A land-grant college or university is an institution that has been designated by its state legislature or Congress to receive the benefits of the Morrill Acts of 1862, 1890, and 1994.
The original mission of these institutions, as set forth in the first Morrill Act, was to teach agriculture, military tactics, and the mechanic arts as well as classical studies so members of the working classes could obtain a liberal, practical education.
Over the years, land-grant status has implied several types of federal support. The first Morrill Act provided grants in the form of federal lands to each state. The states used the proceeds from selling those federal lands to establish a public institution to fulfill the act’s provisions. At different times money was appropriated through legislation such as the second Morrill Act and the Bankhead-Jones Act, although the funding provisions of these acts are no longer in effect.
A key component of the land-grant system is the agricultural experiment station program created by the Hatch Act of 1887. The Hatch Act authorized direct payment of federal grant funds to each state to establish an agricultural experiment station in connection with the land-grant institution there. The amount of this appropriation varies from year to year and is determined for each state through a formula based on the number of small farmers there. A major portion of the federal funds must be matched by the state.
To disseminate information gleaned from the experiment stations’ research, the Smith-Lever Act of 1914 created a Cooperative Extension Service associated with each land-grant institution. This act authorized ongoing federal support
for extension services, using a formula similar to the Hatch Act’s to determine the amount of the appropriation. This act also requires states to provide matching funds in order to receive the federal monies.