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State Could Owe HBCU Tennessee State University More Than $500M After Years of Withholding Mandated Funding

Tennessee State University could be seeing a considerable payout after the state allegedly failed to match millions of dollars in grant funding, News Channel 5 Nashville reported

When TSU was founded in June 1912, the federal government placed the historically Black college and the University of Tennessee (UT) on a land grant program. The specific plan would guarantee that for every dollar sent by the federal government to fund schools, the state of Tennessee would match said amount. 

Tennessee could owe HBCU TSU a half-billion dollars according to new report. (Credit: Pexels)

News Channel 5 Nashville reported that according to legislative financial analysts, that state might owe up to $544 million to the HBCU after years of unpaid land grant matches. 

Rep. Harold Love Jr. spoke this month on behalf of the institution, stating that the land grant should’ve matched 75 percent for UT and 25 percent for TSU. However, because funding for TSU had been so inconsistent, both on the federal and state side, lots of money was never allocated to the school. Some are also arguing that the ratio is off and that the school is owed a lower figure $150 million instead. 

Rep. Love Jr. addressed the potential discrepancy, stating, “The argument that we don’t know what the ratio is, that doesn’t hold water. 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.”

TSU’s President Dr. Glenda Glover also spoke on the matter, revealing that this a common issue across several HBCU Zschools. “We know there’s been some past ills among HBCUs across the country when it comes to land grant matches,” Dr. Glover said. “So, I’m happy that Tennessee is taking the lead in this process because I’m talking to other presidents of land grant institutions in the 1890s. We all have the same problem.”

Dr. Glover is dubious that the state would deliver a lump sum of $500 million but has high hopes that starting the discussion would ultimately lead toward a solution.

“What has TSU lost?” Dr. Glover asked. “We could not recruit properly. There’s research dollars that we’re able to get and use. The 4H club, the extension work that we’re doing. So, we have to find a way to make ends meet, and without getting the dollars, the federal government [required] be matched.”

Leaders in the Tennessee Legislature said they would look further into the dispute brought on by TSU. However, they claimed the problem dates back decades, and getting to a solution could take years. 

House Majority Leader William Lamberth, a Republican, said in a statement, “There’s definitely more that we should do, and there’s more that we potentially can do this year and the year to come.”

Lt. Gov. Randy McNally spoke on the possibility of a potential lump sum, offering, “It’s something that we will look at.” He added, “Of course, doing the entire amount … would not be possible and would probably not be good, but certainly developing a plan to address it in the future is the best option.”

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