Issues in the History of American Higher Education

Lori Hunter-Union • Wednesday, 6:00-8:30 p.m.

Office Hours 30 minutes before and after class, and by appointment
  This course explores the development of American higher education from the colonial period to the present, focusing on issues of who had access to higher education and how and why this changed over time.  Studying the colonial college, the antebellum college, the creation of the research university, the Morrill Acts and the Land Grant colleges, the emergence of women and African-Americans in higher education, tenure and promotion and the AAUP, the GI Bill, and the formation of the community college, we will focus on how access changed as goals and practices within higher education developed. 

In the first part of this course we will explore the creation of the American college and university from 1600-1800.  In the second part of this course we will explore the expansion of colleges and universities in America, and hence increased access, as a result of the Morrill Acts of 1862 and 1890.  The Morrill Acts made higher education accessible to the lower classes and black men.  States were required to donate land and sell land to raise money to create state colleges, with the stipulation that no money go to schools that denied admission based on race, unless the college established separate but equal facilities.  The Morrill Acts opened higher education to people in a larger geographic area, to the poor, to Blacks, at a time when higher education was limited primarily to affluent men.

In the third part of this course we will explore the GI Bill and the Higher Education Act to understand the role of each on access and the expansion of the community/junior college in higher education.  We will explore the shift from limited access in the early years of higher education in America to what might be considered “open” access today.  We will investigate the role the Civil Rights movement played in the increasing access to and quality of higher education.  Finally, if time allows, we will explore the contemporary issues of access and claims of reverse discrimination.  The aim of this course is to provide students with history and context in which to debate the current issues of access in higher education.


Course Objectives

  1.      To provide those taking the course an overview of the way that the American College and University evolved, and the options for access that existed for individuals at different times in its history

2.      To provide those taking the course with an understanding of how race, class, and gender have impacted higher education in the United States

3.      To provide those taking the course an opportunity to explore at least one issue in higher education from an historical and analytic perspective


Class participation, Attendance, and Assignments:


Students are expected to attend each class and participate actively in the discussion.  If you cannot make a class, students are asked to notify the instructor before the class meeting.  It is the students’ responsibility to find out what work or notes they missed from another student. 

Students are expected to complete the reading for each class and be prepared to raise issues and contribute to the discussion.   

All assignments are due on the dates specified.  All papers must be typed, doubled spaced, with 1” margins all around, page numbers, a title page, stapled or bound (no paper clips), with a 12 point Times New Roman font (or equivalent), using an accepted academic publication style (preferably APA).


Class Format

  Class will typically combine a short presentation of information, review of the readings, and a class discussion.  We will take a break in the middle of the class period and continue with the discussion, presentation of the response papers, and group presentation (if applicable).

Assignments and Related Requirements


1.      Attendance and participation/reading requirements (25%). Students are expected to attend every class and actively participate and contribute to class discussions.  Each student should carefully read all assignments prior to class.  The readings are designed to enhance the knowledge on which certain beliefs were based.  This knowledge and the consequent beliefs are clearly open for discussion and debate.  Students are encouraged to identify questions or issues to discuss in class as a result of the readings for the week.  Students should consider the larger historical issues in America that influenced, stifled, or assisted in the development of the American college and university.  Students are strongly encouraged to listen and be open to the viewpoints of others as the presentation of history is often biased by the storyteller, and consequently, one persons’ view may differ from another. 

Class discussions will typically assume that students have completed the reading assignments, therefore the focus will be on synthesis, application, analysis, and evaluation, as opposed to retention of facts and figures. 

2.      Response Papers and Discussions (20%).  Students will develop four, 2 page response papers from any of the seven (7) specified lecture topics (selections will be made during the first day of class).  Students will respond to the papers in support of or challenging the particular topic/issue.  The paper should not be a summary of the reading, but a response to the reading.  Students will submit the response papers, and will be asked to present two of their papers and lead a short discussion during the class period.  Students should seek out secondary sources to develop/support your argument, incorporate/highlight as appropriate the events of the period and their influence on higher education.  These writing activities should be used to establish the expectations of the instructor on the written work for the course, as well as to develop your skills in seeking out and incorporating secondary sources into your academic work.

3.      Group Presentation (20%).  The class will divide into two groups to read and further investigate the two books listed below.  Students will present the book and lead a discussion during a class period.  These topics are designed to enhance the reading assigned in the course, while providing the students an opportunity to bring additional information to consider when discussing the issue of access and higher education from a historical perspective.  Students should identify and assign additional reading for the class at least one class session before their presentation.  This assigned reading should supplement the course reading.  Primary, secondary, and archival sources should be sought out.  Class members will select the topic/book they want to focus on during the first meeting.  One class period during the term will be dedicated to the group to work on the project, although this one period alone will not be sufficient to develop a quality presentation.  Students are encouraged to use some innovative methods of engaging the class. 

Students will be accessed a grade for the overall quality of the group presentation, and their own contribution to the project.  At the time of the presentation, the group will hand in plans for the discussion, and a list of the references used for the project.  One week following the presentation, each individual will submit a brief paper (2-3 pages) discussing the project and the impact on her/him.  Items to consider in this paper include your contribution to the project, the materials selected and the reasons for selection, questions that were answered for you, questions that remained unanswered for you, and the impact or value the assignment had on you. 

Available topics/books are:

a.       Blacks in higher education (primary text - Dream Makers, Dream Breakers)


b.      Academic Freedom (primary text - Academic Freedom in the Age of the University)   –OR–

c.       Community Colleges and their role in extending access to higher education (primary text – The Diverted Dream)

4.      Issue Paper on a theme from the syllabus (35%).   The paper should be 12-15 pages long (excluding the title and reference pages).  Choose an issue that is currently relevant to higher education and answer the following questions in relation to that issue:

a.       What can you find out about the history of this issue?

b.      Does this history illuminate current discussion of this issue or help you understand the issue better? If yes, how?  If not, why not?

c.       What are the strengths and the weaknesses of a historical approach to understanding this issue?

d.      What influence did this event, issue, or philosophy have on access to higher education? 

The issue paper is due on May 5, 2004.  The first draft of the paper will be due on Feb 18, and I will provide comments on the first draft by March 3.  Additional drafts of your issue paper will be reviewed by other students in the class.  I ask that you give constructive comments to each others paper.  Time will be allotted during the last class meeting for open discussion of students’ research.

An excellent paper is characterized by: (1) a coherent synthesis and presentation of historical material, (2) appropriate use of an appropriate breadth of sources, (3) insightful commentary on the usefulness of a historical approach to the particular issue at hand, (4) clarity of presentation, (5) accuracy and precision of writing, and (6) proper use of bibliography and footnotes.


Required Reading


Goodchild, L., & Wechsler, H. S. (Ed.) (1997, 2nd ed.). The history of higher education.  ASHE Reader. (All readings from this source are in italics in the reading list) 

Lucas, C. J. (1994). American higher education: A history. New York: St. Martin’s Press. 

Miller Solomon, B. (1985). In the company of educated women: A history of women and higher education in America. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press. 

Potts, D. (1999).  Wesleyan University, 1831-1910: Collegiate Enterprise in New England. Middletown, CT: Wesleyan University Press.

Additional SOCS632 readings can be found on Wesleyan’s electronic reserve system, ERES.  Go to the Wesleyan University library home page (, click on COURSE RESERVES, then connect to ERES.  You can search for the course by department, instructor, and course number, select either HUNTER-UNION, LORI –or– GLSP SOCIAL STUDIES.  Follow the directions on the screen to get to the course reserve documents.  You will be asked to type in a password, the password for the course is SOCS632.  After you type in the password correctly, the materials for the course will appear.  Double click on the desired reading and read/print.

And ONE of the following three texts (for the group project): 

Rowan, C. T. (1993). Dream Makers, dream breakers: The world of Justice Thurgood Marshall. Boston: Little, Brown and Company.  ISBN 0-316-75979-1 

Metzger, W. P. (1961). Academic freedom in the age of the university. New York: Columbia University Press.  ISBN 0-231-08512-5

Brint, S., & Karabel, J. (1989). The diverted dream: Community colleges and the promise of educational opportunity in America, 1900-1985. New York: Oxford University Press.  ISBN 0-195-04816-4.


Secondary Texts and Additional Resources


Altbach, P. G., & Lomotey, K. (1991). The racial crisis in American higher education. Albany, New York: The State University of New York Press. 

Anderson, J. D. (1988). The education of Blacks in the south, 1860-1935. Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press. 

Bailyn, B. (1960). Education in the forming of American society. Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press.

Bloom, A. (1987). The closing of the American mind: How higher education has failed democracy and impoverished the soul of the today’s students. New York: Simon & Schuster. 

Conway, J. K. (1994). True north: A memoir. New York: Alfred A. Knopf. 

Gordon, L. (1990). Gender and higher education in the progressive era. New Haven: Yale University Press. 

Guinier, L., & Torres, G. (2002). The miner’s canary: Enlisting race, resisting power, transforming democracy. Cambridge, MA:  Harvard University Press. 

Gutmann, A. (1987). Democratic education. Princeton, NJ: Princeton Press. 

Hunter-Gault, C. (1992). In my place. New York: Farrar Straus Giroux.

Kelly, R. D., & Lewis, E. (Ed.) (2000). To make our world anew; A history of African Americans. Oxford: Oxford University Press. 

J. B. Roebuck, & K. S. Murty. (1993). Historically Black Colleges and Universities: Their Place in American Higher Education. Westport, CT: Praeger Publishers. 

Rudolph, F., & Thelin, J. R. (1990). The American college and university: A history. Athens, GA: The University of Georgia Press. 

Steinberg, J. (2000). The gatekeepers: Inside the admissions process of a premier college. New York: Penguin Group.  

Veysey, L. R. (1965). Emergence of the American university. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. 

Watkins, W. H. (2001). The White architects of Black education; Ideology and power in America, 1865-1964. New York: Teachers College Press.

West, C. (1994). Race matters. New York: Vintage Books. 

Willie, C. V., Garibaldi, A. M., & Reed, W. L. (1991). The education of African-Americans. New York: Auburn House. 

Willie, C. V., & McCord, A. S. (1972). Black students at white colleges. New York: Praeger. 

Woodson, C. G. (2000). The mis-education of the Negro. Chicago, Ill. African American Images.


Course Calendar

January 28 Overview of the History of Higher Education
·        Introductions
·        Overview of the course
·        Expectations – Response paper, group assignments, & issue paper
·        Discussion of first reading assignments – overview of the history

·        F. Rudolph. The American College and University, chapter 1, “The Colonial College”
·        L. F. Goodchild. Introduction, Part 1 (pp. 3-4, 19, 22)
·        B. Wright. For the Children of the Infidels”?: American Indian Education in the Colonial Colleges (pp. 72-79)

Primary Sources:
·        Statues of Harvard, 1646 (pp. 121 in Goodchild and Wechsler)

Option Readings:
·        L. F. Goodchild. Introduction, Part 1 (full introduction pp. 3-32)

February 4 The Colonial College and the Antebellum

Females in Education

·        C. J. Lucas. American higher education: A history, chapter 4, “The colonial college and the antebellum college”

  • F. Rudolph. The American College and University, chapter 2,  “Legacy of the Revolution”
  • B. Miller Solomon. In the company of educated women, chapters 1-3
  • P. Vine. The social function of Eighteenth Century higher education (pp. 115-124)

    ·        L. A. Cremin. College (pp. 35-52)

    ·        D. B. Potts. “College enthusiasm!” as public response: 1800-1860 (pp. 149-160)

    ·         L. M. Perkins. Cult of True Womanhood on the Education of Black Women (pp. 183-190)

Primary Sources:
·        Yale Report 1828 (pp. 191 in Goodchild and Wechsler)

Response Paper #1 - due February 4

February 11 The Creation of the Research University
The Land Grant College/Morrill Acts

·        C. J. Lucas. American higher education: A history, chapter 5, “The evolving American University”

·        A. Bloom. The Closing of the American Mind, chapter 2, “The German Connection” (pp. 141-156)             E-RESERVE

·        H. L. Horowitz. Campus Life, chapter 2 – 3                E-RESERVE

·        E. L. Johnson. Misconceptions about the early land-grant colleges (pp. 222-233)

·        R. L. Williams. The origins of federal support for higher education (pp. 267-272)

·        R. L. Geiger.  Research, Graduate Education, and the Ecology of American Universities: An Interpretive History (pp. 273-289)

Primary Sources:
·        The Morrill Act, 1862 (pp. 362-364 in Goodchild and Wechsler)

·        C. W. Eliot. “Liberty in Education”  (pp. 365-372 in Goodchild and Wechsler)

Response Paper #2 – due February 11

February 18 The Emergence of Women in Higher Education

·        B. Miller Solomon, chapter 4, 5, & 6

·        F. Rudolph. The American College and University, chapter 15,

·        L. D. Gordon, From seminary to University (1870-1920) (pp. 473-498)

·        K. D. Hulbert, & D. T. Schuster. Women’s lives through time, chapter 1, “Studying women’s lives through time” (E-RESERVE)

·        J. Z. Giele. Women’s lives through time, chapter 2, “Women’s role change and adaptation, 1920-1990. (E-RESERVE)

Response Paper #3 – due February 18

1st DRAFT OF ISSUE PAPER DUE – due February 18

February 25 Professional Schools and the Liberal Arts College
History of Wesleyan University

GUEST LECTURER:  Suzy Taraba, University Archivist
Class to be held in the Olin Library Archives

·        D. Potts, Wesleyan University, 1831-1910: Collegiate Enterprise in New England

·        B. Miller Solomon. In the company of educated women, chapter 12, “The promises of liberal education – forgotten and fulfilled”

·        A. Bloom. The Closing of the American Mind, Liberal Education – Student & university, (pp. 336-347)    E-RESERVE

·        J. S. Brubacher, & W. Rudy. Professional Education (pp. 379-393)

Optional Reading:

·        M. J. FFinkelstein, D. Farrar, & A. O. Pfnister. The adaption of liberal arts colleges to the 1970s: An analysis of critical events. The Journal of Higher Education, Vol. 55, No. 2, 242-268.  E-RESERVE    –or–   JSTOR

 Response Paper #4 – due February 25
March 3 Group Project Work
March 23 The Emergence of Blacks in Higher Education

·        C. V. Willie, The Education of African-Americans, chapter 8, 10 & 11 -  E-RESERVE

·        C. J. Lucas. American higher education: A history, chapter 6, “American academe in early 20th century”

·        A. B. Bonds. The President’s Commission on Higher Education and Negro Higher Education. The Journal of Negro Education, Vol. 17, No. 3, 426-436.   **JSTOR**

·        J. B. Roebuck, & K. S. Murty. Historically Black Colleges and Universities: Their Place in American Higher Education (pp. 667-676)

·        J. B. Roebuck, & K. S. Murty. Historically Black Colleges and Universities: Their Place in American Higher Education, chapter 2, The history of Black higher education in the United States.  E-RESERVE

Primary Sources:
·        Report of the President’s Commission on Higher Education, 1947 (pp. 758-772 in Goodchild and Wechsler)

Response Paper #5 – due March 23
2nd DRAFT OF ISSUE PAPER DUE (for review by team members) – due Mar 23
March 30 The Emergence of Blacks in Higher Education (cont.)

·        J. D. Anderson, Training the Apostles of Liberal Culture: Black Higher Education, 1900-1935 (pp. 432-458)

·        W.E.B. DuBois. The Talented Tenth (pp. 551-561)

·        Group Assigned (TBD)

GROUP PROJECT #1 – Civil Rights and Thurgood Marshall – due March 30
April 7 Professors, Tenure, and Academic Freedom

·        C. J. Lucas. American higher education: A history, chapter 7, “Postwar higher learning in America”

·        Metzger (TBD)

·        Group Assigned (TBD)

Primary Sources: 
·        1940 Statement of Principles (AAUP), (pp. 562-567 in Goodchild and Wechsler)

GROUP PROJECT #2 – Academic Freedom – due April 7
April 14 The University and the Military: GI Bill
The Community College

·        A. Gutmann. Democratic Education, chapter 5 & 6,   E-RESERVE

·        R. T. Pedersen. Value conflict on the community college campus: An examination of its historical origins (pp. 499-509). E-RESERVE

·        D. Grant Morrison. What is the place of the community college among higher educational institutions? The Journal of Higher Education, Vol. 32, No. 8, 462-463. (1961) E-RESERVE

·        R. A. Cain. Equal opportunity  and the community college. The Journal of Negro Education, Vo. 51, No. 1, 16-28. (Winter, 1982) E-RESERVE  -or-  JSTOR

Primary Sources: 
·        The GI Bill of Rights 1944 (pp. 755-757 in Goodchild and Wechsler)

·        Higher Education Act of 1965 (pp. 773-780  in Goodchild and Wechsler)

Optional Readings:
·        J. J. Zigerell. The community college in search of an identity. The Journal of Higher Education, Vol. 41, No. 9, 701-712. (1970)       **JSTOR**

·        C. A. Dykstra. Organizing higher education. The Journal of Higher Education, Vol. 19, No. 4, 181-188. (1948)   **JSTOR**

GROUP PROJECT #3 – The Role of Community Colleges – April 14

3RD DRAFT OF ISSUE PAPER DUE (for team members to review) – due April 14
April 21 Higher Education and Unrest on Campus

Video: Kent State

·        H. L. Horowitz. Campus Life: Undergraduate cultures form the end of the eighteenth century to the present, chapter 10, (pp.220-244) – E-RESERVE

·        C. J. Lucas. American higher education: A history, chapter 8

·        A. W. Astin et al., Overview of the unrest era (pp. 724-738)

·        P. G. Altbach. Student Politics: Activism in the midst of apathy (pp. 739-754)

Response Paper #6 – due April 21

April 28 Contemporary Issues in Higher Education

Ethnic Studies classes and departments: Inclusion or isolation at the academe?
Reverse discrimination and Affirmative Action in Higher Education.
Distance Learning – Increasing access?

·        TBD  -  I will provide handouts or have documents put on E-RESERVE

·        H. L. Horowitz. Campus Life: Undergraduate cultures form the end of the eighteenth century to the present, chapter 12, (pp.263-288) – E-RESERVE

·        L. Guinier, & G. Torres. (2002). The miner’s canary (TBD)

Response Paper #7 – due April 28

May 5 Last Class - Open Discussion

Issue Paper - due May 5