The Democratization of Higher Education: An Historical Overview and Prospects for the Future


  • Kelli L. Frazier Wichita State University


higher education, increased tuition, financial aid, G. I. Bill, Higher Education Act, college admissions,


The United States system of higher education, including colleges and universities, technical/vocational schools and community colleges, is comprised of over four thousand schools with enrollment of almost sixteen million students. 1 "Prestigious and knowledgeable observers have said that this system is 'the most advanced in the world,' 'the envy of the world,' and 'the most effective system of higher education the world has ever known.'"2 In addition to the primary mission of preparing students for success in their chosen endeavors, these institutions annually produce research and scientific discovery across a broad range of topics. However, there are a growing number of critics who feel that as the number of students increases, programs at all levels of higher education are reducing quality. This paper will examine the development of higher education including landmark legislation, the impact of that legislation in making a college education more accessible to the masses, and the changing attitudes and expectations of students over time. Finally, it examines the system's prospects for the future which contemporary trends suggest-that a college education has become a commodity rather than an intellectual experience.