Land Grant Universities

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The Idea: Land-grant universities a model for government financing of the production of FLO technology.

§ 304. Investment of proceeds of sale of land or scrip

All moneys derived from the sale of lands as provided in section 302 of this title by the States to which lands are apportioned and from the sales of land scrip provided for in said section shall be invested in bonds of the United States or of the States or some other safe bonds; or the same may be invested by the States having no State bonds, in any manner after the legislatures of such States shall have assented thereto and engaged that such funds shall yield a fair and reasonable rate of return, to be fixed by the State legislatures, and that the principal thereof shall forever remain unimpaired: Provided, That the moneys so invested or loaned shall constitute a perpetual fund, the capital of which shall remain forever undiminished (except so far as may be provided in section 305 of this title), and the interest of which shall be inviolably appropriated, by each State which may take and claim the benefit of this subchapter, to the endowment, support, and maintenance of at least one college where the leading object shall be, without excluding other scientific and classical studies and including military tactics, to teach such branches of learning as are related to agriculture and the mechanic arts, in such manner as the legislatures of the States may respectively prescribe, in order to promote the liberal and practical education of the industrial classes in the several pursuits and professions in life.

§ 341. Cooperative extension work by colleges

In order to aid in diffusing among the people of the United States useful and practical information on subjects relating to agriculture, uses of solar energy with respect to agriculture, home economics, and rural energy, and to encourage the application of the same, there may be continued or inaugurated in connection with the college or colleges in each State, Territory, or possession, now receiving, or which may hereafter receive, the benefits of subchapters I and II of this chapter, agricultural extension work which shall be carried on in cooperation with the United States Department of Agriculture: Provided, That in any State, Territory, or possession in which two or more such colleges have been or hereafter may be established, the appropriations hereinafter made to such State, Territory, or possession shall be administered by such college or colleges as the legislature of such State, Territory, or possession may direct. For the purposes of this subchapter, the term “solar energy” means energy derived from sources (other than fossil fuels) and technologies included in the Federal Non-Nuclear[1] Energy Research and Development Act of 1974, as amended [42 U.S.C. 5901 et seq.].

§ 342. Cooperative agricultural extension work; cooperation with Secretary of Agriculture

Cooperative agricultural extension work shall consist of the development of practical applications of research knowledge and giving of instruction and practical demonstrations of existing or improved practices or technologies in agriculture, uses of solar energy with respect to agriculture, home economics, and rural energy and subjects relating thereto to persons not attending or resident in said colleges in the several communities, and imparting information on said subjects through demonstrations, publications, and otherwise and for the necessary printing and distribution of information in connection with the foregoing; and this work shall be carried on in such manner as may be mutually agreed upon by the Secretary of Agriculture and the State agricultural college or colleges or Territory or possession receiving the benefits of this subchapter.



  • The importance of the land grant colleges cannot be exaggerated. Although originally started as agricultural and technical schools, many of them grew, with additional state aid, into large public universities which over the years have educated millions of American citizens who otherwise might not have been able to afford college.
  • The Morrill Act of 1862 was also known as the Land Grant College Act. It was a major boost to higher education in America. The grant was originally set up to establish institutions in each state that would educate people in agriculture, home economics, mechanical arts, and other professions that were practical at the time. The land-grant act was introduced by a congressman from Vermont named Justin Smith Morrill. He envisioned the financing of agricultural and mechanical education. He wanted to assure that education would be available to those in all social classes.
  • There were several of these grants, but the first passed in 1862. This bill was signed by Abraham Lincoln on July 2. This gave each state 30,000 acres of public land for each Senator and Representative. These numbers were based on the census of 1860. The land was then to be sold and the money from the sale of the land was to be put in an endowment fund which would provide support for the colleges in each of the states.
  • The Morrill Acts have become a major educational resource for our nation. This program is available to all people who are in search of higher education. Over the years it has proven to be an important part of our educational system. This Act changed the course of higher education. The purpose of education shifted from the classical studies and allowed for more applied studies that would prepare the students for the world that they would face once leaving the classroom. This Act also gave education support directly from the government. The Morrill Act changed the face of education and made room for our growing and ever changing country and ensured that there would always be money to finance educational facilities and that there would be continual government support of these institutions.


“Knowledge, being necessary to good government and the happiness of mankind, schools and the means of education shall forever be encouraged.” So wrote the Continental Congress in the Northwest Ordinance of 1787. With this ordinance, Congress established a precedent for the support of public education that would grow to substantial commitments in later years.

Land was the key to the Federal Government’s early involvement, for this was the most readily available resource in the unopened continent. As public lands were surveyed into 6-mile square townships, a 1-square-mile section in each township was reserved for the support of public schools. The land itself was rarely used for school construction but rather was sold off, with proceeds used to fund the school program. The system invited misuse by opportunists, and substantial portions of the educational land-grants never benefited education. Nevertheless, land-grant support became a substantial factor in providing education to most American children who could never hope to attend private or charity-supported schools.

The Morrill Act committed the Federal Government to grant each state 30,000 acres of public land issued in the form of “land scrip” certificates for each of its Representatives and Senators in Congress. Although many states squandered the revenue from this endowment, which grew to an allocation of over 100 million acres, the Morrill land grants laid the foundation for a national system of state colleges and universities. In some cases, the land sales financed existing institutions; in others, new schools were chartered by the states. Major universities such as Nebraska, Washington State, Clemson, and Cornell were chartered as land-grant schools. State colleges brought higher education within the reach of millions of students, a development that could not help but reshape the nation’s social and economic fabric.

(Information excerpted from Milestone Documents in the National Archives. [Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, 1995], p. 57.)

What are land grant universities? Their history? Different types?

"The 1862 Morrill Act allocated 17,400,000 acres (70,000 km2) of land, which when sold yielded a collective endowment of $7.55 million... Congress later recognized the need to disseminate the knowledge gained at the land-grant colleges to farmers and homemakers. The Smith-Lever Act of 1914 started federal funding of cooperative extension, with the land-grant universities' agents being sent to virtually every county of every state. Starting in 1887, Congress also funded agricultural experiment stations and various categories of agricultural and veterinary research "under direction of" the land-grant universities.[10] In some states, the annual federal appropriations to the land-grant college under these laws exceed the current income from the original land grants. In the fiscal year 2006 USDA Budget, $1.033 billion went to research and cooperative extension activities nationwide.[11] The President has proposed $1.035 billion for fiscal year 2008.[12]"


"The Cooperative Extension Service, also known as the Extension Service of the USDA, is a non-formal educational program implemented in the United States designed to help people use research-based knowledge to improve their lives. The service is provided by the state's designated land-grant universities. In most states the educational offerings are in the areas of agriculture and food, home and family, the environment, community economic development, and youth and 4-H. The National Institute of Food and Agriculture of the USDA administers funding for Smith Lever Act services in cooperation with state and county governments and land-grant universities...

The roots of U.S. agricultural extension go back to the early years of our country. There were agricultural societies and clubs after the American Revolution, and in 1810 came the first Farm Journal. It survived for only 2 years, but in 1819 John Stuart Skinner of Baltimore began publishing the American Farmer. Farmers were encouraged to report on their achievements and their methods of solving problems. Some worthwhile ideas, along with some utterly useless ones, appeared on the pages of the publication...

At the heart of agricultural extension work, according to the Act, was: (1) Developing practical applications of research knowledge. (2) Giving instruction and practical demonstrations of existing or improved practices or technologies in agriculture.

The extension service's first big test came during World War I, when it helped the nation meet its wartime needs by: (1) Increasing wheat acreage significantly, from an average of 47 million acres (190,000 km2) annually in 1913 to 74 million in 1919. (2) Helping the USDA implement its new authority to encourage farm production, marketing, and conserving of perishable products by canning, drying, and preserving. (3) Helping to address war-related farm labor shortages at harvest time by organizing the Women's Land Army and the Boys' Working Reserve.

Extension agents taught farmers about marketing and helped farm groups organize both buying and selling cooperatives. At the same time, extension home economists taught farm women—who traditionally maintained the household—good nutrition, canning surplus foods, house gardening, home poultry production, home nursing, furniture refinishing, and sewing—skills that helped many farm families survive the years of economic depression and drought.

Between 1950 and 1997, the number of farms in the U.S. declined dramatically—from 5.4 million to 1.9 million. Because the amount of farmland did not decrease as much as the number of farms, the remaining farms have a larger average acreage. During the same period, farm production increased from one farmer supporting the food needs of 15.5 persons in 1950 to one farmer supporting 100 persons in 1990. By 1997, one farmer supported the food needs of almost 140 U.S. citizens. That increased productivity, despite the decline in farm numbers, resulted from increased mechanization, commercial fertilizers, new hybrid seeds, and other technologies. Extension played an important role in extending these new technologies to U.S. farmers and ranchers.

There remain approximately 2,900 extension offices nationwide.

The extension system also supports the eXtension Web site. One of the goals of eXtension is to develop a coordinated, Internet-based information system where customers will have round-the-clock access to trustworthy, balanced views of specialized information and education on a wide range of topics. For customers, the value will be personalized, validated information addressing their specific questions, issues, and life events in an aggregated, non-duplicative approach.

Information on the eXtension Web site is organized into Communities of Practice (COP). Each COP includes articles, news, events, and frequently asked questions (FAQs). The information comes from Land-Grant University System faculty and staff experts. It is based on unbiased research and undergoes peer review prior to publication. Current COPs are organized around many topics, including but not limited to diversity, entrepreneurship, agrosecurity, cotton, dairy cattle, and more.


The Hatch Act of 1887 authorized the establishment of an agricultural experiment station, to be affiliated with the land grant college of agriculture, in each state (7 U.S.C. 361a et seq.). Research done at these stations underpins the curriculum of the colleges, as well as the programs of the Cooperative Extension System.[1]

The United States of America has more than 50 stations (1988), run by about 13,000 scientists (1988). Each state has at least one main station, usually located at and associated with a land-grant university. Many states have branch stations to meet the special needs of different climate and geographical zones in those states.

They investigate such areas as crop variations, soil testing, livestock, processing and animal technology, and other advanced technology to food and agriculture. They also work with specialists called extension agents.


The Henry A. Wallace Beltsville Agricultural Research Center 10300 Baltimore Ave., Beltsville, MD 20705 "The World's Largest Most Diversified Agricultural Research Complex"

History of open/shared science vs. closed/hoarding science at land grant universities?

Does federal, state or local governments still give out land grants?


Land-grant schools make a natural ally for the commons movement

By Leodis Scott:

"Advocates and proponents of the commons-based strategy may regard land-grant institutions as an appropriate venue to do the following:

1) Introduce a commons-based strategy to all land-grant institutions; 2) Serve as the collective community voice that land-grant institutions can assess their service and engagement outcomes; and 3) Make new and lasting partnerships that fulfill the common good of the public, especially higher, adult, and continuing education.

Some specific commons-based actions might include revisiting service-learning programs, community-based research, engaged scholarship, and starting a 21st century “commons-colleges” movement.

Mutual Movement

In the context of American higher education, land-grant institutions has represent a unique set of colleges and universities initially charged to offer a new form of education and learning. Since their beginnings as agricultural and mechanical (A & M) schools, land grant colleges have expanded beyond farming in their mission to serve both rural and urban communities. With federal legislation in 1862, 1890, and 1994, there are approximately 110 U.S. Land-Grant Institutions, at least one in every State and major territory (see sidebar). These institutions range from research universities to Native American tribal colleges, most public and some private, all of them serving multiple and diverse communities.

Before land-grant institutions, education and learning had been reserved for the privileged few, but the hope and promise of these colleges was to open doors for the common people. Over time, the common people would come to include African-Americans (many historically black colleges were added to system in 1890), Hispanic Americans, and Native Americans (many tribal colleges were added in 1994) resulting in land-grant institutions being called the “public’s universities.”

Relating to communities, many land-grant institutions are recognized for their cooperative extension programs, outreach departments, and engagement offices that provide knowledge and expertise for common issues and concerns. The land-grant idea, which has not been fully actualized, does signify a movement toward a mutual “two-way” relationship between institutions and communities, campuses and neighborhoods, educators and learners.

As land-grant institutions now celebrate 150 years of service since Abraham Lincoln signed the First Morrill Act in 1862, there have been concerns about how they remain relevant to the public. Some observers have targeted their historic threefold mission of teaching, research, and service as needing a makeover for the twenty-first century. The upgraded mission would emphasizes learning, discovery, and engagement that underscore the broader agenda of viewing the land-grant mission as more collaborative, reciprocal, and interactive.

Reciprocal Mission

The most discussed issues involving land-grants today relate to service or engagement. In fact, if you were to browse a website of a land-grant institution in any U.S. state you’ll likely find terms including service learning, community service, outreach, or extension. All of these are land-grant lexicon for establishing relationships with the community.

The concern among many supporters of the land-grant mission is that these institutions never go beyond the rhetorical language. In other words, service and engagement may occur, but in words only, and not embedded within the daily practices and procedures of the entire institution. As George McDowell (2001) warned in a book entitled, Land-grant Universities and Extension into the 21st century: Renegotiating or Abandoning a Social Contract, land-grant institutions are in “danger” of irrelevancy, if they do not engage with their communities. These kinds of engagement are what Harry Boyte (author of Everyday Politics: Reconnecting Citizens and Public Life) called “public work,” which searches for real-life answers to what Ernest Boyer, in his Scholarship of Engagement, described as the “most pressing” problems in our society.

These efforts envision service and engagement at land-grant institutions intertwined with the practices of teaching and research; discovery and learning; partnership and democracy. In this way, the work targets the daily actions of all stakeholders including college administrators, faculty, and students. Other practices—such as community-based (action-participatory) research, civic engagement, and collaborative inquiry—emphasize reciprocal and respectful shared-interest between land-grant institutions and the commons-based communities.

Shared Public-Interest

The most significant connection between land-grant institutions and commons-based organizations and movements exists in their shared interest for the public community. How their interests have been applied or expressed may differ, yet their common theme could be a catalyst for future partnership and collaboration.

Advocates for community engagement such as Scott Peters in his work entitled, Engaging Campus and Community, has called for a “meshing” of interests where campuses engage through public scholarship, legitimate relationship-building, and renewing a sense of reciprocity, civility, and democracy. Traditionally, land-grant institutions had assumed an expert role of providing information, science, and technology to farmers and others in the community. However, the expert approach often discounted the knowledge and experience of community members. It isolated the mission of service as “doing good volunteer-work,” thus separating from the missions of teaching and research, both of which have been more recognized and supported by many land-grant institutions.

In other words, the traditional view of service and engagement took on a “one-way relationship” that spurred the Kellogg Commission on the Future of State and Land-Grant Universities to advance both an alternative view of a “two-way mutual relationship” between campuses and communities as well as the renewal of teaching, research, and service through promoting learning, discovery, and engagement. These alternative views highlighted the importance of integrating scholarly work with public needs through sharing interests that benefit both constituencies.

Next Steps for Engagement

In my own studies of land-grant institutions, I found there are various aspects of service and engagement emphasized at different campuses. Practices vary according to location, research activity, and areas of funding, which all together offer a very complex picture of the challenges and dynamics involved. In a market era, driven by measurable outcomes, land-grant institutions are challenged to document their service and engagement—that is, capturing the voices and needs of their community as a whole. Given the diversity of land-grant institutions, one measure may not apply to all.

Surprisingly, here is where the commons-based initiative can play a vital and momentous role for land-grant institutions. The commons-based strategy has focused on shared and public goods that “belong to all of us”; some of these areas include not only food systems, water, and environment; but also internet, politics, and the economy. Specific land-grant institutions through cooperative extension programs and their agricultural experiment stations have started this kind of work in local counties and regions. But in collaboration with the projects of commons-based communities, the work could advance beyond a agricultural focus and toward a national and global agenda for the benefit and interests of all.

In short, land-grant institutions are an ideal place to continue the “commons work.” Land-grant institutions were established or supported by federal legislations and funding, which speak to the national policy potential for these institutions. It follows that if any changes could occur, such as introducing service and engagement within a commons-based strategy, the impact of such collaboration could carry across states, territories, even nations.

In addition, these next steps may help many land-grant institutions resolve challenges of benchmarking, assessing, and evaluating service and engagement. Instead of measuring their work project-by-project in the short term, a commons-based strategy could invite documentation of a mutual mission, community-with-community, of those having access to their “common goods,” now and continuing. Land-grant institutions could also provide the common good of higher education-for-all, where every land-grant campus would not only regain their status as the public’s universities, but also become recognized as “commons-colleges.” (