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The state of Oklahoma underfunded its only historically Black college (HBCU), Langston University, by $418 million over the last 30 years compared to its white counterpart Oklahoma State University, White House officials stated in a letter on Monday.
Oklahoma, along with 15 other states, underfunded their HBCUs for decades, in violation of an 1890 law that required equal funding for all land-grant institutions.
In a letter sent to Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt and 15 others, including Democrats and Republicans, U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona and U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Thomas Vilsack suggested working with states to remedy the disparities for underfunded HBCUs like Langston University.
“Given the large amount of state funding that is owed to Langston University, it would be ambitious to address the funding disparity over the course of several years in the state budget,” the officials stated. They also suggested supporting Oklahoma and other states with a “two-to-one” match of federal funds to address the issue.
Gov. Stitt’s office has acknowledged the underfunding.
“The Governor’s office is looking into it and discussing steps forward,” Gov. Stitt’s Communications Director Abegail Cave told The Black Wall Street Times on Wednesday.
What is a land-grant university?
Universities designated as land-grant institutions refers to the Morrill Land Grant Act of 1862. The federal government provided land and supportive funding for states to establish colleges for research purposes. Decades later, however, segregation continued to deny opportunities to Black students.
Therefore, the federal government passed the Second Morrill Act in 1890. It required states that wanted to create a separate university for Black students to provide equal funding.
At a time when history has come under scrutiny in the classroom, the disparities show Jim Crow racism continues to impact students at underfunded Langston University today.
According to the White House letter, which compared funding between each state’s historically white and historically Black land-grant universities, they failed to provided equal funding.
HBCU Langston University underfunded: will state-federal partnership fix it?
Gov. Stitt is currently celebrating a record-level of state funding, despite Democrats urging him to use the funding for crucial service programs. Stitt’s called a special session for the beginning of October for a personal policy goal. He’s urging legislators to eliminate the state’s income tax.
Meanwhile, the White House officials are urging Stitt and 15 other governors not to take funding away from one program to balance the disparities for underfunded Langston University.
“We want to make abundantly clear that it is not necessary to reduce funding to other institutions, nor make a reduction in general fund allocations to Langston University in addressing these disparities,” the officials wrote.
Read the full White House letter here.
The Black Wall Street Times has reached out to Langston University and the office of Gov. Stitt for comment.