A farm bill passed yesterday in the House of Representatives will grant Central State University official land grant status within the state, qualifying it for federal grants and awards for agricultural research and development.
School officials call the vote and designation a reversal of a generations-long injustice, in which the university did not receive the designation while Ohio State University, the state’s only public land grant institution for 123 years, received classification and billions in accompanying support over the years.
“There are a few dates in history that define Central State University; this will now be one of them,” Central State University President Dr. Cynthia Jackson-Hammond said. “On behalf of our students, faculty, staff and alumni, I cannot overstate our gratitude to the Ohio delegation for the mountains they moved to help Central State, our community and the state of Ohio.”
The Columbus Dispatch reports that a coalition of black lawmakers, including Congressional Black Caucus Chairwoman Marcia Fudge, and Central State alumna Joyce Beatty were key organizers in structuring the federal farm bill to include Central State, which some say already serves as a key partner in the state’s agricultural development goals.
“Central State University can play an important role in promoting agriculture research and education throughout the country,” said Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio.
According to leadership at the Association of Public and Land Grant Universities, Central State will be a welcomed partner in the 1890 schools’ membership and collective advocacy for agricultural enhancement through higher education institutions.
“During our summer meeting, the (1890) presidents were really excited about the prospect of Central State joining,” says Dr. John M. Lee, Vice President of the APLU Office for Access and Success in the Advancement of Public Black Universities and Hispanic Serving Institutions. “Central State has a unique history, and the fact its membership would do no harm to existing resources being allocated to land grant institutions. It benefits everyone involved.”
According to Dr. Lee, Central State would not be eligible for federal land-grant formula funding until 2016, during which time the university will be able to build its research and extension capacity in partnership with the state of Ohio to address specific agricultural needs. The two-year window also provides time to monitor changing federal appropriations for land-grant schools, and to determine the impact of the first land-grant admission since 1994, when the federal government designated 31 tribal colleges in the program.
Upon expected passage in the Senate, CSU’s land grant status will be made official upon signing of the passed farm bill by President Barack Obama, which is expected in the next few weeks. Dr. Lee says that Central State is likely to join APLU this year, and will be immediately eligible for certain federal funds designated for research and extension development.