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CSU Extension - A division of the Office of Engagement. Providing trusted, practical education to help you solve problems, develop skills and build a better future.
Established 1908

Extension’s Land-Grant Role   arrow

Since their creation, Land-grant Universities have had a three-part mission: education, research  and extension. The dissemination of knowledge generated by the university has been a primary responsibility of Extension since the Smith / Lever Act in 1914.

The Extension System is a publicly funded, non formal educational system that links the educational and research resources and activities of the US Department of Agriculture (USDA), 74 land-grant universities, and 3,150 county administrative units.

To really understand Extension, you must first understand its background. The following information will help you learn about the laws that established Extension, the land-grant university concept, locations, purposes and functions, principles upon which Extension is based, key people in the history of Extension, and key people in the present Extension structure, as well as three major groups involved in programming.

A. Laws

1. 1862- Morrill Act: Granting 30,000 acres of Federal land for every  senator and representative. Each state was to sell the land and invest the
proceeds in an endowment. The interest was to be used to establish at least one college to teach such branches of learning as those related to agriculture and the mechanic arts.

2. 1890- The Second Morrill Act: The endowments of the 1862 Morrill Act
proved inadequate and Morill was successful in 1890 in securing increased funding through the Second Morrill Act. The 1890 Morrill Act also included a provision that led to the creation of 17 land-grant universities for black students.

3. 1887- The Hatch Act: This created Agricultural Experiment Stations to
conduct research, investigations, and experiments to support a permanent agricultural industry, and the development and improvement of the rural home and rural life.

4. 1914- The Smith-Lever Act: This Act called for cooperative agricultural
extension work between the land-grant colleges and the United States Department of Agriculture to diffuse useful and practical information on subjects related to agriculture and home economics to the people of the United States. NOTE: During the first 30 years, there were difficulties for the land-grant universities as there were few qualified teachers, little research, skeptical farmers and disdainful faculty.

B. The Land-Grant University

1. There are many land-grant universities, including:

a. One per state

b. One in the District of Columbia

c. Seventeen 1890 institutions

d. Six in possessions and territories (Guam, Puerto Rico, American Samoa, Micronesia, the Virgin Islands, and the Northern Marianas) e. Twenty-nine 1994 institutions (Native American Colleges)

2. The purpose of the land-grant university is to educate all people.

a. Universities until then, had been only professional schools (i.e., doctors, lawyers, and teachers)

b. Land-grant universities opened-up higher education to business, farmers, and those engaged in-trade

3. The three functions of the land-grant university

a. Research

b. Resident Instruction

c. Extension

C. Three Principles of Extension

1. Development of the people

a. Self-sufficiency

b. Self-direction

c. Wise management of resources

2. An unbiased source of research-based information

a. Delivering research-based information

b. Extension education does not carry academic credit

3. Extension is built on a tripartite support system of county,
state, and federal tax funds.

D. Key People

1. Secretary of Agriculture, Tom Vilsack

2. Director of the National Institute of Food and Agriculture, Roger Beachy

3. President of Colorado State University, Tony Frank

4. Vice President for Engagement and Director, Lou Swanson

E. Three Key Players in County Extension Program

1. Professional staff: 16,000 people in 3,150 counties in the United States

2. County commissioners

3. Advisory councils

The Extension System’s stated mission is to help people improve their lives through an educational process that uses scientific knowledge to address issues and needs. The Extension System is a dynamic, ever-changing organization pledged to meeting the Nation’s needs for research, knowledge, and educational programs that will enable people to make practical
decisions that can improve their lives. To accomplish its vital mission, the Extension System is constantly changing to meet the shifting needs and priorities of the people it serves. As their needs and priorities change, program priorities, organizational structures, and external relationships
must also change.

For more information about this topic, please visit:

History and Overview of the Land Grant College System

National Institute for Food and Agriculture (NIFA) – About Us

USDA Organizational Chart

For more information please contact:

Judith Barth

Director of Operations/Human Resources
(970) 491-6281
1311 S. College
102K University Square

4040 Campus Delivery
Colorado State University, Fort Collins, CO 80523-4040