A land-grant college or university is an institution that has been designated by its state legislature or Congress to receive the benefits of the Morrill Acts of 1862 and 1890. The original mission of these institutions, as set forth in the first Morrill Act, was to teach agriculture, military tactics, and the mechanical arts as well as classical studies so that members of the working classes could obtain a liberal, practical education.
The Morrill Act (Land-Grant Act) signed into law by President Lincoln in 1862, gave each state a grant of federal land within its borders for the establishment of a public institution to fulfill the act's provisions. At times, money was appropriated through legislation such as the second Morrill Act. A key component of the land-grant system is the agricultural experiment station program created by the Hatch Act of 1887. This Act authorizes direct payment of federal grant funds to each state. The amount of this appropriation varies and is determined through a formula based on the number of small farmers there. Each state must match a major portion of these federal funds. The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) administers land-grant funds and the coordination of land-grant activities on the national level.
Many of these institutions are among the ranks of the most distinguished public research institutions, and all share the same tripartite mission of Teaching, Research and Extension.