'How we can make TSU whole again?' Legislators promise to settle up missing land-grant funding

Tennessee State University could be owed $500M
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Posted at 5:29 PM, Jun 30, 2021
and last updated 2021-06-30 21:05:05-04

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — Hundreds of millions of dollars owed to Tennessee State University will likely be paid out over time by the state.

As one of Tennessee's two land-grant universities, TSU is partially funded by the federal government and the state matches it.

Much of that funding was disregarded for five decades, and according to legislative financial analysts, the school could be out $544,000,000.

"It is only because Tennessee State was embraced by the community that Tennessee State was able to put together unique ways of finding the dollars [and] that they were able to graduate students at the rate that they did," said Representative Harold Love Jr.

Representative Harold Love Jr. co-chaired the meetings of the Joint Land-Grant Committee. On Wednesday, the committee proposed its final plan after lawmakers questioned how it could help get the school back on track.

"How we can make TSU whole again?" posed Sen. Brenda Gilmore.

In the coming weeks, the Tennessee Higher Education Committee or THEC and the Tennessee Department of Finance will be tasked with meeting with TSU to get an outline of the losses the school shouldered when it wasn't receiving the land-grant funding.

"So Tennessee State can bring to the table: this is where we should have been and this is where we are and how do we then put together a program to get us where we should be," Rep. Love said.

Co-chair Senator Richard Briggs said that while it is not possible to give TSU one big check, Tennessee can find ways to repay the school.

"We do have experts who can look at what some of the needs [and] resources are, and then try to draw some conclusions on what can be done to remedy this, to set the ship back on course," said Senator Richard Briggs. "Whatever is decided on has to be within the means and ability of what the state's budget is. This isn't just being looked at as a isolated issue. It has to be looked at in view of the entire state budget."

The committee will charge, THEC to studying the needs of Tennessee State University with the consultation of TSU administration and consultation with the Department of Finance of what needs to be done with facilities, technology, scholarship, etc., and what funding the state will provide to be done to bring Tennessee State University up today and up to par with the other universities.

Due September 1 is a final copy of the report from THEC and the Department of Finance to be given to all the committee members before it is released to Governor Bill Lee, the Senate Finance Chairperson and House Finance Chairperson.