Land Grant History

A Brief History of the Land Grant Model of Public Education

By Mary Garbacz

The University of Nebraska is one of more than 100 land grant institutions in the United States and its territories. Although the University of Nebraska-Lincoln was the original campus of the University of Nebraska, the land grant mission extends to all four campuses of the University of Nebraska system.

The land grant college system was established by the passage of the Morrill Act, which was signed into law on July 2, 1862 by President Abraham Lincoln. Named for Congressman Justin Smith Morrill of Vermont, the purpose of the Morrill Act was to establish a college in each state "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."

The Morrill Act gave each state 30,000 acres of federal land for each sitting Senator and Representative in Congress, based on the 1860 census - thus the name "land grant." The land grant system formed the framework for the land grant institutions' missions of teaching, research and extension.

Twenty-five years after the Morrill Act was passed, Congress passed the Hatch Act - on March 2, 1887. The Hatch Act established agricultural experiment stations in connection with the land grant colleges so research could be conducted and applied in practice. Named for Congressman William Henry Hatch of Missouri, the Hatch Act established not only experiment stations, but also distribution of information to the people of the United States on subjects connected with agriculture. The Hatch Act also provided an annual payment to each state and territory for the expenses of research, as well as for printing and distributing the results.

(Taken from the Historical Sketch of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, compiled by Charles Howard Greathouse and published in 1907 by the U.S.D.A. Office of Publications, Government Printing Office, Washington, D.C.)