By Victor Artero, Dr. Lee S. Yudin, and Dr. Greg Wiecko
THE birth of the Land-Grant College Act started with Congressman Justin Smith Morrill, of Vermont, then a member of the 37th U.S. Congress. Congressman Morrill recognized the importance of agriculture and the mechanical arts to the country’s economy, and introduced a piece of legislation that today continues to make a positive impact on its citizenry. The passage of this legislation gave birth to what is known as the Morrill Act of 1862 or the Land-Grant College Act.
The act began the creation of a system of colleges and universities within the United States that would focus on agriculture, mechanical arts, and military tactics in addition to the more traditional classical or scientific disciplines. The purpose was not to train more farmers or mechanics but to promote the liberal and practical education of the industrial classes in the several pursuits and professions in life.
It is known as the Land-Grant College Act by virtue of the act’s funding mechanism. At the outset, the federal government purchased land in every state in the Union and in turn granted these lands to the states to be sold with the proviso that the proceeds of the sale be kept in an endowment fund for use to support a public institution of higher learning, whose mission included the furtherance of the agricultural and mechanical sciences.The term Land-Grant was coined as a result of the act’s funding mechanism. This far-sighted legislation recognized the importance of agriculture to the economy of the U.S. and ensured a stable, ongoing mechanism was in place to educate future generations. This act is also significant in that, for the first time, it made a college education publicly accessible to what was then limited to the aristocrat and the clergy.
Expansion sparked by Land-Grant College Act
From this modest beginning, the federal government has significantly expanded the original focus of land-grant institutions. Realizing research was as important as training, Congress enacted the Hatch Act in 1887. This legislation provided funds to establish an agricultural experiment station within each Land-Grant institution with a mission to conduct research of practical concerns to the citizenry.
In 1890, Congress passed the Second Morrill Act that supplemented the Land-Grant income. In order to receive funding, a state had to show that race or color was not an admissions criterion, or it would have to designate a separate Land-Grant college for African-Americans. As a result, a group of institutions known as the "1890 Land-Grants" was developed in the then-segregated south.
In 1914, Congress passed the Smith-Lever Act that established the Cooperative Extension Service to extend the knowledge and benefits of Land-Grant research on agriculture, home economics and related subjects to the people.
Over the years, the Land-Grant college system continued to expand, which now includes institutions of higher learning in every state in the Union and as well in Puerto Rico, Guam, the Northern Marianas, American Samoa, the U.S. Virgin Islands and Micronesia. The latest expansion occurred in 1994 when 29 tribal colleges that comprise the American Indian Higher Education Consortium were granted Land-Grant status. For these latter institutions, in lieu of land purchase in their respective territories, Congress instead provided monetary appropriation for their endowment funds.
University of Guam Land-Grant institution
At the University of Guam, the College of Natural and Applied Sciences spearheads the tripartite mission that is inherent in the Land-Grant system through: Research (supported by Hatch funds), Cooperative Extension Service (supported by Smith-Lever funds), and academic programs or formal College Instruction (supported by competitive grants and local funds). Each of these three entities has a defined mission and vision for the stakeholders they serve. Since 1972, when the University of Guam was awarded Land-Grant status, its faculty and students have had a positive impact on its citizenry. Below are examples of activities currently pursued in Research, Cooperative Extension Service and College Instruction by CNAS.
- Research – The Western Pacific Tropical Research Center (WPTRC) is the research division within the College of Natural and Applied Sciences. Scientists working at WPTRC are finding solutions to issues faced by the people and ecosystems of Guam.
- Cooperative Extension Service – Extension agents have devoted their time and effort in providing non-formal education programs and projects in agriculture and the welfare of island communities that include youth, families, food and nutrition.
- College Instruction – The College of Natural and Applied Sciences also provides undergraduate degree programs in agriculture and consumer family sciences, and graduate degrees in biology and environmental sciences.
For the full version of this article and for more information about the University of Guam College of Natural and Applied Sciences, click here.
Victor Artero is the interim associate director of the University of Guam's Cooperative Extension Service of the College of Natural and Applied Sciences; Dr. Lee S. Yudin is the dean of UOG's College of Natural and Applied Sciences; and Dr. Greg Wiecko is the associate director of UOG's Western Pacific Tropical Research Center.