American Higher Education Since World War II: A History

Princeton Univ. (William G. Bowen Memorial Series in Higher Education). Jul. 2019. 320p. notes. index. ISBN 9780691179728. $35; ebk. ISBN 9780691190648. ED
Geiger (emeritus, higher education, Pennsylvania State Univ.; The History of American Higher Education) presents a comprehensive analysis of multiple developments in American higher education over the past 70 years, highlighting three key factors. Most important was massive economic growth, which allowed many more Americans opportunities for education and social mobility. Low-income students, students of color, and women had access to college, facilitated by the emergence of a tri-level structure of public institutions including flagship research universities, regional comprehensive institutions, and community colleges. Another new element was research universities throughout the country assuming responsibility for developing and distributing new knowledge, particularly in medicine and technology but also in the social sciences. The third factor was increased stratification as a small group of elite, high-quality, high-cost institutions emerged from the majority of poorly funded and weaker institutions. The federal government took on a new role providing funds for research and student aid and imposing extensive regulations. Geiger deftly links internal institutional evolution to social and cultural changes in the country, including alternating phases of liberal and conservative forces, culture wars, identity politics, and cycles of prosperity and recession.
VERDICT This reliable, broadly researched, and thorough study from a knowledgeable expert is strongly recommended for serious readers interested in higher education and American social trends.
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