Chris Schulz Published

Biden Administration Sends Governor Letter About WVSU Funding

A view of the campus of West Virginia State University shows a tree-lined lane.
The campus of West Virginia State University.
West Virginia State University

On Monday the Biden administration sent letters to 16 governors, including Gov. Jim Justice, to address funding disparities between land-grant universities.

The letter from U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona and U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Thomas Vilsack addressed the “ongoing underinvestment in West Virginia State University” compared to the state’s other land-grant university.

“West Virginia State University, the 1890 land-grant institution in your state, while producing extraordinary graduates that contribute greatly to the state’s economy and the fabric of our nation, has not been able to advance in ways that are on par with West Virginia University, the original Morrill Act of 1862 land-grant institution in your state, in large part due to unbalanced funding,” the letter states. 

The First Morrill Act of 1862 provided states with federal land that could be sold to support the colleges. The Second Morrill Act of 1890 mandated that states either consider Black students equally or found separate land-grant schools for them. 

Cardona and Vilsack claim in the letter that over the last 30 years, WVSU has lost out on more than $800 million in funding. 

President of WVSU Ericke Cage said was not aware of the letters before they were sent, but acknowledged funding is an often-discussed issue. 

“Over the years trying to do more with less presents challenges,” he said. “Challenges with infrastructure, challenges with trying to recruit and retain top notch faculty, challenges with being able to conduct the type of outreach in the community that we have a responsibility to do as a community institution.”

Cage said what he calls “1890 schools” across the country have had to do more with less since their inception.

“This issue is not unique to West Virginia State but to all 1890s again trying to operate at a high level, but without the requisite amount of funding that we need to really, really take them to the next level of excellence,” he said. 

Cage acknowledged that the numbers outlined in the letter are stark but said there is already a commitment to increase support for the university. Cage pointed to the passage of House Bill 3371 earlier this year which formally recommits the state to funding West Virginia State University and the school’s land-grant mission.

“The state legislature over the last few cycles has also been committed to working to help us to fund our required state land grant match and we certainly have strong relationships with our legislators and with our governor,” he said.

Cardona and Vilsack stressed that their aim is to see more state funding for historically black colleges and universities, and not cuts to land-grant institutions.

“We want to make abundantly clear that it is not necessary to reduce funding to other institutions, nor make a reduction in general fund allocations to West Virginia State University in addressing these disparities,” the letter said.