PINE BLUFF, Ark. — According to the U.S. Department of Education, Arkansas is among 16 states underfunding historically black land-grant universities, which goes against federal law.
The Biden administration said HBCUs are not getting what they deserve as federal law requires equal funding to land-grant schools.
"HBCUs play a significant role in educating students and giving them a place where they can study and feel welcome and a sense of belonging," University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff Chancellor Laurence Alexander said.
UAPB has been serving the community for 150 years and is the only land-grant HBCU in Arkansas. According to the U.S. Department of Education, they are one of the underfunded universities.
"If you dig in here, you'll find evidence of underfunding," Alexander said.
While underfunding is nothing new, Alexander said they've always found a way to provide for their students.
"We've been looking under every rock to find additional funding for our university," Alexander said. "For our students."
Alexander said they also get help from state leaders.
"Governor Sanders, who came in when she came into office, did provide some $2 million a year for the biennium," Alexander said. "So, we have $4 million... in addition to our usual land-grant funding."
Letters were sent to the governors of the 16 states, including Arkansas Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders. The letters emphasize the $12 billion disparity in funding between land-grant HBCUs and non-HBCU land-grant schools.
Alexander said he believes these letters aim to encourage leaders in the included states to help. The Arkansas Department of Education and the governor's office sent us a statement saying in part:
"The Governor and Arkansas Department of Education are proud of the rich tradition at UAPB and will continue to support the Golden Lions."
Both said the letter received won't change their commitment to supporting higher education.
"Our governors, our legislators do step up to the plate and contribute to our institutions," Alexander said. "But I do want to underscore the need is great."
Arkansas is also home to two other HBCUs; one is Shorter College in North Little Rock.
"It is a needed resource," Shorter College President Jerome Green said. "HBCUs are one of America's hidden treasures."
While the college is not a land-grant school, they, too, have dealt with underfunding.
"Having no money is a problem," Green said. "It doesn't matter whether you are public or private."
Green said the lack of funding is something he has seen for years.
"None have adequate funding," Green said. "None have funding on par with most institutions just like them."
Both leaders hope the information released by the U.S. Department of Education will bring attention to something they've been navigating for years.
Regardless, they said they'll continue finding ways to ensure their schools and students have what they need to succeed.