Sunday, December 9, 2007

Land Grant Institutions

Utah State University and Michigan State University share the common bond of being their state's specific land grant institutions. A land grant institution is an institution that has been designated by its state legislature or Congress to receive the benefits of the Morrill Acts of 1862 and 1890.

Senator Justin Smith Morrill of Vermont saw the need for land grant legislation as a way to allow a university education for the industrial and working classes. Essentially, after the revolutionary war, private education at such schools such as Harvard, Yale and William and Mary allowed education to only an elite few. Publicly controlled institutions were not much different from their private counterparts and Morrill saw a need to educate those members of the working class who were missing out on these same opportunities. Morrill's first attempt at legislation was in 1857, however, after being passed by congress the bill was vetoed by President James Buchanan.

The Civil War commenced and Morrill sought another avenue to the passage of his idea, this time instead of focusing primarily on agriculture and technical education or mechanical arts, Morrill added a provision that the land grant institutions were to teach military tactics. Congress and then President Lincoln also saw the need for increased military training in the Civil War effort. The exact language of the bill stated the purpose as,

the endowment, support, and maintenance of at least one college where the leading object shall be, without excluding other scientific and classical studies, and including military tactics, to teach such branches of learning as are related to agriculture and the mechanic arts, in such manner as the legislatures of the states may respectively prescribe, in order to promote the liberal and practical education of the industrial classes in the several pursuits and professions in life.

Morrill's new found emphasis on military training with the Civil War just beginning was quickly passed and President Lincoln signed the bill into law on July 2, 1862. The military curriculum at all land grant institutions led to the establishment of the Reserve Officers Training Corps, an educational program for future Navy, Army and Air Force officers.

Kansas State became the first land grant college, but was quickly followed by a plethora of other land grant schools. At present, every state and the District of Columbia have at least one land grant institution. Seventeen southern states have an additional land grant institution due to the second Morrill Act of 1892 which expressly allowed for all black land grant institutions with the same mission.

In Utah, the land grant institution is Utah State University which was founded in 1888. Sister land grant institutions in the west include Colorado State University, Washington State University, the University of Arizona, New Mexico State University, Montana State University, the University of Idaho, and Oregon State University. Utah State and New Mexico State in fact nickname themselves "Aggies" as a short term for agricultural students. The schools traditionally are looked down upon by their usually larger and often more prestigious brethren -- as the agricultural schools developed research, law, engineering and other academic programs later than their more prestigious brethren if they have developed them at all.

On Wednesday night, Utah dumps it's land grant counterpart 72-48 as the Utes hold Jaycee Carroll to only 7 shots. On Saturday Brigham Young University opens up a ten point halftime lead against Michigan's land grant institution -- Michigan State University (founded in 1855, but made Michigan's land grant insitution after passage of the Morrill act), but the 7th ranked Spartans rally to win 68-61 at EA Solutions Arena.

To think none of this could have existed had Senator Morrill not seen the need for agricultural, mechanical and military colleges 145 years ago.

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