Spring 2004

Issues in the History of American Higher Education


01/26/2004 - 05/08/2004
Wednesday 06:00 PM - 08:30 PM

Fisk Hall 115

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, 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, and 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 influence of each on access, and then turn our attention to the expansion of the community/junior college in higher education. We will examine 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, 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.

Primary readings may include: Christopher J. Lucas, AMERICAN HIGHER EDUCATION: A HISTORY; Lester F. Goodchild, THE HISTORY OF HIGHER EDUCATION; and Horowitz, H. L., CAMPUS LIFE: UNDERGRADUATE CULTURES FROM THE END OF THE EIGHTEENTH CENTURY TO THE PRESENT (readings subject to change). Additional readings will be available as a course packet, on e-reserve, or online.

Students will be responsible for class participation, four informal two- to three-page response papers, a short discussion in class about their position on two of the response papers, a group presentation that explores critical milestones in access to higher education, and one final 12- to 15-page issue paper.

A syllabus for this course is available at:
Course Syllabus

Lori Hunter-Union (B.S.E.E. University of Pittsburgh, Ed.M. Harvard University, Ph.D. Syracuse University) is associate dean of continuing studies and director of the Graduate Liberal Studies Program at Wesleyan University. Her research focuses on cooperative learning and sociology of education.


Consent of Instructor Required: No

Format: Seminar

Level: GLSP Credits: 3 Enrollment Limit: 18

Texts to purchase for this course:
Christopher Lucas, AMERICAN HIGHER EDUCATION (St. Martin's Press) Paperback

Barbara Miller Solomon, IN THE COMPANY OF EDUCATED WOMEN (Yale University Press) Paperback

H. Wechsler & L. Goodchild, HISTORY OF HIGHER EDUCATION 2nd edition (ASHE Reader Series) Paperback


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