Michigan State University often boasts of its status as America’s “pioneer land grant university.” In 1855, MSU was chartered under state law as an agricultural college. The deal included 14,000 acres of state owned land. Seven years later, the Morrill Act granted federally-owned land to the states to build new universities.
The act marked a major shift in American education. Up till then, colleges mainly emphasized the liberal arts. Land grant universities still taught the classics, but also included agriculture, science and engineering.