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St. Louis lawmaker files land-grant funding bill

St. Louis lawmaker files land-grant funding bill

December 10th, 2017 by Bob Watson in Local News

Lincoln University could receive its full, federal land-grant money under a bill pre-filed by state Rep. Karla May, D-St. Louis.

"I filed it last year," May said in a telephone interview Saturday. "I tried to get it assigned to the Budget Committee, because we have been fighting for funding for the land-grant for Lincoln University since I've been in the Legislature.

"And I've been on the budget committee for five of the seven years I've been there."

She's term-limited and can't seek another two-year term in the House after this coming year.

May's proposal is one of the nearly 600 bills and constitutional amendments filed since Dec. 1, for lawmakers to consider in the General Assembly session beginning Jan. 3.

Pre-filed bills get introduced officially on the first day of the session, but remain subject to the House speaker's and Senate president pro tem's decisions on when they are assigned to committees for hearings.

Some bills — perhaps most — will never be debated by the full House or Senate.

If May's land-grant funding measure is passed by the Legislature next year and signed by Gov. Eric Greitens, it would require the state to "appropriate matching moneys to all land grant institutions in the state in compliance with the one-to-one match obligation" established in the two federal laws that created land-grant schools.

"(Lincoln's) land-grant has, always, been underfunded," May noted.

State Rep. Jay Barnes, R-Jefferson City, said May has "a great idea that is consistent with the effort I've made to increase funding for agricultural research at Lincoln. The state should be taking full advantage of Lincoln's status as a land-grant university, which means fully funding the state match."

May said Barnes has "been on-board from the beginning. I appreciate his help."

Her bill also says: "Any one-to-one match made by the state shall not result in a reduction in other state moneys appropriated to a land grant institution" — preventing increased land-grant funding at the expense of state support for other programs.

President Abraham Lincoln signed the Morrill Act of 1862, named for U.S. Rep. Justin Morrill, of Vermont, that created land-grant universities in each state — including the University of Missouri-Columbia.

In 1890, Congress passed the "Second Morrill Act," adding 18 black universities, including Lincoln, to the federal land-grant program in states like Missouri, where race was a criterion for admission, or for preventing admission, to the existing land-grant school.

Those schools are all part of a larger group known as HBCUs — historically black colleges and universities.

The 1890 law granted the HBCU colleges the same legal standing as the 1862 colleges had.

Over the years, the federal government provided money for the land-grant schools, but also required a match to the federal money.

Starting in the 1999-2000 business year, it was a 30 percent local match to the federal money, and that was raised to 45 percent a year later.

Since the 2001-02 business year, the federal regulations have required a one-to-one match — for every federal dollar offered, there must be a $1 local match.

In recent years, LU has been eligible for more than $7 million in federal land-grant matching money.

Missouri lawmakers have included full land-grant match funding as part of the University of Missouri's core budget, but Lincoln's funding match has been a hit-and-miss, year-to-year thing.

Providing that money "is the right thing to do," May said. "It should be done by the state of Missouri, hands down.

"I think the only reason we're not doing it is because they can get away with not doing it."

In some states, land-grant eligible HBCUs have sued over under-funding of their local matching money, and have won substantial back-payments.

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Lincoln has not sued nor threatened such a lawsuit.

However, May said: "I've also mentioned that to (lawmakers) several times in the Budget Committee, how we can be sued. To avoid a lawsuit, we need to go ahead and fund this institution."

At a Faculty Senate meeting last February, LU's chief financial officer Sandy Koetting said Lincoln administrators had, since 2000, shifted "about $43 million that we've pulled out of our tuition or out of our (state funding) base, to support the land-grant match requirement," so Lincoln could get the federal money it qualified for.

However, Koetting said, Lincoln's financial situation now won't allow that money-shifting to continue.

Federal law has allowed schools to seek a waiver of the local-match requirements, but May's bill would make that unnecessary.

Her bill says the state "shall not seek a waiver or require any land grant institution in the state to seek a waiver of the state's one-to-one match obligation."

May said Lincoln's matching amount is a tiny part of the state's total budget.

However, helping an open admissions school meet its mission helps the whole state, she said.

"Lincoln is a university that trains (many) of our young farmers," May explained. "They've got the best farm-to-table program that can compete around the world."

Land-grant schools are required to do research.

In Missouri, she noted, Lincoln and MU have worked to do their research in different areas, with Lincoln concentrating on small animals and smaller farms.

Although Lincoln has the second smallest student population among the state's 13 four-year campuses, May said the land-grant match is needed as part of continuing state financial support, because "they need to pay quality staff just as well as these other universities. From a budgetary perspective, it's something that needs to be done."

May is a Saint Louis University graduate, with a bachelor's degree in business administration, who also earned a master's degree in teaching from Lindenwood University, St. Charles.

Former LU President Rome made increased state funding for Lincoln's local land-grant match a priority in his four years at Lincoln. He left Jefferson City in June to take over as president of Fisk University, Nashville, Tennessee.

His successor, LU Interim President Mike Middleton, couldn't be reached for comment.