleges. 

“University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff, the 1890 land-grant institution in your state, while producing extraordinary graduates that contribute greatly to the state’s economy and the fabric of our nation, has not been able to advance in ways that are on par with University of Arkansas, the original Morrill Act of 1862 land-grant institution in your state, in large part due to unbalanced funding,” the letter said. 

Using data from the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) Integrated Postsecondary Education Survey (IPEDS) that ranges from 1987 to 2020, Education and Agriculture Department officials said they were able to calculate the amount that HBCUs would have received if their state funding per student was equal to that of 1862 institutions.

 Officials said that inequitable funding of land-grant HBCUs ranges from $172 million to $2.1 billion, causing severe financial gaps. “In the last 30 years alone, these funds could have supported vital and much-needed infrastructure and student services and would have better positioned the recipient universities to compete for grants to increase educational opportunity for students,” they state. 

There are three other HBCUs in Arkansas that are not land-grant institutions, including Philander Smith University and Arkansas Baptist College in Little Rock and Shorter College, a two-year community college in North Little Rock. 

To view the Education and Agriculture Department letters to Gov. Sanders and the 17 other governors, go to the ArkansasVitality.com website.

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