In-Depth: Tennessee owes TSU millions of dollars; here's a timeline of the investigation

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Posted at 2:00 PM, Oct 06, 2021
and last updated 2021-10-06 16:17:07-04

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF)  — An investigation recently revealed that millions of dollars earmarked for Tennessee State University, a land-grant university, never made it there. Here’s a timeline of the investigation, so far, and what lawmakers plan to do in 2022.

December 2020:

Findings by Tennessee's Land-Grant Committee determine that TSU has not consistently received funding from the federal government, state or both since the 60s. As one of Tennessee's two land-grant universities, TSU is partially funded by the federal government and the state matches it.


Both TSU and the University of Tennessee were given federal land in the late 1800s to establish colleges and universities for agriculture. Because of that deal, the money the federal government sets aside for the schools needs to be matched by the state. The investigation found the appropriate funds went to UT, but TSU was shorted millions.

April 2021:

Legislative financial analysts find that the state could owe up to $544,000,000 to TSU. A joint committee of the legislature meets to discuss the sum owed to the university.

During that meeting, Rep. Harold Love Jr. says funding should've been 75% for UT and 25% for TSU. However, for decades, funding for TSU was inconsistent, federal, state or both never made it to the university.

June 2021:

The Joint Land-Grant Committee proposes its final plan after lawmakers question how it could help get the school back on track. Co-chair Senator Richard Briggs says that while it is not possible to give TSU one big check, Tennessee can find ways to repay the school.

The Tennessee Higher Education Committee (THEC) and the Tennessee Department of Finance is then tasked with meeting with TSU to get an outline of the losses the school shouldered when it wasn't receiving the land-grant funding.

September 2021:

The land-grant committee receives a memo from the Tennessee Higher Education Committee and department of finance outlining areas where TSU suffered damages.

Click here to read the memo

A facility assessment concluded that TSU's maintenance needs alone total $337,500,000. Some proposed projects include updating electrical infrastructure, re-roofing buildings, safety and security infrastructure improvements on campus, demolishing four halls, building new residence halls and apartments, and a new library. In addition to facility updates, funding needs were found necessary for financial aid programs, retention and graduation support services and mental health counseling.

What's next?

The department of finance and THEC will determine if any of these projects qualify for funding under the American Rescue Plan allocations to the State of Tennessee/Tennessee State University.

January 2022:

A much more robust discussion is expected in January when the General Assembly reconvenes about the best way forward when considering TSU’s infrastructure and facilities needs.

*Hannah McDonald and Kyle Horan contributed to this story.