NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WZTV) —For decades, Tennessee State University students have helped find answers and solutions some of the state and country’s most pressing health and agricultural needs.
In fact, a TSU research program created a potential breast cancer vaccination. All of that work was supposed to be funded by an annual federal land grant matched by state dollars. U.T. and TSU are the only agriculture schools in the state to qualify.
Over the summer, a legislative report found most years, TSU did not get its full funding. In those same years, UT did get full funding and often got extra funding.
The federal grant required the state to match its gift every year or risk the universities forfeiting eligibility. To avoid being dropped from the program, TSU president Dr. Glenda Glover says, they would often have to dip into the university’s Rainy Day fund to make up for the loss.
“It’s like having a savings account and each time you want to do something like go out to dinner, lets’ go into the savings account. That’s not how you live, even in your own personal life. We can’t run a university like that."
School leaders saying they had to pull money from scholarships, skip technology upgrades and delay a much needed $20 million maintenance on their electrical grid, resulting in campus wide outages last year.
“We have generators available so when things come up, we are able to address it timely but we are still challenged in just having enough resources in order to be able to maintain all the different things that could happen with the buildings,” said Horace Chace, VP of Business and Finance at TSU.
The legislative report found the federal money would always be sent directly to UT but TSU’s money would stop first at the State Treasury office.
In December, FOX 17 News’ Harriet Wallace asked the State Treasury office why didn’t TSU get all of its money but UT did. She also asked what formula and process did they use to determine when and why TSU would not get its money. In December, a spokesperson said they were looking into the historical context of this and would follow up with an answer but Wallace never heard back.
She reached out to them again on Tuesday, asking for answers to those questions.
The office responded saying they haven’t handled TSU’s federal money since 1977 when state law changed, allowing TSU to receive its money directly. Wallace responded asking for them to account for the missing money prior to 1977. She did not get a response.
There’s also the issue of the state match. After TSU had been shorted it’s federal money prior to 1977, it didn’t always get its state match as UT did. That responsibility lies with the legislative body that approved state spending, according to Rep. Harold Love, Jr.
Love says in 2016, TSU began receiving its full state match but other lawmakers say the past still needs to be dealt with.
“You go back and you can look and see certainly something going on when it comes to TSU receiving the funding that quite frankly was owed to.
UT will have the opportunity to present the impact of the federal funding but a meeting date has not been scheduled yet.
“We’re certainly not pitting one university over the other university but we just want TSU to thrive as well as the other universities,” said Rep. Brenda Gilmore.
Once UT presents, Rep. Love says the committee will tabulate the costs of money withheld from TSU and work on a repayment plan.
This isn’t the first time lawmakers have looked at this issue. Rep. Love’s father did a similar report with identical findings in the 1970’s but lawmakers did not correct the fund disbursement until 2016.