Perhaps no other institution is so misunderstood in the United States as higher education. According to census data taken in 2010, more than 39% of the citizens of the United States will have completed some level of higher education by the time they are 25. The National Center for Educational Statistics reports that more than 4,000 institutions of higher learning enroll 17 million students in some type of classroom setting, many of them degree or certificate seeking. These universities offer an amazing breadth of learning, from classes that focus on the television show “the Sopranos” to the “Philosophy of Star Trek”. The one thing that these millions of students students studying at thousands of colleges have in common is that they are unlikely to ever study the history of the higher education movement, despite that movement’s importance to the rise of western civilization and its current importance to employment in a technological society. The result is generation after generation of students graduating from an institution that they do not understand, moving into positions of power on boards of trustees or political office that give them considerable authority over those institutions, and making choices with good intentions but that often damage the health of the colleges and universities that they love and want to support.
When this introduction is being written a google search on the topic of “history of higher education” provides only limited information for the average undergraduate who wanted to understand the subject. There is an Educause document by the Department of Information Services at Northeastern University, a link to the excellent Perspectives on the History of Higher Education edited by Peter Geiger, a link to Wikipedia, and a few books offered by Amazon for sale on the subject. Search for college courses on the subject and you find a dry well – they exist but are so few and far between that courses on Star Trek clearly must out number them by a considerable margin. Both the casual learner and the serious student of the subject faces the same initial problem – the subject has less information available to the general public than the sexuality of Shakespeare, the War of Jenkin’s Ear, or the use of trash in art.
This website was designed to support a team of undergraduates trying to understand modern higher education, as well as allow a place where undergraduates, mostly freshman and sophomores, could showcase their papers written for a class in the history of higher education taught initially by the Douglas Honors College at Central Washington University. The goal of all of these students and their faculty advisors is make sure that there is always a place interested students, their parents, and others can come to learn about the history and modern practice of higher education.