Our Land-Grant Mission

The idea of the land-grant university arose in the middle of the 19th century around a set of converging social and cultural changes in the United States. In an era of economic, social, and political turmoil, U.S. Representative Justin Morrill, a Vermont native and son of a blacksmith, proposed the notion of government land-grants to support practical public education for the working classes. President Abraham Lincoln signed the first Morrill Act into law on July 2, 1862. This act dictated that proceeds from the sale of land in each state would be invested in a perpetual endowment to support colleges of agriculture and mechanic arts. The signing of the second Morrill Act in 1890, the Hatch Act in 1887 (to establish Agricultural Experiment Stations), and the Smith-Lever Act of 1914 that created the Cooperative Extension Service formed the basis of the land-grant university model as it exists today. 

The spirit of the Morrill Act was, and is, to enable all citizens of the United States to participate in the nation’s economic and social progress. After 150 years of profound social and economic transformation, the core values embodied in that spirit remain.

Colorado State University is a land-grant university. CSU came into existence as part of Lincoln and Morrill’s dream to make a great college education available to every American. Colorado State also acknowledges, with respect, that its campus today sits on the traditional and ancestral homelands of the Arapaho, Cheyenne, and Ute Nations and peoples. While the University honors its  mission to provide access to education and inclusion, we also recognize that CSU's founding came at a dire cost to Native Nations and peoples, both those whose land the campus was built upon and those whose land was sold to support its formation. As we carry out our mission today, we do so with this recognition of our institutional history, responsibility, and commitment.

To be a land-grant university in the 21st century means:

  • Inclusion, Opportunity, and Success: We are proud to provide access to opportunity to anyone with the motivation and ability to earn a degree. With the signing of the Morrill Act, for the first time in history, higher education became broadly open to people from all walks of life. At CSU, we prize diversity and the rich history that different populations bring to the academic community – as well as the rich history of the land and region on which our university is built.

  • Research that Transforms Our World: CSU ranks among the leading research universities in the nation and is home to world-class discovery. CSU research and scholarship advances the quality of life for people in Colorado and around the world. Our faculty and students lead innovative discovery and scholarship to solve local and global problems and expand our understanding of our world and the challenges that confront it.

  • Service to Society: As the birthplace of the Peace Corps, CSU holds a strong belief that innovation can positively impact the quality of life for people worldwide. The people of Colorado State believe service to society and our world is a high calling. Our faculty and staff deploy knowledge and education to address pressing global challenges and improve the quality of life for people in Colorado and around the world, in keeping with our historic commitment to service and engagement. Students also put this value into action through their involvement and service on and off campus, whether collecting cans of food to feed the hungry in Fort Collins, participating in an alternative spring break trip, or working with faculty on projects in the developing world.

  • Education to Meet the Challenges of Today and Tomorrow: CSU provides a pragmatic, meaningful, and transformational educational experience to prepare the next generation of scientists, artists, educators, and entrepreneurs. CSU alumni use their talents and expertise to transform our world, and their education is a cornerstone of a prosperous economy. CSU graduates have won Pulitzer Prizes, flown on space shuttle missions, led states and nations, made brilliant scientific discoveries, and had an impact on communities and industries worldwide.

  • Excellence Above All: In all we do, we strive for excellence. CSU is a place where students build academic and personal success; where groundbreaking research is conducted and discovery achieved; where innovation is readily deployed to meet local and world demands; and where alumni celebrate transformative lives and careers. We provide an outstanding, dynamic educational experience as the foundation for student success and retention. As one of the nation’s leading research universities, Colorado State sets a high standard – and aims for excellence in all aspects of its educational, research, and service missions.