According to the Tennessean, Tennessee State University (TSU), a historically-Black university, is owed $2 billion in back pay following years of underfunding. Leading this pursuit is civil rights attorney Ben Crump, who visited the university to speak to staff and students about the situation.
This September, U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona and U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Thomas Vilsack sent a letter requesting that 16 state governments account for the underfunding of several HBCUs years after the Second Morrill Act of 1890. This act provided federal land grants to institutions amid segregation.
However, funding to HBCUs compared to predominantly-white institutions has historically been disproportionate, with Black universities bearing the brunt of it, according to Nashville Scene.
“Tennessee State University has been able to make remarkable strides and would be much stronger and better positioned to serve its students, your state, and the nation if made whole with respect to this funding gap,” read the letter.
Between 1997 and 2020 alone, over $30 billion disappeared from eight different HBCUs nationwide. TSU is owed the most compensation of these underfunded universities, at a staggering $2,147,784,704 from the past three decades. Now, Crump calls on the Tennessee governor to rectify this injustice.
“This is really about the lives of Black people in America and trying to understand that there’s a huge wealth gap between Black Americans and white Americans. And education is a great equalizer to bridge that wealth gap,” he said at a town hall meeting Oct. 3.
“We really sincerely hope that the Tennessee legislature is going to rectify this historic deficit.”
With these financial deficits, many Tennessee State University students and alums feel swindled. Despite the Biden administration’s concerted effort to address such disparities, the state’s failure to allocate these demanded funds could lead to legal action.
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