The Morrill Act of 1862

On July 2, 1862, President Abraham Lincoln signed into law a bill that donated land to each state for the establishment of colleges to provide a liberal and practical education to the "industrial class," or the common person.

These colleges would provide instruction in agriculture and the mechanic arts, such as engineering. Because of the land granted to each state and territory, the Morrill Act of 1862 became known as the land-grant act.

Sponsored by U.S. Congressman Justin Smith Morrill of Vermont, the bill allotted 30,000 acres of public land for each sitting senator and representative in Congress to establish these colleges. Morrill could not have known the future impact this law would have in providing equal opportunity to education in the United States and its territories.

Today, there are more than 100 land-grant institutions in the United States and its territories, each focusing on teaching, research and outreach- taking new knowledge to the people.


"It is comforting to know that the best minds are already thinking ahead, planning for and laying the foundations for strategies to feed the world. And many of these minds are right here at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln."

--Harvey Perlman, Chancellor, University of Nebraska-Lincoln

 "If we embrace the responsibility of being one of the leading land-grants in agriculture, then I think our students also must accept the responsibility of contributing to the solutions globally."

--Steven Waller, Dean of the UNL College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources

"The land grant (act) created these wonderful colleges and universities across the country to give every person an opportunity to have a higher education."

--Elbert Dickey, who retired in June 2012 as UNL Extension Dean

"The land-grant mission means that we really serve the clientele within not only our respective state, but our respective industries, across state lines. And that our research, our teaching and our outreach work is always meant to try to increase the standard of living of what we consider our clientele, which are the citizens."

--Matt Spangler, associate professor, UNL Department of Animal Science

The Morrill Act historical marker with statement