How do we explain the steep increase in women's higher educational attainment that began in the mid-twentieth century and has continued, unchecked, in subsequent decades? Although many point to the emergence of feminism and the creation of Title IX in the 1970s as the origins of this trend, I argue that two federal student aid programs—the National Defense Education Act of 1958 and the Higher Education Act of 1965—helped set the stage for women to surpass men as the recipients of bachelor's degrees. Using historical analysis of primary and secondary resources, I present two related case studies that demonstrate the central role that unique political contexts and nondiscriminatory program administration have played in lawmakers' capacity to promote equal opportunity through public policy. This study suggests that women's increasing college degree attainment has important, but frequently overlooked, public policy roots.
1. National Center for Education Statistics, “Table 318.30: Bachelor's, Master's, and Doctor's Degrees Conferred by Postsecondary Institutions, by Sex of Student and Discipline Division: 2012–13,” https://nces.ed.gov/programs/digest/d14/tables/dt14_318.30.asp, accessed May 28, 2015.
2. T. H. Marshall, Citizenship and Social Class and Other Essays (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1950); Judith N. Shklar, American Citizenship: The Quest for Inclusion (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1991).
3. Some might even speculate that the dramatic increase in the number of women earning college degrees in the latter half of the twentieth century merely reflects growth in the number of women graduating from high school. However, a steady increase in women's completion of high school diplomas fails to explain the remarkable change in the gender dynamics of college degree attainment. Although women have earned more high school diplomas than men since the late nineteenth century, the number of women and men completing high school rose steadily, with a very narrow gender gap characterizing the trend. During the 1940s, when the number of men earning bachelor's degrees began to skyrocket, yielding a significant increase in the gender gap in college degree attainment, no such gender gap characterized high school graduation rates. Thus, the striking increase in men's college degree attainment in the 1940s cannot be sufficiently explained by an increase in the number of high school diplomas conferred to men. In the subsequent decade, women's college degree attainment increased steadily while the number of degrees earned by men declined. All the while, the number of high school diplomas earned by women and men increased steadily.
4. Goldin, Claudia, “The Quiet Revolution that Transformed Women's Employment, Education, and Family,” Proceedings 96 (2006): 1–20, 5.
5. Ibid. See also, Goldin, Claudia, Katz, Lawrence F., and Kuziemko, Ilyana, “The Homecoming of American College Women: The Reversal of the College Gender Gap,” Journal of Economic Perspectives 20 (2006): 133–56, 153.
6. See, e.g., Rose, Deondra, “Regulating Opportunity: Title IX and the Birth of Gender-Conscious Higher Education Policy,” Journal of Policy History 27 (2015); Deondra Rose, “The Development of U.S. Higher Education Policy and Its Impact on the Gender Dynamics of American Citizenship” (PhD diss., Cornell University, 2012).
7. Theda Skocpol, “Targeting within Universalism: Politically Viable Policies to Combat Poverty in the United States,” in The Urban Underclass, eds. Christopher Jenks and Paul E. Peterson (Washington, DC: Brookings), 412–14.
8. Ira Katznelson, Fear Itself: The New Deal and the Origins of Our Time (New York: W.W. Norton, 2013), 15.
9. Excerpt from Cynthia E. Harrison's oral history interview with former Congresswoman Edith S. Green, Dec. 18, 1978.
10. Because of racial discrimination, the reverse was true for most African American families. Because a college degree for a young woman could open the door to teaching, which was the primary alternative to domestic service, black families were more likely to invest in college education for daughters rather than sons. See Robert Staples, “An Overview of Race and Marital Status,” in Black Families, ed. Harriette Pipes McAdoo (Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage, 2007), 283.
11. Mabel Newcomer, A Century of Higher Education for American Women (New York: Harper & Brothers, 1959), 152.
12. The National Youth Administration's work-study program and the Serviceman's Readjustment Act (the “G.I. Bill”) of 1944 represent important policy precedents for federal aid to college students. The work-study program, which was an important part of President Franklin D. Roosevelt's New Deal initiative, helped thousands of men and women continue their education during the Great Depression. Although the funds provided were modest—students did not receive more than $20 per month—federal aid represented a valuable supplement to private sources of financial support for needy students. After the work-study program was discontinued in 1943, the federal government provided valuable student aid benefits to veterans of World War II. While women composed between 40 and 58 percent of work-study beneficiaries over the course of the program's administration, they represented a much smaller proportion of G.I. Bill beneficiaries. This was rooted in the military service–based eligibility requirement, which meant that program beneficiaries were overwhelmingly male. These programs offered valuable lessons for how lawmakers could more effectively extend higher educational opportunity in the United States under the NDEA and the HEA.
13. Thomas D. Snyder, ed., “120 Years of American Education: A Statistical Portrait,” National Center for Education Statistics (Washington, DC: Office of Educational Research and Improvement, U.S. Department of Education, 1993).
14. The National Defense Education Act of 1958, Pub. L. No. 85-864; Snyder, “120 Years of American Education.”
15. The National Defense Education Act, Pub. L. No. 85-864; Cromley, Ray, “Loan Program Aid to College Students,” The Southeast Missourian 63, no. 211, June 8, 1968 .
16. John L. Kirkpatrick, “A Study of Federal Student Loan Programs” (report, College Entrance Examination Board, 1968), 34; Porter, Sylvia, “Rundown of Student Loan-Grant Programs,” The Lewiston Daily Sun 75, June 23, 1967 .
17. The Higher Education Act of 1965, Pub. L. No. 89-329; Pamela Ebert Flattau, Jerome Bracken, Richard Van Atta, Ayeh Bandeh-Ahmadi, Rodolfo de la Cruz, and Kay Sullivan, “The National Defense Education Act of 1958: Selected Outcomes” (report, Science and Technology Policy Institute, 2007).
18. In 1972, the National Defense Student Loan program that originated under the NDEA was renamed the National Direct Student Loan program. Fourteen years later, the program became known as the federal Perkins Loan program in honor of Rep. Carl D. Perkins (D-KY). Basic Educational Opportunity Grants would be renamed Pell Grants in honor of Senator Claiborne Pell (D-RI) in 1980; and in 1994, the Guaranteed Student Loan program was renamed Stafford Loans in honor of Rep. Robert T. Stafford (R-VT).
19. During hearings before the House Committee on Education and Labor's Subcommittee on Postsecondary Education, one witness cited research suggesting that every dollar invested into student financial aid, the nation gets a return of $4.30 in tax revenue (U.S. Congress, House of Representatives, Subcommittee on Postsecondary Education of the Committee on Education and Labor, Reauthorization of the Higher Education Act of 1965 Pell Grants: Hearings before the Subcommittee on Postsecondary Education of the Committee on Education and Labor, 102nd Cong., 1st Sess., June 4–5, 1991, p. 20 and 33.; see also St. John, Edward P. and Masten, Charles, “Return on the Federal Investment in Student Financial Aid: An Assessment of the High School Class of 1972,” Journal of Student Financial Aid 20 (1990).
20. John W. Kingdon, Agendas, Alternatives, and Public Policies, 2nd ed. (New York: Longman, 2003); Frank R. Baumgartner and Bryan D. Jones, Agendas and Instability in American Politics (Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 1993).
21. Kingdon, Agendas, Alternatives, and Public Policies, 166.
22. Baumgartner and Jones, Agendas and Instability in American Politics, 54.
23. Barbara Barksdale Clowse, Brainpower for the Cold War: The Sputnik Crisis and National Defense Education Act of 1958 (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1981), 43; Wayne J. Urban, More Than Science and Sputnik: The National Defense Education Act of 1958 (Tuscaloosa, AL: University of Alabama Press, 2010), 17.
24. Thomas Borstelmann, The Cold War and the Color Line: American Race Relations in the Global Arena (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2001); Mary L. Dudziak, Cold War Civil Rights: Race and the Image of American Democracy (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2000).
25. John D. Skrentny, The Minority Rights Revolution (Cambridge, MA: Belknap Press, 2002), 67.
26. I should note that, historically, “manpower” has been conceptualized as a gender-neutral concept that refers to the work of both men and women. During the Cold War, the term was used to describe the productive potential of the population in its entirety.
27. Gareth Davies, See Government Grow: Education Politics from Johnson to Reagan (Lawrence, KS: University Press of Kansas, 2007), 287.
28. Pierson, Paul, “When Effect Becomes Cause: Policy Feedback and Political Change,” World Politics 45 (1993): 595–628 , 599; see also Theda Skocpol, Protecting Soldiers and Mothers: The Political Origins of Social Policy in the United States (Cambridge, MA: Belknap Press, 1992).
29. Pierson, “When Effect Becomes Cause,” 608.
30. Christopher Loss, Between Citizens and the State: The Politics of American Higher Education in the 20th Century (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2012), 73.
31. See the Final Report of the National Youth Administration: Fiscal Years 1936–1943. Federal Security Agency War Manpower Commission. (Washington, DC: United States Government Printing Office, 1944), 55.
32. Final Report of the National Youth Administration, 58.
33. Richard A. Reiman, The New Deal & American Youth: Ideas & Ideals in a Depression Decade (Athens, GA: University of Georgia Press, 1992), 1.
34. Keith Olson, The G.I. Bill, the Veterans, and the Colleges (Lexington, KY: University of Kentucky Press, 1973), 596.
35. Suzanne Mettler, Soldiers to Citizens: The G.I. Bill and the Making of the Greatest Generation (New York: Oxford University Press), 144; Michael J. Bennett, When Dreams Came True: The GI Bill and the Making of Modern America (Washington, DC: Brassey's, 1996), 202.
36. Canaday, Margot, “Building a Straight State: Sexuality and Social Citizenship under the 1944 G.I. Bill,” Journal of American History 90, no. 3 (2003): 935–57, 956.
37. Lee W. Anderson, Congress and the Classroom: From the Cold War to “No Child Left Behind” (University Park, PA: Pennsylvania State University Press, 1990), 1–7; Christopher T. Cross, Political Education: National Policy Comes of Age (New York: Teachers College Press, 2010), 2; Charlotte A. Twight, Dependent on D.C.: The Rise of Federal Control over the Lives of Ordinary Americans (New York: Palgrave), 134.
38. Stewart McClure, “With Lister Hill on the Labor Committee” (oral history interview no. 3), Senate Historical Office Oral History Project, 108, Jan. 11, 1983, www.senate.gov/history.
39. McClure, “With Lister Hill on the Labor Committee,” 84.
40. For Hill, a strong interest in education emerged from his earliest days of campaigning in northern Alabama. By the 1950s, Hill had distinguished himself in the Senate as a strong proponent for public health programs and his interest in student aid reflected his commitment to using social welfare programs to support citizens. Elliott's personal experience as a struggling college student shaped his commitment to expanding higher educational access for young Americans. After setting off to college at the University of Alabama with only $2.38 in his pocket, Elliott spent his college years hustling between a full load of courses and the numerous jobs that he held to pay for tuition and living expenses. Knowing firsthand the challenges that low-income students faced in financing higher education, passing a federal student aid program represented one of the central legislative goals of his career. See Virginia Van der Veer Hamilton, Lister Hill: Statesman from the South (Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press, 1987), 224; Carl Elliott, Sr., and Michael D'Orso, The Cost of Courage: The Journey of an American Congressman (Tuscaloosa, AL: University of Alabama Press, 1992), 126–27.
41. Congressional Quarterly Weekly Report (Washington, DC: Congressional Quarterly, 1956), 8.
42. William J. Reese, America's Public Schools: From the Common School to “No Child Left Behind” (Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2005), 225.
43. Joel H. Spring, “In Service to the State: The Political Context of Higher Education in the United States,” in The Academy in Crisis: The Political Economy of Higher Education, ed. John W. Sommer (New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction, 1995), 59; Joel Spring, The American School: From the Puritans to No Child Left Behind, 7th ed. (New York: McGraw-Hill, 2008), 403; Valenti, J. J., “The Recent Debate on Federal Aid to Education Legislation in the United States,” International Review of Education 5, no. 2 (1959): 189–202 , 192.
The NEA was a strong supporter of general aid for education, but the organization had a difficult time advocating for such aid in the face of weakened credibility stemming from many Americans' association of the NEA with progressive (also known as “life adjustment”) education. Progressive education—which emphasized students' ability to cope with society and various life situations over a rigorous focus on traditional academic subjects—was viewed by many as a failing pedagogical framework and as the cause of the shortcomings in American education. See Anderson, Congress and the Classroom, 41; Herbert M. Kliebard, The Struggle for the American Curriculum, 1893–1958, 2nd ed. (New York: Routledge, 1995), 226.
44. Anderson, Congress and the Classroom, 47; Kliebard, The Struggle for the American Curriculum, 228; Paul E. Marsh and Ross A. Gortner, Federal Aid to Science Education: Two Programs (Syracuse, NY: Syracuse University Press, 1963), 25–26; Spring, “In Service to the State,” 59.
45. Congressional Quarterly Weekly Report (Washington, DC: Congressional Quarterly, 1957), 495–496; Valenti, “The Recent Debate,” 193.
46. Anderson, Congress and the Classroom, 8.
47. Anderson, Congress and the Classroom, 51; Clowse, Brainpower for the Cold War, 42; Twight, Dependent on D.C., 145–46.
Interestingly, the issue of federal control had such political currency that it was even appropriated by proponents of federal student aid who favored extensive general aid, as opposed to aid narrowly allocated for particular academic areas. From their perspective, the federal government had no right to target federal support to students pursuing training in particular fields of study. Doing so, they argued, would involve an inappropriate level of federal control over American college students.
48. Americans' concerns intensified on Nov. 2, when the Soviet Union launched Sputnik II. This time, the satellite launched by Soviet scientists carried a dog, giving the Soviet Union the additional distinction of being the first country to successfully send a living organism into outer space.
49. McClure, “With Lister Hill on the Labor Committee,” 117.
50. Clowse, Brainpower for the Cold War, 13; Flemming, Arthur S., “The Philosophy and Objectives of the National Defense Education Act,” Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science 327 (1960): 132–38, 134; Marsh and Gortner, Federal Aid to Science Education, 24.
Americans' focus on education in the aftermath of the Sputnik launches provides the most plausible explanation for why the Cold War yielded advances for women in this area as opposed to, say, equal opportunity in employment. During the early 1950s, lawmakers had proposed legislation that would require employers to compensate women and men with equal pay for equal work; however, the area of employment was not framed as critical to national survival in the wake of the Sputnik launches.
51. Anderson, Congress and the Classroom, 21–56; David Carleton, Landmark Congressional Laws on Education (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 2002), 113; Clowse, Brainpower for the Cold War, 49; Cross, Political Education, 12; Elliott and D'Orso, The Cost of Courage, 141; Hamilton, Lister Hill, 224; C. Ronald Kimberling, “Federal Student Aid: A History and Critical Analysis,” in The Academy in Crisis: The Political Economy of Higher Education, ed. John W. Sommer (New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction, 1995), 69–70; Sidney C. Sufrin, Administering the National Defense Education Act (Syracuse, NY: Syracuse University Press, 1963), 2; Twight, Dependent on D.C., 143; Urban, More Than Science and Sputnik, 77.
The Eisenhower administration—facing the pressure of public opinion favorable to federal education aid—reluctantly went along with these proposals. Neither the president nor conservative members of Congress believed that the Sputnik “crisis” was as grave a situation as others claimed it to be; Anderson, Congress and the Classroom, 44; Clowse, Brainpower for the Cold War, 136; Robert A. Divine, The Sputnik Challenge (New York: Oxford University Press, 1993), 165; Twight, Dependent on D.C., 145. It has even been suggested that the magnitude of the threat posed by the Soviet Union's space innovations was intentionally amplified by lawmakers and members of the media who saw an opportunity to pass federal education legislation (Clowse, Brainpower for the Cold War, 136; Twight, Dependent on D.C., 144).
52. Skocpol, Protecting Soldiers and Mothers.
53. Clowse, Brainpower for the Cold War, 8.
54. Linda Eisenmann, Higher Education for Women in Postwar America, 1945–1965 (Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2006), 15.
55. Eisenmann, Higher Education for Women, 14–15.
56. Elliott and D'Orso, The Cost of Courage, 151.
57. In a telling characterization, Sen. Lister Hill described the challenge of passing a federal education bill as simultaneously avoiding “the Scylla of race and the Charybdis of religion” (Hamilton, Lister Hill, 225; see also Urban, More Than Science and Sputnik).
58. Congressional Quarterly Weekly Report (Washington, DC: Congressional Quarterly, 1958), 34. The student loan component of the Hill-Elliott proposal coincided with contemporary public opinion regarding the use of loans as a mechanism for increasing higher educational access. In response to a Gallup poll conducted in Jan. 1958, 77 percent of Americans agreed that the federal government should establish long-term loans for students who wished to attend college. Only 15 percent of respondents disagreed.
59. Elliott and D'Orso, The Cost of Courage, 153–54.
60. Kingdon, Agendas, Alternatives, and Public Policies, 20, 169.
61. Elliott and D'Orso, 153 (italics in original).
62. McClure, “With Lister Hill on the Labor Committee,” 77.
63. Cross, Political Education, 10; see also Carol M. Swain, “African American Representation,” in The Atomistic Congress: An Interpretation of Congressional Change, eds. Allen D. Hertzke and Ronald M. Peters (Armonk, NY: M.E. Sharpe, 1992), 124; McClure, “With Lister Hill on the Labor Committee,” 86.
64. Clowse, Brainpower for the Cold War, 121.
65. The central importance of the race issue to the eventual passage of broad-reaching federal student aid could be seen as an indicator that the racists in congress were empowered in ways that sexists were not. It is true that one-party dominance in the South gave Southern members of Congress a great deal of power when it came to thwarting efforts to pass federal student aid. Yet, it would be more accurate to say that the racists in Congress were mobilized in a way that the sexists—although these groups need not be mutually exclusive—were not because federal student aid was framed as a race issue, rather than a gender issue or one that was of particular interest to women.
66. Elliott and D'Orso, The Cost of Courage, 154.
67. See, e.g., Kliebard, The Struggle for the American Curriculum, 229.
68. Congressional Record, 58th Congress, 2nd Sess., 682.
69. Anderson, Congress and the Classroom, 1–2, 55.
70. Clowse, Brainpower for the Cold War, 71.
71. McClure, “With Lister Hill on the Labor Committee,” 95.
72. Elliott and D'Orso, The Cost of Courage, 142.
73. Anderson, Congress and the Classroom, 21.
74. Ibid. The issue of federal control over education proved so politically potent that it was appropriated by supporters of federal student aid, like Rep. George McGovern (D-SD), who objected to policy proposals that would limit the scope of federal student aid by targeting it to students pursuing education in fields deemed directly related to national security.
75. Clowse, Brainpower for the Cold War, 125–26; Cross, Political Education, 12; Elliott and D'Orso, The Cost of Courage, 168–169; J. J. Valenti, “The Recent Debate,” 189–202, 194.
76. Clowse, Brainpower for the Cold War, 43–45. This issue thwarted the efforts of President Harry Truman and members of the 81st Congress who had shown interest in enacting federal aid for education but had abandoned that objective when opposition to allocating federal aid to parochial schools appeared to mount a substantial political challenge.
77. Clowse, Brainpower for the Cold War, 43; Elliott and D'Orso, The Cost of Courage, 152.
78. See Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, 347 U.S. 483 (1955). It is interesting to note that while Rep. Carl Elliott and Sen. Lister Hill emphasized the nondiscriminatory nature of the bill when working to secure the support—or to preclude the opposition—of Catholic churches, Adam Clayton Powell, and the NAACP, both Hill and Elliott had signed the 1956 “Southern Manifesto,” in which Southern Democrats—including Senators Strom Thurmond (D-SC), Walter George (D-GA), William Fulbright (D-AK), and Harry Byrd (D-VA)—criticized the Supreme Court's desegregation decision in Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka. Regardless of where Hill and Elliott stood on the issue of school desegregation, the fact that they strategically framed the NDEA so that it was vague enough to provide nondiscriminatory aid while failing to affect the racial order of Southern educational institutions ultimately promoted greater inclusion of women in American higher education.
79. “Scholarship and Loan Program,” Hearings on H.R. Bills Relating to a Federal Scholarship Program Before the Subcommittee on Education and Labor, 85th Cong., 1st Sess., Aug. 12–Apr. 3, 1957 (Washington, DC: United States Government Printing Office, 1958), 14.
80. “Scholarship and Loan Program,” 19.
81. “Scholarship and Loan Program,” 14.
82. “Scholarship and Loan Program,” 19.
83. “Scholarship and Loan Program,” 2.
84. Nancy F. Cott, The Grounding of Modern Feminism (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1987), 30.
85. Kerber, Linda, “The Republican Mother: Women and the Enlightenment–An American Perspective,” American Quarterly 28 (1976).
86. “Scholarship and Loan Program,” 65–56.
87. “Scholarship and Loan Program,” 523.
88. “Science and Education for National Defense,” Hearings Before the Senate Committee on Labor and Public Welfare, 85th Cong., Jan. 21–Mar. 13, 1958 (Washington, DC: United States Government Printing Office), 255.
89. See, e.g., Eisenmann, Higher Education for Women, 15–16. The Soviet Union's purported commitment to equal rights for women was an important component in Marxist ideology and was highlighted in a 1963 constitution that proclaimed that women and men should enjoy equal rights “in all spheres of economic, state, cultural, social and political life.” See Skrentny, The Minority Rights Revolution, 75.
90. “Scholarship and Loan Program,” 544.
91. “Science and Education for National Defense,” 1138.
92. The mid-twentieth century represents a transitional period for women's activism in the United States. As Jo Freeman notes, “by 1950, the 19th century organizations which had been the basis of the suffrage movement—the Women's Trade Union League, the General Federation of Women's Clubs, the Women's Christian Temperance Union, the National American Women's Suffrage Association—were all either dead or a pale shadow of their former selves.” See Jo Freeman, “The Origins of the Women's Rights Movement,” in Changing Women in a Changing Society, ed. Joan Huber (Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 1973), 40.
93. Elliott and D'Orso, The Cost of Courage, 158.
94. McClure, “With Lister Hill on the Labor Committee,” 78.
95. Nancy MacLean, American Women's Movement, 1945–2000: A Brief History with Documents (Boston, MA: Bedford/St. Martin's, 2009), 7. One exception to this trend is the fact that some women's groups continued to actively advocate for the Equal Rights Amendment in the 1950s.
96. Clowse, Brainpower for the Cold War, 27.
97. The issue was also dropped by organizations not wanting to broach the topics of federal control and the ways in which a federal higher education program would affect states' rights. In 1952, for example, the General Federation of Women's Clubs jettisoned education from its policy agenda because of the controversy that the issue caused regarding civil rights issues. See Mathews-Gardner, A. Lanethea, “The Political Development of Female Civic Engagement in Postwar America,” Politics & Gender 1 (2005): 547–75, 560.
98. Congressional Quarterly Weekly Report (Washington, DC: Congressional Quarterly, 1958), 1001.
99. Lister Hill, Carl Elliott, and other proponents of federal student aid understood that by successfully clearing the formidable hurdle represented by the House Rules committee with a 266–108 vote, the NDEA had achieved an important triumph. See Elliott and D'Orso, The Cost of Courage, 168.
100. Congressional Quarterly Weekly Report (Washington, DC: Congressional Quarterly, 1958), 16715; see also Clowse, Brainpower for the Cold War, 130; Valenti, “The Recent Debate,” 192. The Powell amendments emerged at the behest of civil rights advocates, particularly Clarence Mitchell of the NAACP. Arguing against the allocation of federal funds to school construction aid programs that supported segregated schools, Powell complained that “Negro people have waited many, many years for this hour of democracy to come and they are willing to wait a few more years rather than see a bill passed that will … build a dual system of Jim Crow Education.” See Cross, Political Education, 9–10; James Sundquist, Politics and Policy: The Eisenhower, Kennedy, and Johnson Years (Washington, DC: Brookings Institution, 1968), 165–66, 177.
101. Clowse, Brainpower for the Cold War, 130; Divine, The Sputnik Challenge, 164.
102. Clowse, Brainpower for the Cold War, 19. This Cold War ideology shaped President Dwight Eisenhower's posture toward defense in the 1950s. As David L. Snead notes, he was primarily concerned with achieving three goals: “preserving a way of life, building a strong military, and overseeing a prosperous economy.” See David L. Snead, The Gaither Committee, Eisenhower, and the Cold War (Columbus, OH: Ohio State University Press, 1998), 17. While the loyalty oath outraged many liberals, it helped to reconcile the bill with Cold War objectives.
103. Citing their dissatisfaction with the basic premise of the NDEA, Sen. Strom Thurmond and Representatives Ralph W. Gwinn, Clare Hoffman, and Donald Nicholson signed their respective committees' reports as members of the minority opposed to the measure. See Anderson, Congress and the Classroom, 49–50.
104. Congressional Quarterly Weekly Report (Washington, DC: Congressional Quarterly, 1958), 1059.
105. Clowse, Brainpower for the Cold War, 132.
106. Anderson, Congress and the Classroom, 27; 53; Clowse, Brainpower for the Cold War, 130; Elliott and D'Orso, The Cost of Courage, 168–70.
107. Clowse, Brainpower for the Cold War, 136–37.
108. Spring, “In Service to the State,” 59.
109. Congressional Record, 85th Cong., 2nd Sess., 19612.
110. Elliott and D'Orso, The Cost of Courage, 170–71.
111. Anderson, Congress and the Classroom, 55.
112. Clowse, Brainpower for the Cold War, 138.
113. Congressional Quarterly Weekly Report (Washington, DC: Congressional Quarterly, Sept. 4, 1958).
114. Homer D. Babbidge, Jr., and Robert M. Rosenzweig, The Federal Interest in Higher Education (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1962), 51 (italics in original); see also Alice M. Rivlin, The Role of the Federal Government in Financing Higher Education (Washington, DC: Brookings Institution, 1961), 119.
115. Reese, America's Public Schools, 226; see also Hugh Davis Graham, The Uncertain Triumph: Federal Education Policy in the Kennedy and Johnson Years (Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press, 1984), 69; Kizer, George A., “Federal Aid to Education: 1945–1963.” History of Education Quarterly 10, no. 1 (1970): 84–102 .
116. Graham, The Uncertain Triumph, 7–9; Kizer, “Federal Aid to Education,” 93. The platform set forth by the Democratic Party included a program for higher education aid that would provide grants to the states to address their most pressing educational needs, particularly classroom shortages and low teacher salaries. The education proposal included in the Republican Party's platform, however, focused on providing federal funds for elementary and high school classroom construction in needy districts. See Kizer, “Federal Aid to Education,” 93.
117. Graham, The Uncertain Triumph, 12.
118. Graham, The Uncertain Triumph, 12.
119. Presidential Commission on the Status of Women. “American Women: Report of the President's Commission on the Status of Women” (Washington, DC: Government Printing Office, 1963), 10.
120. “American Women,” 10.
121. Graham, The Uncertain Triumph, 45.
122. The Higher Education Facilities Act of 1963, Pub. L. No. 88-204, also known as the Morse-Green Bill. Upon signing the Higher Education Facilities Act of 1962, President Johnson emphasized the significance of the legislation, calling it the “the most significant education bill passed by the Congress in the history of the Republic” and adding that “[the 1963] session of Congress will go down in history as the Education Congress of 1963”; see Graham, The Uncertain Triumph, 52. This statement, which Graham characterizes as “hyperbolic,” offers a preview of the strong and favorable attitude toward active federal intervention in higher education that would characterize the Johnson administration's subsequent policy initiatives.
123. James C. Hearn, “The Paradox of Growth in Federal Aid for College Students, 1965–1990,” in The Finance of Higher Education: Theory, Research, Policy, and Practice, eds. Michael B. Paulsen and John C. Smart (New York: Agathon Press, 2001), 273.
124. Sally A. Davenport, “Smuggling-In Reform: Equal Opportunity and the Higher Education Act 1965–80” (PhD diss., Johns Hopkins University, 1982); Francis Keppel, “The Higher Education Acts Contrasted, 1965–1986: Has Federal Policy Come of Age?” Harvard Educational Review 57 (April 1987): 49–68, 50; Michael Parsons, Power and Politics: Federal Higher Education Policymaking in the 1990s (Albany, NY: State University of New York Press, 1997), 35–37; Spring, “In Service to the State,” 60. Spring quotes Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan as remarking that “once again higher education policy was deployed by the national government to serve external political needs, in this case to press further to fill out a central theme of the Kennedy and Johnson administration[s]—that of equality… Higher education was a means of obtaining goals elsewhere in the political system” (see Spring, “In Service to the State,” 60).
125. “Education Aid from Preschool to Graduate Level Sought.” Congressional Quarterly Weekly Report (Washington, DC: Congressional Quarterly, 1965), 61; see also José Chávez, “Presidential Influence on the Politics of Higher Education: The Higher Education Act of 1965” (PhD diss., University of Texas at Austin, 1975), 52–56; Davenport, “Smuggling-In Reform,” 43–46.
126. Davenport, “Smuggling-In Reform,” 133.
127. Flemming, “The Philosophy and Objectives,” 133; Lawrence E. Gladieux and Thomas R. Wolanin, Congress and the Colleges: The National Politics of Higher Education (Lexington, MA: Lexington Books, 1976), 15; Hannah, Susan B., “The Higher Education Act of 1992: Skills, Constraints, and the Politics of Higher Education,” The Journal of Higher Education 67, no. 5 (1996): 498–527 , 503.
128. Parsons, Power and Politics, 35–36.
129. See The Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965, Pub. L. No. 89-10.
130. Parsons, Power and Politics, 37. Earlier that year, the same strategy had enabled the Johnson administration to move the Elementary and Secondary Education Act through Congress in only three months (Parsons, Power and Politics, 37).
131. Graham, The Uncertain Triumph, 80; see also Chávez, “Presidential Influence on the Politics of Higher Education; Parsons, Power and Politics, 36.”
132. Parsons, Power and Politics, 36.
133. Chávez, “Presidential Influence on the Politics of Higher Education,” 57–58.
134. Ibid., 60–62.
135. Ibid., 63.
136. Higher Education Act of 1965: Hearings before the House Committee on Education and Labor Special Subcommittee on Education, 89th Cong., 1st Sess. Hearings on H.R. 3220, and similar bills to strengthen the educational resources of our colleges and universities and to provide financial assistance for students in postsecondary and higher education (Washington, DC: United States Government Printing Office, 1965), 30.
137. Graham, The Uncertain Triumph, 81–82; Parsons, Power and Politics, 38.
138. “Complete Text of President Johnson's Jan 12 Education Message.” Congressional Quarterly Weekly Report (Washington, DC: Congressional Quarterly, 1965), 76–79; Chávez, “Presidential Influence on the Politics of Higher Education,” 52–53.
139. “Complete Text of President Johnson's Jan 12 Education Message.” Congressional Quarterly Weekly Report (Washington, DC: Congressional Quarterly, 1965),78.
140. Ibid., 63.
141. Congressional Record, 88th Cong., 2nd Sess., 13573.
142. Ibid., 10898.
143. Chávez, “Presidential Influence on the Politics of Higher Education,” 70.
144. Ibid., 72.
145. Higher Education Act of 1965: Hearings on H.R. 3220, 61–62.
146. Evidence provided to the subcommittee from a document by Elizabeth W. Haven and Robert E. Smith, Financial Aid to College Students, 1963–64 (Princeton, NJ: Educational Testing Service, 1965) further illustrates this gender-neutral approach to considering the Higher Education Act. The authors of this publication note that, while women were once widely regarded as less likely to assume the responsibility of a college loan, women and men were equally likely to obtain student loans to pay for college. In 1960, for example, 49 percent of college freshmen who had received student loans were women. See Higher Education Act of 1965: Hearings on S. 600, Before the Subcommittee on Labor and Public Welfare, 89th Cong., 1st Sess. (a bill to strengthen the educational resources of our colleges and universities and to provide financial assistance for students in post-secondary and higher education) (Washington, DC: United States Government Printing Office, 1965), 455.
147. Higher Education Act of 1965: Hearings on H.R. 3220, 659.
148. Higher Education Act of 1965: Hearings on S. 600, 502.
149. Higher Education Act of 1965: Hearings on S. 600, 301. Thelma Thomas Daley of the American Personnel and Guidance Association submitted a statement to the committee that offered high school students' thoughts regarding the proposed Higher Education Act of 1965. Reflecting on the program, a young woman named Joan remarked that “one of the major problems I face is money and so many scholarships are for such a little bit.” (Higher Education Act of 1965: Hearings on S. 600, 856). Mike, the son of a steelworker concurred: “I was exposed to the framework of Government loans in the 10th grade. It was like alleviating a hanging problem; it gave me a feeling that the money will be there and I'll have a chance” (Higher Education Act of 1965: Hearings on S. 600, 856). George, whose father was blind and who was supported by the welfare department in his county, echoed the financial concerns expressed by Joan and Mike: “on the road to college are many problems to be faced—the biggest of these is money. Money can affect grades and handicap functional participation. I want aid. I want my life to mean something” (Higher Education Act of 1965: Hearings on S. 600, 857). A final example of needy high school students' thoughts regarding the provisions of the Higher Education Act can be found in the comments of Lucy, a tenant farmer's daughter who said, “I would love to be able to attend a good school. Maybe this bill is my salvation… . If I could obtain a loan, a grant, and a scholarship, maybe my dreams will come true” (Higher Education Act of 1965: Hearings on S. 600, 857). As this sample of quotes illustrates, the financial assistance provided by the HEA resonated with both male and female students.
150. Congressional Record, 88th Cong., 2nd Sess., 11182.
151. Minnesota Historical Society. “Address by Vice President Hubert H. Humphrey: Conference of Governors Commissions on Status of Women” July 29, 1965, http://www2.mnhs.org/library/findaids/00442/pdfa/00442-01649.pdf.
152. The activities of national women's organizations faced numerous challenges in the 1960s, particularly significant declines in membership. As Kristin Goss and Theda Skocpol note, the mid-1960s marked the beginning of significant declines in membership for women's organizations. In the American Association of University Women, for example, the percentage of female college graduate members “dropped by 4 percent between 1945 and 1965, and then plunged by 80 percent” in the three decades after 1966; see Kristen Goss and Theda Skocpol, “Changing Agendas: The Impact of Feminism on American Politics,” in Gender and Social Capital, eds. Brenda O'Neil and Elisabeth Gidengil (New York: Routledge, 2006), 348. Rather than boasting broad memberships drawing upon women from all racial and socioeconomic backgrounds, women who engaged in feminist politics in the 1960s tended to be well-educated, middle-class women; see Joyce Gelb and Marian Lief Palley, Women and Public Policies: Reassessing Gender Politics (Charlottesville, VA: University Press of Virginia, 1996), 38.
153. Goss and Skocpol, “Changing Agendas,” 323.
154. Ibid., 324.
155. Ibid., 329.
156. Higher Education Act of 1965: Hearings on H.R. 3220, 701–705.
157. Ibid., 601–602.
158. Ibid., 598.
159. Dorothy McBride-Stetson, Women's Rights in the USA: Policy Debates and Gender Roles, 3rd ed. (New York: Routledge, 2004), 143.
160. Congressional Record, 88th Cong., 2nd Sess., 4662.
161. Higher Education Act of 1965: Hearings on H.R. 3220, 649.
162. Ibid., 649.
163. Ibid., 144.
164. Ibid., 6627. Echoing this idea that the HEA could support women as they pursue skills that would promote valuable labor force participation, Walter J. Tribbey, president of the Draughton School of Business in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, submitted a column authored by Dr. Benjamin Fine for the record. In it, Fine emphasizes the need for women in many fields, saying: “With the increasing complexity of American business and professional life, there is a growing demand for educated young women with stenographic skills who are versed in specialized fields such as legal medical, engineering or technical secretaries. … Because of the scramble by business executives, the young lady—an occasional young man—with a specialized training can count on an excellent salary and sound job security” (Higher Education Act of 1965: Hearings on H.R. 3220, 535–36).
165. Higher Education Act of 1965: Hearings on S. 600, 1097–98.
Once it became clear that federal student loans were likely to be included in whatever higher education proposal emerged from Congress, representatives from the banking industry, including the American Bankers Association and the United States Aid Fund, Inc., made clear their support of government subsidies to banks offering student loans. They did, however, express opposition to government discretion over the interest rates attached to the loans and the terms of repayment.
166. Higher Education Act of 1965: Hearings on S. 600, 1284.
167. Robert C. Albright, “Education Tax Credits Defeated,” Washington Post, Feb. 5, 1964, p. A1.
168. Graham, The Uncertain Triumph, 82.
169. Chávez, “Presidential Influence on the Politics of Higher Education,” 117–18.
170. Ibid., 125–34.
171. “Floor Action,” Congressional Quarterly Weekly Report (Washington, DC: Congressional Quarterly, 1965), 1765, 2117.
172. Differences in the speed with which each chamber acted on the HEA suggests that the Senate provided less contentious ground for proposed higher education legislation than the House of Representatives. As John Walsh notes, the HEA emerged from the House Education and Labor committee on July 14, 1965, but went without activity until Aug. 26. In the Senate, however, the HEA emerged from committee on Sept. 1 and passed the following day; see Walsh, John, “Congress: Higher Education Act Including Scholarship for Needy Passed in Final Days of Session,” Science, New Series 150 (1965): 591–94, 592.
173. “Floor Action,” Congressional Quarterly Weekly Report (Washington, DC: Congressional Quarterly, 1965), 1827. Surprisingly, once the HEA came up for debate on the Senate floor, the bulk of debate pertained—not to the aforementioned amendments—but to a disagreement as to the bill's effects for the level of control wielded by the federal educational bureaucracy over fraternal organizations. The primary source of contention was the appropriate reach of the U.S. education commissioner's power. Specifically, lawmakers disagreed as to whether the commissioner could deny federal higher education benefits to students attending institutions at which fraternities engaged in racial, religious, or creed-based discrimination; see Chávez, “Presidential Influence on the Politics of Higher Education,” 134–35. Once members inserted language clarifying that control over the practices of fraternities and sororities fell outside of the education commissioner's purview, the Senate passed its version of the Higher Education Act on Sept. 2, by a vote of 79–3. The bill that emerged from the Senate differed from the House measure in two main respects: First, the Senate proposal included items geared toward improving elementary and secondary school teaching—particularly the establishment of a National Teacher Corps. Second, the Senate bill authorized $4.7 billion for fiscal years 1966–1970, while the House bill included only authorizations for fiscal year 1966; see “Floor Action,” Congressional Quarterly Weekly Report (Washington, DC: Congressional Quarterly, 1965), 1827.
174. Walsh, “Congress,” 591–94, 592.
175. Chávez, “Presidential Influence on the Politics of Higher Education,” 121, 136–37.
176. Walsh, “Congress,” 591.
177. In the House, 75 Republicans favored the HEA, while 41 opposed it; 238 Democrats voted for the bill, while 22 opposed it.
178. “College Aid with Scholarships, Teacher Corps Cleared.” Congressional Quarterly Weekly Report (Washington, DC: Congressional Quarterly, 1965), 2117.
179. Ibid., 2337.
180. Ibid., 2337.
181. Skrentny, The Minority Rights Revolution, 185; see also Kliebard, The Struggle for the American Curriculum, 229.
182. Edward Humes, Over Here: How the G.I. Bill Transformed the American Dream (Orlando, FL: Harcourt 2006), 204; Suzanne Mettler, Soldiers to Citizens: The G.I. Bill and the Making of the Greatest Generation (New York: Oxford University Press, 2005), 146.
183. Canaday, Margot, “Building a Straight State: Sexuality and Social Citizenship under the 194 G.I. Bill,” Journal of American History 90, no. 3 (2003): 935–57, 956; Eisenmann, Linda, “Educating the Female Citizen in a Post-War World: Competing Ideologies for American Women, 1945–1965,” Educational Review 54, no. 2 (2002): 133–41, 133.
184. National Defense Education Act, Pub. L. No. 85-864; see also Graham, Uncertain Triumph, 35–36. Institutions were responsible for collecting repayments, though the federal government would ultimately bear the cost of losses incurred due to loan default. Loan repayment represented a central concern for lawmakers and the college and university officials who administered the NDSL program. Many pointed to poor program administration to explain high rates of delinquency in repayment.
To generate their 10 percent contribution to the loan fund, some schools benefited from financial support from local donors including alumni and private organizations. The colleges and universities bore the entire cost of administering the program, which typically included funds for clerical services, posters, and any additional money necessary to run the program.
185. At American University, for example, Student Aid Director Tom Sills served on the university loan committee, along with a student loan officer and the university's director of admissions. In a statement before the House of Representatives Special Subcommittee on the Committee on Education and Labor, Sills described the process by which the committee reviewed loan applications, saying that “when the application is made for a loan, we don't always get to meet as a committee, but we pass the papers around among us and we try and look for two things, academic promise and need.” He goes on to describe the transmission of funds: “After we approve the loan and the student, upon registration, we give him the check which he endorses and gives right back to us, to the bursar in payment toward his account” (Higher Education Act of 1965: Hearings on H.R. 3220, 316–17). Bob Billings, the director of the Aids and Awards Office at Kansas University (KU), discussed his institution's administration of the NDEA's financial aid program with the Lawrence Journal-World newspaper. In 1965, KU was required to contribute $100,000 as its contribution to program's total cost of $1 million. The previous year, his office received nearly 1,800 applications for financial aid. He and his staff were able to make awards to more than 1,300 students, distributing a total of $938,000 in NDSL funds for average annual awards of $550 per student. This aid was especially important for helping needy students meet the $1,500 annual cost of attending KU. While Billings pointed to the success of the program for providing much needed support to students who were able receive funds, he lamented the fact that his office was forced to reject many loan applications because student needs exceeded available funds. In many cases, extensive need among students and the availability of limited funds meant that colleges and universities were not able to approve all loan requests.
186. Robert C. Hall, “The National Defense Student Loan Program: A Two-Year Report” (Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Health, Education and Welfare, 1961), 18, 24.
187. Kirkpatrick, “A Study of Federal Student Loan Programs,” 32; Hall, “The National Defense Student Loan Program,” 19–20.
188. William Lakeman, “Installment-Plan College Education Gets But Slow Start in This Area,” The Free Lance-Star (Fredericksburg, VA, February 28, 1959), 3.
189. Robert C. Hall and Stanton Craigie, “Student Borrowers: Their Needs and Resources” (Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Education, 1962), 11.
190. Ibid., 70.
191. Ibid., 13.
192. Ibid., 6.
193. Ibid., 7.
194. Ibid., 73.
195. Ibid., 72.
196. Ibid., 71.
197. Ibid., 37.
198. Kirkpatrick, “A Study of Federal Student Loan Programs,” 159.
199. Thomas D. Snyder and Sally A. Dillow, Digest of Education Statistics (Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Education, 2009), Table 304 (Degrees in Education Conferred by Degree-Granting Institutions, by Level of Degree and Sex of Student: Selected years, 1949–50 through 2007–08).
200. Kirkpatrick, “A Study of Federal Student Loan Programs,” 156–58.
201. Joe McKnight, “Divorced Mother of Four Waging Own Poverty War,” The Tuscaloosa News, 147, no. 354, Dec. 20, 1965.
202. Mitgang, Lee, “High Default Rate Mars 25-Year-Old Student Loan Program,” Schenectady Gazette 89, no. 274, Aug. 16, 1984 .
203. Gladieux and Wolanin, Congress and the Colleges, 61.
204. Fine, Benjamin, “Skyrocketing Tuitions Ahead for Students,” St. Petersburg Times 83, no. 243, Mar. 24, 1967 ; Gladieux and Wolanin, Congress and the Colleges, 62.
205. Kirkpatrick, “A Study of Federal Student Loan Programs,” 174.
206. D. Lee Ingalls, “Student Financial Aid Distribution: A Study of Patterns at Three Institutions of Higher Education” (Washington, DC: National Advisory Council on Women's Educational Programs), 4–6.
207. Susan B. Choy and Carlyle Maw, “Characteristics of Students Who Borrow to Finance Their Postsecondary Education” (Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Education, 1994), 1.
208. Mary Moran, “Student Financial Aid and Women: Equity Dilemma?” (Washington, DC: Office of Educational Research and Improvement, 1986), 73.
209. For example, future analyses of the role that higher education policies have played in women's educational attainment might look to the effect that state level financial aid policies have had on women's access to college degrees. As the federal government has assumed a greater role in shaping who has access to college degrees, the question remains as to whether the states have adjusted their efforts as well.
I thank Suzanne Mettler, Theodore J. Lowi, Michael Jones-Correa, Peter Enns, Christopher Anderson, Elizabeth Sanders, Sandra Suarez, Peri Arnold, and the editorial board and anonymous reviewers at Studies in American Political Development for their helpful comments on earlier drafts.
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