NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) – The HBCU community is still reacting to the letters the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Department Education sent to 16 of the nation’s governors, stating that they collectively owed their respective land-grant HBCUs $13 billion. U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona and U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Thomas J. Vilsack cited research conducted by the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) Integrated Postsecondary Education Survey (IPEDS). Tennessee State University was listed as having the largest underfunding owed amount by a state at $2,147,784,704.
“This enormous figure of over $2.1 billion can’t be overlooked,” said TSU President Glenda Glover.
“We have been on our own journey to recoup $544 million from the State that TSU should have received, as required by law, and were not aware of an additional underfunding review by the U.S. Departments of Education and Agriculture prior to the release of those letters.”
In 2022, Governor Bill Lee allocated $250 million to TSU which was approved by the legislature, making it the largest one-time State investment to any HBCU. President Glover added this was the result of working closely with TN lawmakers, who conducted their own research and calculations to pay TSU nearly half of the underfunded amount.
“TSU has a track record of working with the State, and we look forward to a similar relationship to get the $2.1 billion in funding USDA and the Dept. of ED have also researched. TSU deserves it, our students deserve it.”
The USDA and Dept. of ED review covered a period of 33 years, from 1987 to 2020. The letter to Governor Lee acknowledges that Tennessee has made strides in providing more equitable funding for TSU but reiterates more is still needed to overcome the historic underfunding of the university. TSU alumni and students say this latest $2.1 billion speaks to the long-standing underfunding of the University but also to TSU’s resilience in being successful despite having been slighted for so long.
“I am impressed by the global impact Tennessee State University alumni have made considering how significantly and historically underfunded the University has been,” said Charles Galbreath, president of the Tennessee State University National Alumni Association.
“I often ponder how much greater the impact might have been with greater resources. Equitable funding can only attempt to reconcile a blemished past. However, equitable funding can absolutely enhance the global contributions of future Tennessee State University students and alumni.”
President Glover was highly scrutinized by Tennessee lawmakers last year for not having enough housing for a historic freshman class of over 3,300 students. TSU housed over 4,900 students, with the use of off-campus housing that included hotels. The University of Tennessee at Knoxville, the State’s other land-grant institution, used hotels for its housing overflow as well but did not face the same backlash of improper planning and inadequate leadership.
“The State of Tennessee has two land-grant institutions. One has been allocated a tremendous amount of funding for decades, while another has had to operate with minimal apportions. However, this is not the time to issue blame or fault. It is time to come to the table with a strategic plan of action that specifically involves payment. The 33-years cited predates almost everyone at the capitol, but it’s never too late to do what’s right. Imagine how much greater TSU could be with equitable funding. The greater TSU becomes so will the State of Tennessee.”
SGA President Derrell Taylor, a business major from Memphis, believes the housing challenge and so many more infrastructure issues could have been avoided if TSU had received its fair share of funding all those years.
“I’ve been here four years and can only imagine what our campus would look like and how different the college experience would have been for me, and all the students before me,” said Taylor.
“I would select TSU all over again without hesitation because it has been an amazing experience. The University has done so much with so little, but TSU should have never been put in this position in the first place. I should have the same advantages to be successful as my counterparts at the State’s other public institutions.”
Taylor said this includes more residence halls without community bathrooms, a new football stadium on campus, a true student center, an upgraded heating and cooling system, more computer labs throughout the campus, better technology, most importantly scholarships. So many students had to borrow money to attend TSU as the school of their choice when they could have had scholarships.
“TSU students should have what everyone else has, and we can with our right share of State funding.”
In the letter, both USDA and the Dept. ED offered to hold a workshop for the State’s Budget Office to review their calculations in detail. President Glover says she is hopeful that the State will schedule this workshop soon and invite TSU to participate.