The United States’ education system has evolved systematically over many decades. The higher education sector has received many notable changes. It should be put into consideration that the education system plays a major role in any economy or democracy. The developments that have been witnessed within the United States higher education system have significantly shaped this society. However, the role played by the higher education has changed over a long period of time. The changes that have been introduced within the system have either led to negative or positive changes within the society (Holborn, 2010). This means that as much as there have been positive impact by the higher education, negative impacts have also been registered.
The great boom and developments within the higher education sector were registered in the 1960s. During this period, there were fewer institutions that were offering higher education. The federal government had enrolled a national program that ensured that those who qualified were given financial aid to ensure that they accessed higher education. In the 60s, the United States had the best and robust system in the whole world. There were adequate professors and other instructors in every institution. This ensured that academic research was efficiently done for the betterment of academic and social levels. In general, this was a period when higher education system was stable, something that translated into sharp increase in the number of intakes into the relevant institutions (Holborn, 2010).
This growth continued into the early 70s with the government’s continued support for those who undertook graduate studies. However, this scenario did not take long as the continued expansion of the institutions made management difficult. The federal government funding continued to reduce with time, leading to more problems. The truth is; higher educational institutions greatly struggled to keep on operating during the 70s. The growth and expansion that had been realized in the 60s was quickly fading away. Notably, academic profession which was a well paying and rewarding vocation was no longer attracting professionals and academicians. Exuberation that had been witnessed earlier; that gave the academic professionals the zeal to teach and do research at the same time for the betterment of the society, was missing (Thelin, 2011).
Mitigation measures had to be taken to ensure that higher education institutions were running normally. One of the measures was to find solutions of ensuring that education being provided and the school also efficiently operating. Policies were changed and other grant agencies like Ford Foundation came to help in funding higher education. Positively, such agencies and foundations emphasized on different criteria from the Federal Government’s. They expanded their scope unlike the former that made the universities the exclusive funders of higher education. The funding foundations creatively targeted the future by giving their grants towards the minorities and women (Thelin, 2011). They also expanded their scope to the international stage by funding the international students. This was the beginning of what is witnessed in the present; there are a large number of international students within the United States. Universities and colleges within the U.S. also organize exchange programmes with other foreign universities.
On the same note, most universities had to find ways of getting more funds by initiating certain learning programs. More campuses were opened to ensure that higher education could be easily accessed. As technology was also advancing with time, distance learning was introduced to ensure that learning could continue at the learner’s convenience. This was also the period when private universities were allowed to operate. These were business-like as the costs for the programmes were significantly higher. It is prudent to reiterate here that the need, for the universities to keep running and at the same time provide a conducive environment, has led to the emergence of a number of learning programmes schedules which suit the learner. Therefore, someone can easily enroll for higher education while still maintains the current employment.
The period between 1970 and 2000 also came with its challenges. In fact, this is the period that has determined the current state of the higher education in the United States. One important factor that led to some radical changes to the university and college education was the conflicts and student protests that marred the late 60s and early 70s. One of the causes of this was the management of these institutions. The students felt they were left out of the decision making organs. This led to the inclusion of student union representatives into the top management councils. It is evident that student unions are very crucial in making major decisions within the institution especially those that directly affect the students. In most instances, student riots and unrest do occur when the university or college administration fail to agree with the student representatives on particular issues (Holborn, 2010).
However, there are a number of critics who believe that some of the things that occurred within late 20 century have led to the misuse of the university today. They argue that the student riots that occurred in the earlier years led to the formation of the largest destructive movements within the student body. With time, there are a number of changes that had to be made on the curricula. This also led to the emergence of affirmative action policies. This has negated the sole reason for the establishment of such institutions of higher learning. Instead of focusing on the studies, the students instead focus their energy on the affirmative action, something that may turn out to be very destructive. All in all, it is prudent to mention that the period between 1970- 2000 has greatly influenced how higher education is provided in the United States. Some of the influences have been positive while others are negative.
1970-2000 marked the period when many changes were witnessed in the higher education system in the United States. The beginning of this period was not an easy one as most of the higher educational institutions greatly struggled to survive. It should be remembered that almost all of these institutions were funded by the Federal Government. Management became difficult due to the lack of funding. This was due to the rapid expansion that was witnessed early in the 60s. This was the cause of a lot of changes were effected through the policies that were put in place by the relevant authorities. These institutions had to offer degrees for money as this was an easy way of self-funding (Thelin, 2011). Private universities were also established to absorb the growing number of those who wanted to access higher learning. Moreover, flexible programmes like the online distance learning have been adopted.
The trends that were witnessed during this period, as mentioned above, led to the re-evaluation of the higher education provision. As much as other strategies worked well, there are others that did not. For instance, expansion of campuses to the communities was a good way of reaching the locals. Adopting flexible learning programmes was also good. On the contrary, adopting online learning has downplayed the teaching and practical research, that were being done early. The way things are, this trend may continue due to the large number of people who work and want to further their education at the same time. Most of these people have families and therefore may not have time to travel far for higher education. Nevertheless, there is need to still continue with the actual training and research that existed before as it works best to betterment of the society (Thelin, 2011).