Spanberger Pushes for Stronger Investments in 1890 Land Grant Universities, Honored as Congressional Champion of HBCUs

WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. Representative Abigail Spanberger last night reiterated her commitment to investing in Virginia’s Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), particularly the agricultural education and research at Virginia State University.

Last week, the U.S. Department of Education and U.S. Department of Agriculture released new data that showed that the Commonwealth of Virginia’s decades of underfunding Virginia State University — an 1890 land-grant institution — has led to a severe gap in its funding relative to other universities. According to the data, an additional $277 million could have been available for the University over the past 30 years, had it been funded at equal levels as Virginia Tech.

Spanberger delivered remarks at the 1st Annual 1890 Land Grant Universities Recognition event hosted by the City Club of Washington, as well as the Environmental Collective and 1890 Universities Foundation. In her comments, she highlighted Virginia State University’s contributions to Virginia’s agricultural economy, and she called for equitable investments going forward.

“In the last 30 years, more than $275 million should have been available for Virginia State University, had it received state funding per student equal to that of Virginia Tech,” said Spanberger. “This is unacceptable; those investments could have supported more infrastructure, more student services, and the ability to compete for research grants to better serve Virginia’s students. We need to do better.”

Spanberger continued, “To ensure the continued success of American agriculture, we need to make smart investments in our 1890 land grant universities, like Virginia State University, which invest so much back into rural America.”

During the event, the host organizations honored Spanberger as a “Congressional Champion” of HBCUs.

A full transcript of her prepared remarks is below.

Good evening, and thank you for having me here this evening to recognize the importance of 1890s Institutions during National HBCU Week.

Public investment in ag research is critical to the success of American agriculture. As you know, research, development, and technological advancements have increased crop yields and improved crop resiliency in America relative to other nations.

Back home in Virginia, I have heard from our farmers and our institutions of higher education about the critical nexus between research and the success of Virginia’s number one private industry – agriculture.

As the only Virginian on the House Agriculture Committee, I am amazed by the critical work done at our land grant universities in Virginia, collaborating with USDA to complete cutting-edge research. In particular, I am proud of Virginia’s unique extension system, where Virginia State University, our Historically Black 1890s Institution, and Virginia Tech, our state’s 1862 Land Grant University, collaborate to administer extension services in every single county.

That’s why I know that collaboration between research institutions and extension educators strengthens the service and perspective provided to farmers across the Commonwealth. Our extension system proves time and time again that investment in universities and research directly translates into investment in farmers.

But as we know, these investments have not always been equitable. Last week, the U.S. Department of Education and the USDA announced that 16 states – including Virginia – have historically underfunded their 1890s institutions.

In the last 30 years, more than $275 million should have been available for Virginia State University, had it received state funding per student equal to that of Virginia Tech. This is unacceptable; those investments could have supported more infrastructure, more student services, and the ability compete for research grants to better serve Virginia’s students. We need to do better.

To ensure the continued success of American agriculture, we need to make smart investments in our 1890 land grant universities, like Virginia State University, which invest so much back into rural America. Future investments will support cutting-edge research, extension services for farmers, and student services — but they will also help us build a more equitable and prosperous agricultural future.

Thank you again for having me, and thank you for all of your work to support 1890s Institutions across the country.

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