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HBCUs Cheated Out of Funding (video)

Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) have played a crucial role in educating Black professionals in the United States.

The Shocking Truth About HBCU Funding Inequity

Despite their significant contributions, many HBCUs have faced severe underfunding from state governments, a problem now highlighted by federal investigations.

The Legacy and Impact of HBCUs

HBCUs have produced 80% of Black judges, 50% of Black doctors, and 40% of Black engineers. These institutions have consistently demonstrated their ability to excel despite financial challenges, often having to do more with less.

The Funding Discrepancy at Tennessee State University (TSU)

A prime example is Tennessee State University (TSU). Federal calculations show that the state of Tennessee owes TSU $2.1 billion.

This discrepancy was uncovered under the leadership of TSU’s first female president, Dr. Glenda Glover, who noticed irregularities in the university’s financial statements.

Historical Context: The Morrill Land-Grant Acts

The underfunding dates back to the Morrill Land-Grant Acts of 1862 and 1890, which provided resources for states to establish public institutions focused on agricultural education. Southern states, required to either integrate Black students or fund separate institutions, often chose the latter but failed to distribute funds equitably.

Unearthing the Funding Inequity

Tennessee State Representative Harold Love Jr., a TSU alum, discovered the funding shortfall through extensive research.

He found that his father had raised the issue in 1970, but the report had been buried for decades. Love’s investigation revealed that TSU consistently received less funding compared to the University of Tennessee (UT) Knoxville.

National Study and Federal Response

In 2023, the Department of Education confirmed that nearly $13 billion is owed to land-grant HBCUs across the country. Federal agencies issued letters to state governors, detailing the amounts owed.

Tennessee Governor Bill Lee acknowledged the historical underfunding but emphasized recent efforts to address it, including a $300 million budget allocation for TSU.

TSU’s Continued Excellence

Despite the funding challenges, TSU has continued to achieve notable successes. In 2023, TSU’s band became the first college band to win a Grammy. The university also launched the nation’s only HBCU smart technology innovation center specializing in AI programs.

Student Advocacy and Legal Action

TSU students and alumni are actively advocating for the owed funds. Civil rights attorney Ben Crump, representing TSU students, has called the issue a historic civil rights battle. Crump emphasizes the need for legal action to ensure states fulfill their financial obligations to HBCUs.


The funding inequity faced by HBCUs like TSU highlights broader issues of systemic racism and inequality in American education. Addressing these disparities is crucial for ensuring that HBCUs can continue to provide high-quality education and opportunities for all students.


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