What are land-grant colleges? Why do they exist? The governor's latest land-transfer bill, HB 130, granting 260,000 acres of state land to the University of Alaska, stems from a bill passed during the Civil War that is obsolete.
The bill was passed in an effort to expand higher education from an institute catering only to rich people to include the backbone of the country, farmers and city workers. Abraham Lincoln signed the Morrill Act in 1862, hoping that agriculture would continue to prosper as the nation's main pursuit in strengthening its wealth. Any university including an agricultural school and a branch of mechanical arts was eligible for a federal land grant.
This was a good idea 143 years ago when land in the United States was abundant, agriculture was our greatest asset, and only the wealthy could attend college. But where are we now in the year 2005? Public lands are disappearing. Information, not agriculture, is our primary wealth, and college is available to all economic classes.
Our designated public land, which Alaskans and Native Alaskans have used historically for subsistence, hunting, and recreation, should continue to be held in trust by our state officials. The passage of House Bill 130 will result in the transfer of inappropriate acreage and the loss of public land. We must abolish this antiquated land-grant system and devise a modern, immediate, and lucrative program to benefit the University of Alaska. Fund the university? Absolutely. With public land? Absolutely not.