Lincoln University to see a bipartisan push for equitable land-grant funding in Missouri budget
by Rebecca Rivas
Just 30 minutes apart in central Missouri, Lincoln University and University of Missouri (MU) have long been close partners in agricultural research and instruction.
Lincoln runs the state’s largest organic research farm in Jefferson City, and MU researchers often participate in studies there. For 50 years, the two university systems have had a “unified Extension program,” where they offer classes in gardening and small-scale farming to residents statewide.
“We’ve made a commitment for our institutions to work together and as much as we can,” said John Moseley, president of Lincoln University, “…so this gives us a chance to collaborate and maybe have a greater footprint.”
Their ongoing partnership grew out of the fact that they’re Missouri’s only land-grant institutions – or designated universities that have received federal funding for agricultural research and instruction since the late 1800s.
Yet despite their unified mission, the two universities have long received different treatment when it comes time for legislators to allocate funds in the state budget – a discussion that will likely happen in the coming weeks.
In 2000, the federal government mandated that states start matching the federal funding for land-grant universities. In fiscal year 2021, MU used $17 million from its regular $428 million state tax appropriation to match available federal funds, according to a university budget document.
However in the last 22 years, Lincoln, an HBCU (historically Black college or university), has not been able to fund a full state match from its much smaller state appropriation. In fiscal 2021, lawmakers added $3.9 to Lincoln’s regular $21.6 million in state tax funding to help it pay its match.
And every federal dollar that the state doesn’t match for Lincoln must go back to the federal government, according to Lincoln officials. Last year, Lincoln received a 50% state match – or $4.9 million of the required $9.75 million – which was only the second time the university had received as much as a 50% match from the state.
Rep. Dave Griffith, R-Jefferson City, said it’s been “very painful” to watch those dollars go back to the feds every year because the state didn’t match them.
“It seems like the University of Missouri always gets the full funding of the land grant,” Griffith said, “and Lincoln University is kind of like the red-headed stepchild.”
Gov. Mike Parson’s proposed budget for the upcoming fiscal year includes $5.2 million for Lincoln’s land-grant funding – again about half of the required match. However this session, there’s a bipartisan push to get the full required state funding.
The House Budget Committee meets Monday afternoon to put its stamp on the fiscal 2023 budget.
“I think it’s only fair… that way Lincoln could get 100% of their match from the federal government, which would benefit all of us in farming and across the whole state of Missouri with our research,” said Rep. Jamie Burger, R-Benton. “I feel very strongly about that.”
Not wanting to lose out on the federal dollars, Lincoln previously used its core budget – funds meant to benefit all academic departments – to match the federal funds for agricultural research and instruction.
Rep. Kevin Windham, D-Hillsdale, said that the state not only needs to fully fund Lincoln’s land grant match each year, but it also needs to reimburse Lincoln for the $43 million that it had to take out of its core funding since 2000 to use as a match.
“I think Lincoln University – and HBCUs in our state in general – are disregarded and disrespected,” said Windham, who sits on the House budget committee. “I see that in the budget.”
‘Best kept secret’
The University of Missouri was established as a land-grant university in 1870 through the Morrill Act of 1862, which funded educational institutions by granting federally-controlled land to the states. Proceeds from sale of the land provided funds to focus on teaching practical agriculture, science, military science, and engineering.
Nearly 30 years later through the Morrill Act of 1890, the federal government said it would cease funding to states that didn’t accept African-American students into their land-grant universities – unless the states established a separate land-grant institution where African Americans could attend.
Originally established as Lincoln Institute in 1866 with donations from former slaves serving in the Union Army, Lincoln was among the 18 HBCUs designated for the funding.
Today, nearly all of the land-grant HBCUs fail to receive a full state appropriation, according to Forbes.
It’s a struggle that’s been going on since Moseley got to Lincoln in 2014, when he became the head basketball coach.
“Once I joined the president’s cabinet in 2015, it became more apparent to me,” said Moseley, who became president in January.
There had been “consistent attempts” to bring up the issue in the state legislature in his tenure, he said. But in 2017, university administrators finally made the decision to stop using its core funding to support the land grant mission because of the overall deficit the university was experiencing, he said.
“That would be the year that I think they took their biggest stance to say, ‘Hey, if you don’t support it and they deny the waiver, we just won’t provide the services,’ ” Moseley said.
In fiscal year 2018, Lincoln received a 45% match of $3.1 million, up from a 24% match of $1.4 million in the previous year.
While Lincoln receives its land-grant funding as a separate budget line-item every year, the University of Missouri’s funding is included as part of their core appropriations.
A MU spokesperson said in an email statement to the Independent, “The University of Missouri does not receive a line item from the state to match federal funds. The university makes a decision and allocation to match federal funds. We have always complied with federal requirements for matching and make it a priority to match federal dollars with state dollars we receive.”
The University of Missouri has a “strong lobby” in the capitol, and alumni often sit on the budget committee, Griffith said, which is part of the reason they always secure their funding.
However, Griffith believes that Moseley is making his mark on Jefferson City.
“Lincoln is one of our best kept secrets,” Griffith said. “And I think under the leadership of Dr. Moseley, I really see that changing. He’s a very dynamic and very charismatic individual.”
‘Cutting edge’ research
In 2019, state legislators passed a measure to increase industrial hemp production and mandated that all seeds generated for hemp production come from within Missouri.
Lincoln’s Hemp Institute plays a big part in this because it’s one of the leading hemp research facilities in the country, Griffith said.
“The seed germination research being done at Lincoln University is really cutting edge,” he said.
Burger said he values Lincoln’s work and impact in farming areas and community gardens in his district as well. In December, Burger sent a letter to Budget Committee Chair Rep. Cody Smith, R-Carthage, urging him to fully fund Lincoln’s match.
This month, Windham proposed an amendment in the House subcommittee on appropriations to take $8 million from the UM System’s state appropriations, to put it towards Lincoln’s match and other needs. The last thing Windham said he wants to do is “rob Peter to pay Paul.”
“If it was my choice, I wouldn’t have had to take out of UM to give LU the money,” Windham said. “We would have just spent some of the billions of dollars that we got on tap, but I’m just working within the process that we got.”
Windham rescinded his amendment because he said he wants to have further discussions with UM leaders to understand how the $30 million is allocated. However, he said the amendment is not completely off the table yet.
Missouri Independent is part of the States Newsroom, a network of similar news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity.