Hostname: page-component-546b4f848f-q5mmw Total loading time: 0 Render date: 2023-06-02T05:30:29.522Z Has data issue: false Feature Flags: { "useRatesEcommerce": true } hasContentIssue false

A Conversation: Historiographic Issues in American Higher Education

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  24 February 2017


Many of us who teach the history of American higher education likely experience an uncomfortable moment at the beginning of each collegiate term when we order for our classes a book first published in 1962: Frederick Rudolph's classic The American College and University: A History. Of course, we are somewhat heartened by choosing the 1990 republished version with its fine new introduction by John Thelin, as well as by requiring Lester Goodchild and Harold Wechsler's recently revised compendium of articles, The History of Higher Education. Nonetheless, choosing a textbook as old as Rudolph's for a basic overview of the field feels awkward to historians who are witnessing a surge of work in the history of American higher education.

Copyright © 1999 by the History of Education Society 

Access options

Get access to the full version of this content by using one of the access options below. (Log in options will check for institutional or personal access. Content may require purchase if you do not have access.)


1 Rudolph, Frederick, The American College and University: A History [1962] (reprint Athens, GA: University of Georgia Press, 1990); Goodchild, Lester F. and Wechsler, Harold S. eds., The History of Higher Education, ASHE Reader Series (Needham Heights, MA: Simon & Schuster Custom Publishing, 2d ed., 1997).

2 Geiger, Roger, To Advance Knowledge: The Growth of Research Universities, 1900–1940 (New York: Oxford University Press, 1986); Geiger, Research and Relevant Knowledge: American Research Universities Since World War II (New York: Oxford University Press, 1993).

Google Scholar

3 Solomon, Barbara Miller, In the Company of Educated Women: A History of Women and Higher Education in America (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1985). For a discussion which analyzes Solomon's status as the classic work and reviews more recent literature, see Eisenmann, Linda “Reconsidering a Classic: Assessing the History of Women's Higher Education a Dozen Years after Barbara Solomon,” Harvard Educational Review 67 (Winter 1997): 689–717.

Google Scholar

4 Riesman, David, Constraint and Variety in American Higher Education (Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1958). This piece contains Riesman's provocative image of higher education as a snake in which research schools are in the head and less-prestigious institutions are spread along the belly. The parts of the snake continually double back upon each other, with all parts trying to catch up to the head.

Google Scholar

5 For a description of how colleges are classified and a list of institutions in each category, see Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, A Classification of Institutions of Higher Education (Princeton, NJ: Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, 1994).

6 Department, U. S. of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, The Condition of Education, 1998 (Washington, D.C.: NCES, 1998). See especially Supplemental Table 10–1 and Indicator 39.