As you may know, Colorado State was established as a land grant university, and land grant universities were made possible by the Morrill Act, which President Lincoln signed on July 2, 1862 – hence the 150th anniversary of land grant institutions and the Morrill Act. In a recent email to staff about the anniversary, Dr. Tony Frank, CSU president, shared an interesting perspective:
“President Lincoln’s signing of the Morrill Act that created land-grant universities, in retrospect, was an astonishing gesture – coming just one day after the Seven Days Battles ended, with Union Commanding General George McClellan retreating toward Washington. In the midst of the bloodiest year of the Civil War, with the Union Army in retreat, and against a historical backdrop in which education was only for the wealthy, Lincoln had the foresight to sign a bill creating a public university in each state committed to assuring that every American with the talent and motivation to earn a university degree should have that opportunity. It created an educational system that changed our nation and continues to change education around our world today.”
Today, as it was back then, our mission as a land grant university is to provide access to quality education for all. And as an online branch of the University system, CSU Online takes that mission even further, creating access to higher education for an entire population who wouldn’t otherwise have it – through online graduate degrees, bachelor’s degrees, and certificate programs.
More on the Morrill Act
Justin Smith Morrill (pictured right) was a U.S. representative from Vermont and one of the founding members of the Republican Party. His first attempt at creating a land grant college system took six years to get through Congress, but was vetoed by President James Buchanan. After the election of President Abraham Lincoln, a fellow Republican, Morrill tried his bill again in 1862. It passed Congress and this time the president agreed, too. You can read more about the Morrill Act here.
So, as we celebrate the anniversary of our great nation’s independence on July 4, let us also tip our hats to Mr. Abe Lincoln, Justin Morrill, and all the leaders who have contributed to keeping this extremely important land grant mission viable in our society today!