Report says Tennessee State has been historically underfunded

Published 9:53 am Tuesday, September 26, 2023

Getting your Trinity Audio player ready...


Tennessee State University has been underfunded by $2.1 billion in the past 30 years alone, a letter from the U.S. Department of Education and U.S. Department of Agriculture said.

The letter was part of 16 sent to state governors saying that 18 combined Historically Black Colleges and Universities have been underfunded by a combined $12 billion compared to other land grant institutions in their states.

Email newsletter signup

The letter to Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee acknowledged the state has begun addressing the funding issues in recent years but said there has been a notable disparity in funding compared to the University of Tennessee-Knoxville.

“These funds could have supported infrastructure and student services and would have better positioned the university to compete for research grants,” the letter said. “Tennessee State University has been able to make remarkable strides and would be much stronger and better positioned to serve its students, your state, and the nation if made whole with respect to this funding gap.”

For years, Tennessee State did not receive promised state match funding, which was supposed to be equal to the amount of federal funds Tennessee State received as a Land Grant Institution.

“Unacceptable funding inequities have forced many of our nation’s distinguished Historically Black Colleges and Universities to operate with inadequate resources and delay critical investments in everything from campus infrastructure to research and development to student support services,” U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona said in a statement. “I am continually inspired by all that HBCUs have achieved despite having to punch above their weight.”

The federal letter suggests Tennessee significantly alters its secondary education funding moving forward.

“Given the large amount of state funding that is owed to Tennessee State University, it would be ambitious to address the funding disparity over the course of several years in the state budget,” the letter said. “It might very well be your desire to do so, which we wholeheartedly support. Yet, if an ambitious timetable is not a possibility, we suggest a combination of a substantial state allocation toward the 1890 deficit combined with a forward-looking budget commitment for a two-to-one match of federal land-grant funding for these institutions in order to bring parity to funding levels.”