After withholding funding for decades, the state of Tennessee owes Tennessee State University (TSU), a public HBCU more than $500 million.
A bipartisan legislative committee determined the state has failed to fund TSU in matched land grants since the 1950s. According to NPR, the committee believes the state has withheld between $150 million and $544 million from the HBCU.
When TSU was founded in 1912, it was designated a land-grant university, meaning the state is required to match federal funds sent to the university every year. However, the university has been underfunded for decades as the state starved the university of vital funds.
“We are pleased with the findings of the land-grant study committee and excited about the possibilities of what this means for the University,” TSU President Glenda Glover said in a TSU release. “TSU will be made stronger and more vibrant, which benefits all of Tennessee.”
HBCUs in general are severely underfunded when compared to other public and private universities but they’re vital to the education of Black Americans. HBCUs account for about 3% of four-year nonprofit colleges, however, 80 percent of Black judges, 50 percent of Black lawyers and doctors, and 25 percent of Black undergraduates who earn degrees in STEM come from HBCUs.
This also isn’t the first time a state has starved an HBCU. The state of Maryland will pay $577 million over 10 years to settle a federal lawsuit alleging discrimination and underfunding of the state’s four HBCUs.
MacKenzie Scott, the former wife of Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, gave more than $1 billion to HBCUs last year amid the Black Lives Matter protest and a commitment to racial equity. Scott gave more than $380 million to 17 HBCUs. Oprah Winfrey also donated $2 million to TSU last summer.