'Huge amounts of money are not accounted for.' State investigating where millions held for TSU went

Posted at 6:49 PM, Dec 09, 2020
and last updated 2020-12-09 19:49:38-05

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — According to an investigation, millions of dollars earmarked for Tennessee State University, a land-grant university, never made it there.

Since the sixties, TSU has not consistently received funding from the federal government, state or both, according to findings by Tennessee's Land-Grant Committee.

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.

"When the money was sent from the fed government, where was it sent?," said Representative Harold Love Jr., the committee chairperson. "When the money was supposed to go from the state government budget to the university, how much was supposed to go and how much actually went there?"

At the committee's meeting on Tuesday, lawmakers talked about the impact the inadequate funding has had on the university.

"They were neglecting maybe maintenance on a building or giving scholarships to students," said Sen. Brenda Gilmore.

Rep. Love wants to fix the long-standing issue, that he said has not been prioritized in the past. Rep. Love said his father discovered the discrepancy decades ago, but it didn't lead to change.

"The most glaring thing is my father presented his report in 1970 and the same kind of things went on for 50 more years," Rep. Love said.

Rep. Love is not convinced the committee can determine the motivation for shortchanging the university for so long. It is going to look at all possibilities.

"You have to go back to looking at a budget and ask yourself a question. Once something is put into the budget, a decision is made oftentimes and the next budget it is cared for just like that. Once a discrepancy is put in the first time, unless you have someone who is caring for that, the next time it's going to continue and continue and continue," he said.

The committee will work to make sure TSU gets what it is due going forward.

"And I would say the same thing to someone who says how to do you change a law that was passed 20 years by another group of legislators?' As stewards of state government, I believe, now it is our charge to rectify past laws that were made. If you have something that you know was done wrong 50, 70 years ago, then the current stewards of state government, the current policymakers I think have the obligation of saying how do we fix this problem, so we don't have this issue again," he said.

Although the investigation revealed UT may have benefited from TSU's losses, the committee does not have plans to penalize the school.

The Land-Grant Committee will meet next on January 11. Both representative from TSU and UT have been asked to speak.