Land grant colleges and universities, a critical piece of the US's agricultural history, are higher education institutions that receive benefits from the Morrill Acts of 1862 and 1890. These laws provided states with federally-controlled land and funding to establish universities and colleges focused on teaching the sciences, technology, and agriculture, an expansion of higher education's traditional focus on liberal arts. The 1862 Act codified the notion of publicly funded agricultural and technology institutions. The 1890s Act, aimed at former Confederate states, required states to either remove race as an admissions criteria to land grants or designate a separate land-grant institution for people of color. The 1890s land grant institutions established or designated from this law are some of the nations historically black colleges and universities. In 1994, the land grant system was expanded via the Elementary and Secondary Education Act to include tribal colleges. Today there are a total of 112 land grant institutions, of which 19 are historically black and 33 are tribal. In the NESAWG region, there are 16 land grant institutions, 3 of which are historically black universities.
Other federal legislation that impacts the land grant system includes the Hatch Act of 1887, which established agricultural experimental stations controlled by each state's land grant institution, and the Smith Lever Act of 1914, which created the Cooperative Extension system to extend the applications of agriculture research and information into rural areas.