With Land Grant Status, Tribal Colleges Gain $23 Million Endowment

Nov 15th, 1994 | By | Category: 6-3: Philanthropy, Tribal College News
By Jason Gavin, American Indian Higher Education Consortium

After three years of work, the nation’s network of tribal colleges are now officially land grant colleges. In late October, the tribal college land-grant initiative went through its final legislative stages and was signed into law by President Clinton on October 20.

The effort garnered the support of the National Association of Land-Grant Colleges, the Department of Agriculture, and a bipartisan group of twenty Congressmen and Senators as original co-sponsors.

Despite widespread support for the bill, the passage of the Equity in Educational Land-Grant Status Act of 1994 was never guaranteed.

Since its original introduction by Senator Bingaman of New Mexico in August of 1993, the land-grant bill was amended to accommodate budgetary limitations in the Department of Agriculture while at the same time achieving equitable programs in food and agricultural sciences for American On Campus Indian students. The provisions of the land-grant bill are designed to allocate the same level of resources per-student as the existing land-grant colleges receive.

There are currently about 1.4 million students at the fifty-seven “1862” colleges and approximate­ly 100,000 students at the seventeen “1890” histori­cally black land-grant col­leges, and in aggregate they receive over $700 million annually. These institutions are located in every state, and universi­ties and community col­leges in every federal trust territory were added to the land-grant system between 1968 and 1980.

For the twenty-nine “1994” American Indian Institutions, the land-grant bill contains a one­time, $23 million endow­ment in lieu of a grant of land which was tradition­ally allocated to the 1862 institutions. Because the Department of Agriculture is under reor­ganization and having its budget significantly reduced, the endowment for the 1994 institutions will be allocated in five annual payments $4.6 million payments. Additionally, its legislation includes $5 million in annual extension funding, $1.7 million in institution capacity building grants, and $1.45 million in annual $50,000 payments to each 1994 institution.

With the eventual endorsement of the legisla­tion by the Department of Agriculture, and with the approval of the co-sponsors and the Senate educa­tion leadership, the land- grant bill was attached to the Elementary and Secondary Education Act reauthorization (ESEA), which passed overwhelm­ing. As the individual land-grant had been introduced in the House but had not yet been passed, and as the ESEA bill had already passed in the House without the land-grant bill remained a rider. If it remained, the land-grant bill would pass if ESEA successfully passed.

During the conference, some members of Congress and Agriculture Committee staff won­dered if the legislation, particularly the $5 million provision, duplicated existing Indian Extension Agent programs. The $5 million provision, which represented the bulk of the land-grant bill, was initially dropped.

In response to Congressional requests to address the House Agriculture Committee’s areas of concern, AIHEC representatives conducted a late night meeting to clarify the issue before the ESEA came up for a vote.

AIHEC staff pointed out that mainstream land-grant extension provisions are cooperative in nature, combining distinctly differ­ent programs and resources into a comprehensive out­reach program, and Native Americans deserve the same opportunities. The demand for agricultural education on the 55 mil­lion acres of American Indian land is overwhelm­ing, particularly with 75 percent of the land being used for agricultural and 15 percent used for forestry.

In light of these facts and other relevant infor­mation, the extension pro­vision was reinstated, ensuring that the land-grant legislation would have the maximum posi­tive impact which had ini­tially envisioned. The ESEA passed both sides of Congress, and the Equity in Land-Grant Status Act of 1994 became an official law. With the 1994 institutions serving members from over 300 tribes, trib­al college land-grant sta­tus represents a significant step towards a brighter future for all American Indians.

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