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USDA Honors 25 Years of Tribal Land-Grant Universities and their Contributions


The U.S. Department of Agriculture honored the 25th anniversary of the legislation that recognized 29 tribal colleges and universities as land-grant institutions. Signed on October 20, 1994, the Equity in Educational Land-Grant Status Act enabled tribal colleges and universities (TCUs) to receive federal support and train the next generation of agricultural professionals.

“For 25 years, tribal land-grant colleges and universities have enjoyed a strong partnership with the U.S. Department of Agriculture,” said Mike Beatty, Director of USDA’s Office of Partnerships and Public Engagement. “Tribal colleges and universities draw on the strength of traditions while preparing graduates who can contribute to their communities.”

Tribal colleges and universities (aka “1994s”) play a significant role among tribal nations. These institutions serve as anchors in their communities, advance tribal health, promote economic opportunity, further environmental conservation, and prepare young people for the workforce. In addition to offering the distinctive land-grant mix of research, education and extension, they also frame that education in the context of Native American history, indigenous knowledge, and traditions. Today there are 36 federally recognized tribal colleges and universities designated as land-grants.

USDA supports tribal colleges and universities through student scholarships, internships, and support for research, classroom education, and extension (sharing knowledge, training, and informal education with agricultural professionals and local communities).

The 1994 institutions are the latest additions to the land-grant university system that has democratized American higher education. The Morrill Act of 1862 created land-grant institutions to give working class citizens equal access to higher education, focusing on agriculture and mechanical arts. A second Morrill Act of 1890 authorized land-grant institutions for African Americans. The 1994 Act gives tribal higher education centers the same status as other land-grant institutions.

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