The Intent and Fulfillment of the Morrill Act of 1862: A Review of the History of Auburn University and the University of Georgia
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What was the intent of Morrill Act, and what does it mean to be a land grant university? The principal purpose of the Morrill Act, as relevant to the twenty-first century land grant institutions, was to increase the economic prosperity of each individual state and therefore the world status of the United States. In 1862, in order to accomplish this feat, the land grant institution was to provide an affordable and accessible education that catered to the to the laboring classes, the majority of which pursued agricultural and mechanical pursuits. The overall purpose of the land grant institution has not changed. Its mission is still to provide an affordable and accessible education that is adapted to meet the needs of the lower and middle classes, the “laboring classes.” There is an abundance of institutions that serve the upper class, with stringent admission requirements, expensive tuitions, and professional degrees. In providing an education for the laboring classes, the land grant institution should offer degrees and majors not offered by professional colleges. By providing an education adapted to the needs of the laboring classes, the land grant institution will impart an education that produces constructive and involved citizens with representation and opportunities equal to the upper classes of the country. Two examples of land grant institutions are Auburn University in Auburn, Alabama and the University of Georgia in Athens, Georgia. While the dates of their establishment, their methods of governance, and their acceptance of the Morrill Act’s funding are vastly different, they are both proud of their land grant heritage and status. How did they meet the purpose of the Morrill Act in 1862, and how are they meeting it in the twenty-first century? An in depth look at the defining periods of each of these universities will lend insight into and improve our understanding of the history and the present status of land grant institutions.