Visit my College Profiles and you can read about the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana. The first is a flagship targeting mainly the excellent students in Illinois, with sizable contingents from other countries. The second targets the very good as well as the excellent not only in Indiana but in several other states and counties. Yet both are their state’s Land Grant universities.
In many cases the flagship university, such as Rutgers-New Brunswick, the University of Delaware or the University of Maryland-College Park is also the state’s Land Grant school. In other states such as Virginia, the flagship and the Land Grant school are not the same.
Justin Smith Morrill, then Senator from Vermont, proposed legislation that granted 30,000 acres in the Western territory to each senator and representative from each state. The acreage was to be sold. Proceeds were dedicated to fund an institution for the teaching of agriculture and the mechanical arts (engineering) in their state. At some schools they were also used to provide for military education. That’s one reason why Virginia Tech and Texas A&M have Corps of Cadets programs on campus.
The Morill Act of 1862 passed Congress. It was signed by President Lincoln more than a year after the start of the Civil War. It applied only to the Union states. A second Morrill Act passed in 1890 provided additional endowments in the form of cash instead of land to establish more Land Grant schools. These included some Historically Black institutions in the Southern states.
Both fields have several specialties, some quite marketable in the business world. Agricultural states such as Nebraska and the Dakotas have been among the more prosperous in better tims. Companies such as Cargill and Caterpillar are very sophisticated businesses. They hire students from agricultural schools to work all around the world.
In 1887 Congress passed the Hatch Act, which provided funding for agricultural experiment stations in every state. Every state maintains these stations to this date; the importance of agriculture to a state’s economy has not diminished although there are far fewer farmers. And many schools involve their students in the research and public education and information programs that take place at these stations.
We would not have 11 of the 14 schools that are part of the Big Ten (Illinois, Iowa, Maryland, Michigan State, Minnesota, Nebraska, Ohio State, Penn State, Purdue, Rutgers and Wisconsin) without the Morrill Act. Nor would we have some of the better known, oft-recruited public HBCUs such as Florida A&M and North Carolina A&T.
Due to the foresight of one senator and one of our greatest Presidents, these schools expanded educational opportunities to students and families who could not previously afford them.
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