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Demise of higher education

April 18th, 2012 · No Comments

The United States has experienced two major growth spurts in higher
education. In 1862, the Morrill Act changed the face of higher
education will by granting each state 30,000 acres of public land for
each senator and representative. Sale of the land was intended to
create an endowment fund for the support of colleges in each of the
states. Prior to the creation of the land-grant colleges, higher
education was predominantly intended for wealthy students and those
intending to serve as clergy. The land-grant colleges expanded higher
education to different regions and a different class of students.
This expansion, however, was still incomplete.

The second episode was the G.I. Bill, which was not so much intended
to promote education, but rather to prevent another Bonus March, in
which angry soldiers returning from the First World War demanded early
payment of their promised bonuses to help cushion the hardships of the
Great Depression. Offering education was expected to channel
potential discontent.

The G.I. Bill paid a different kind of bonus. The doors of colleges
and universities opened to people for whom higher education would have
been out of reach. Their skills proved invaluable during the postwar
economic boom. A second unintended bonus flowed from the G.I. Bill.
To accommodate the massive inflow of students, colleges and
universities built infrastructure to expand their capacity to handle
so many students. After the wave of veteran enrollments dissipated,
colleges and universities had to choose between letting this
infrastructure sit idle or enrolling more students.

Judging from my experience teaching during the Vietnam War, returning
these veterans must have made an important contribution to the
teaching environment. Although many soldiers were unable to put their
lives together after the trauma of war, some came back, totally
focused on making something of themselves. Some of their maturity and
dedication rubbed off onto the younger cohort of students.

A less dramatic burst of government spending into education came from
the National Defense Education Act of 1958, which was a response to
the USSR’s launch of Sputnik, the previous year. This time, much of
the money was narrowly focused on improving the quality of science and
language education.
http://michaelperelman.wordpress.com/2012/04/18/the-tragedy-of-higher-education-in-the-united-states/

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