NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Historically Black land-grant universities in Maryland, Tennessee and 14 other states have missed out on $12.6 billion in funding over the last three decades, according to the Biden administration.

Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona and Secretary of Agriculture Thomas Vilsack sent letters to the governors of each state asking them to increase funding, news outlets reported. The letter said the largest disparity was in Tennessee, where Tennessee State University has been underfunded by $2.1 billion dollars. The University of Maryland Eastern Shore has been underfunded by more than $321 million.

“Unacceptable funding inequities have forced many of our nation’s distinguished historically Black colleges and universities to operate with inadequate resources and delay critical investments in everything from campus infrastructure to research and development to student support services,” Cardona said in a statement Monday.

Letters were also sent to governors of Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Texas, Virginia and West Virginia.

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The nation’s land-grant universities were founded in the 19th century on federal land to further agricultural instruction and research. Federal law requires states to provide an equitable distribution of state funding for all land-grant universities, but that hasn’t happened with many historically Black ones, a new analysis found.

The federal agencies used data from the National Center for Education Statistics and found the funding disparity in 16 of 18 states that house Black land grants. Delaware and Ohio provided equitable funding, the analysis found.

The letter to Maryland Gov. Wes Moore said that even though the University of Maryland Eastern Shore has produced “extraordinary graduates that contribute greatly to the state’s economy and the fabric of our nation,” it has “not been able to advance in ways that are on par with University of Maryland – College Park, the original Morrill Act of 1862 land-grant institution in your state, in large part due to unbalanced funding.”

The letter also states: “The longstanding and ongoing underinvestment in University of Maryland Eastern Shore disadvantages the students, faculty, and community that the institution serves. Furthermore, it may contribute to a lack of economic activity that would ultimately benefit Maryland. It is our hope that we can work together to make this institution whole after decades of being underfunded.”

According to the letter, inequitable funding of University of Maryland Eastern Shore “has caused a severe financial gap.” In the last 30 years alone, an additional $321,181,312 would have been available for the university, the letter states.

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“These funds could have supported infrastructure and student services and would have better positioned the university to compete for research grants. University of Maryland Eastern Shore 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,” Cardona wrote in the letter to Moore.

Reached for comment, Moore’s spokesman Carter Elliott touted the governor’s commitment to HBCUs.

“Moore has been a strong advocate for Maryland’s Historically Black Colleges and Universities, and since he took office funding has grown over 20% for these institutions, Elliott said in a prepared statement.

“In his first budget alone, the governor directed $422 million in funding to assist all of Maryland’s HBCUs. The governor also committed to following through on a $577 million investment over the next decade to enhance these institutions under the settlement reached in 2020 between the state and the Coalition for Equity and Excellence in Maryland Higher Education,” Elliott added. “Governor Moore will continue to support these life-changing colleges and universities that make Maryland a more equitable and competitive state.”

The University of Maryland Eastern Shore did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The Associated Press and Banner reporter John-John Williams contributed to this report.

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