Report: Tennessee could owe TSU a half-billion dollars

Posted at 5:59 PM, Apr 05, 2021

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — Citing years of unpaid land grant matches by the state, a joint committee of the legislature discussed a half-billion-dollar sum owed to Tennessee State University.

According to legislative financial analysts, the state could owe up to $544,000,000 to the HBCU.

When the school was founded, the federal government put both TSU and the University of Tennessee on a land grant program. Tennessee was supposed to match dollar for dollar money sent by the federal government to fund the schools.

According to Rep. Harold Love Jr., that 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.

However, there's also another funding ratio that has the dollar amount owed to TSU at $150,000,000.

Either way, TSU President Dr. Glenda Glover said she believes the state owes money.

"We know there's been some past ills among HBCUs across the country when it comes to land grant matches," said Dr. Glover. "So, I'm happy that Tennessee is taking the lead in this process because I'm talking to other presidents of land grant institutions in the 1890s. We all have the same problem."

Some members of the committee today questioned the funding percentages. Stating they haven't been updated since when the program first started.

"The argument that we don't know what the ratio is, that doesn't hold water," said Rep. Love. "We've been funding these 75-25 from the federal government. TSU sometimes is not getting their money [and] TSU is not getting paid dollar for dollar."

Dr. Glover said she thinks it's unrealistic the state would give the university a lump sum of $500 million. However, she believes this discussion is the first step to starting to repay the money.

"What has TSU lost? We could not recruit properly. There's research dollars that we're able to get and use. The 4H club, the extension work that we're doing. So, we have to find a way to make ends meet and without getting the dollars the federal government require be matched," she said.