FACT: “Following the Revolutionary War, college building expanded rapidly beyond the original 9 colonial colleges to include nearly 250 by 1860. The central government’s sale of ‘land grants’ stimulated some of this growth. The Northwest Ordinance of 1787 disbursed land grants in order to pay down the nation’s revolutionary war debt and promote the creation of schools and colleges in newly conquered lands. Congress built on this earlier precedent with the Morrill Land-Grant Act of 1862. Passed in the throes of the Civil War, the legislation secured the government’s role as a key supporter of public higher education.”

Between Citizens and the State:
The Politics of American Higher Education in the 20th Century

by Christopher P. Loss

This book tracks the dramatic outcomes of the federal government’s growing involvement in higher education between World War I and the 1970s, and the conservative backlash against that involvement from the 1980s onward. Using cutting-edge analysis, Christopher Loss recovers higher education’s central importance to the larger social and political history of the United States in the twentieth century, and chronicles its transformation into a key mediating institution between citizens and the state.

Framed around the three major federal higher education policies of the twentieth century—the 1944 GI Bill, the 1958 National Defense Education Act, and the 1965 Higher Education Act—the book charts the federal government’s various efforts to deploy education to ready citizens for the national, bureaucratized, and increasingly global world in which they lived. Loss details the myriad ways in which academic leaders and students shaped, and were shaped by, the state’s shifting political agenda as it moved from a preoccupation with economic security during the Great Depression, to national security during World War II and the Cold War, to securing the rights of African Americans, women, and other previously marginalized groups during the 1960s and ’70s. Along the way, Loss reappraises the origins of higher education’s current-day diversity regime, the growth of identity group politics, and the privatization of citizenship at the close of the twentieth century.

At a time when people’s faith in government and higher education is being sorely tested, this book sheds new light on the close relations between American higher education and politics.

“More than just a deeply researched, nuanced history of the politics of higher education, Between Citizens and the State makes a major contribution to American political history, uncovering little known but highly significant instruments of national power and shedding new light on the complex, hidden ways government works in the modern United States.”—Bruce Schulman, Boston University

“The current intense scrutiny of higher education calls for rethinking its history. An excellent place to begin is Christopher Loss’s fresh and challenging interpretation. With lively case studies, he illuminates institutional responses to the nation’s expanding sense of democratic values.”—Hugh Hawkins, Amherst College

We invite you to read Chapter 1 here: