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Land-grant universities (also called land-grant colleges or land grant institutions) are institutions of higher education in the United Statesmarker designated by each state to receive the benefits of the Morrill Acts of 1862 and 1890.

The Morrill Acts funded educational institutions by granting federally controlled land to the states for the states to develop or sell to raise funds to establish and endow "land grant" colleges. The mission of these institutions as set forth in the 1862 Act is to focus on the teaching of agriculture, science and engineering as a response to the industrial revolution and changing social class rather than higher education's historic core of classical studies.


Michigan State Universitymarker was chartered as the nation’s first land-grant institution on February 12 1855 as the Agricultural College of the State of Michigan, receiving a pre-Morrill Act appropriation of of state-owned land; the Farmers' High School of Pennsylvania, later to become Pennsylvania State Universitymarker, followed on February 22 of that year. The charters for these two schools served as a model for the Morrill Act of 1862. Iowa State Agricultural College (now Iowa State Universitymarker) was the first existing school whose state legislature officially accepted the provisions of the Morrill Act, on September 11 1862. The first land-grant institution created under the Act was Kansas State Universitymarker, established on February 16 1863. The oldest to earn land-grant status is Rutgers Universitymarker, founded in 1766 and designated the land-grant college of New Jersey in 1864.

Hatch Act

The mission of the land-grant universities was expanded by the Hatch Act of 1887, which provided federal funds to states to establish a series of agricultural experiment stations under the direction of each state's land-grant college, as well as pass along new information, especially in the areas of soil minerals and plant growth. The outreach mission was further expanded by the Smith-Lever Act of 1914 to include cooperative extension — the sending of agents into rural areas to help bring the results of agricultural research to the end users. Beyond the original land grants, each land-grant college receives annual Federal appropriations for research and extension work on the condition that those funds are matched by state funds.


While today's land grant universities were initially known as land-grant colleges, only a small handful of the seventy-some institutions which evolved from the Morrill Acts still retain "College" in their official names.

The University of the District of Columbia received land-grant status and a $7.24 million endowment (USD), in lieu of a land grant, in 1967. In a 1972 Special Education Amendment, American Samoamarker, Guammarker, Micronesia, Northern Marianasmarker, and the Virgin Islands each received $3 million.

In 1994, 29 Tribal colleges and universities became land grant institutions under the Elementary and Secondary Education Reauthorization Act. In 2008, 32 tribal colleges and universities have land grant status. Most of these are two-year degree granting colleges. However, six are four-year institutions, and two offer a master's degree.


Land-grant universities are not to be confused with sea grant colleges (a program instituted in 1966), space grant colleges (instituted in 1988), urban-grant universities or sun grant colleges (instituted in 2003). In some states, the land-grant missions for agricultural research and extension have been relegated to a statewide agency of the university system rather than the original land-grant campus; an example is the University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture.

Relevant legislation

See also



Map of all Land-grant universities by USDAmarker

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