Things we might want to know about...

The good people at have compiled a list of 25 interesting facts about higher education. Reading through them, I found that many of them had to do with the history of different types of educational institutions, teaching practices, and what types of people got to go to college (and why). Some of them were no surprise to me: for example, I went to a Land Grant University and took classes in Morrill Hall, so I was aware of how the Morrill Act created the State University system we now have. But people who didn’t go to UMass, Texas A&M or Cornell (and there’s probably an interesting story behind how Ezra Cornell got New York’s land grant money) probably don’t know about that. And there were several points that surprised me, including the one about Colonial America having more colleges than England (although perhaps not more than Great Britain).

An interesting theme that runs through many of the facts has to do with demographics and participation. Who got to go and why they went is an interesting question -- and history might tell us something about how to move forward. Everyone has an idea about what higher ed should look like in the 21st century; how many of those ideas have any foundation in higher ed’s history?

The economic hardships faced by institutions, the explosions of participation surrounding the Morrill Act and the GI Bill (both wartime measures, interestingly), even the transition from being training facilities for professionals (ministers, lawyers, and slightly later, physicians) to being about more general “liberal education” for the masses -- these are all issues where a little look at history might inform the current debate. In any case, the list is interesting and thought-provoking. Well done,