Louisiana legislature passes land grant status for university

Both the Louisiana Senate and House of Representatives have passed resolutions to recommend that the U.S. Congress grant Grambling State University status as a land-grant institution, which would make the university eligible for millions of dollars in federal funding every year.

“We could be receiving 5-10 million dollars a year just in direct appropriations for research and extension services, which means we can do a substantial amount of research that we don’t do now,” said John Rosenthall, vice president for Research, Advancement and Economic Development.

“We can provide opportunities for students to do research. More importantly, it also opens us up to compete for literally hundreds of millions of dollars in funds that come out of the National Institute for Food and Agriculture (NIFA).”

Land-grant institutions were designated by The Morrill Acts of 1862 and 1890 to provide lands and funds to start institutions of higher education that focus on agriculture, science, military science and engineering. The United States Department of Agriculture’s NIFA administers the land-grant programs and makes available millions of dollars exclusively to land-grant institutions every year. Some of the funds are provided through a direct appropriation for research and extension services while others are awarded competitively.

The designation of Central State University in Ohio as a land-grant institution in 2014 has set a precedent for granting land-grant status to other institutions. If approved, Grambling would join Louisiana State University and Southern University as the state’s third land-grant institution.

Sen. Rick Gallot and Rep. Patrick Jefferson sponsored resolutions in Louisiana’s Senate (SR 141) and House of Representatives (HR 102) seeking to grant Grambling land-grant status. SR 141 passed the Senate, while HR 102 has been approved by the House and is waiting on a signature from Secretary of State Tom Schedler.

Jefferson said he and Gallot have been working with GSU Interim President Cynthia Warrick and her administrative team to make Grambling a land-grant institution since the 2015 legislative session began.

“I thought it was a great opportunity for Grambling to completely advance its mission,” Jefferson said. “I think that the Grambling mission and the Grambling product can compete with any institution, but I saw it as a means to capitalize on some additional federal funds and enhance our mission to educate students. 

“Let’s let Grambling do what it’s been doing for so many years, and that is to educate our people. We want to give our students the best opportunity for success,” Jefferson said.

The debate now moves to the U.S. Congress, which will have to approve a resolution to officially designate Grambling a land-grant institution. If approved, the resolution will go to President Barack Obama for his signature.