Higher Education

At the beginning of the 20th century, fewer than 1,000 colleges with 160,000 students existed in the United States. Explosive growth in the number of colleges occurred at the end of the 19th century and early 20th century. Philanthropists endowed many of these institutions. Wealthy philanthropists for example, established Johns Hopkins University, Stanford University, Carnegie Mellon University, Vanderbilt University and Duke University; John D. Rockefeller funded the University of Chicago without imposing his name on it.

Land Grant Universities
Each state used federal funding from the Morrill Land-Grant Colleges Acts of 1862 and 1890 to set up "land grant colleges" that specialized in agriculture and engineering.

The 1890 act created all-black land grant colleges, which were dedicated primarily to teacher training. They also made important contributions to rural development, including the establishment of a traveling school program by Tuskegee Institute in 1906. Rural conferences sponsored by Tuskegee also attempted to improve the life of rural blacks. In recent years, the 1890 schools have helped train many students from less-developed countries who return home with the ability to improve agricultural production.

Among the first were Purdue University, Michigan State University, Kansas State University, Cornell University (in New York), Texas A&M University, Pennsylvania State University, The Ohio State University and the University of California. Few alumni became farmers, but they did play an increasingly important role in the larger food industry, especially after the Extension system was set up in 1916 that put trained agronomists in every agricultural county.

The engineering graduates played a major role in rapid technological development. Indeed, the land-grant college system produced the agricultural scientists and industrial engineers who constituted the critical human resources of the managerial revolution in government and business, 1862–1917, laying the foundation of the world's preeminent educational infrastructure that supported the world's foremost technology-based economy.

Representative was Pennsylvania State University. The Farmers' High School of Pennsylvania (later the Agricultural College of Pennsylvania and then Pennsylvania State University), chartered in 1855, was intended to uphold declining agrarian values and show farmers ways to prosper through more productive farming. Students were to build character and meet a part of their expenses by performing agricultural labor. By 1875 the compulsory labor requirement was dropped, but male students were to have an hour a day of military training in order to meet the requirements of the Morrill Land Grant College Act. In the early years the agricultural curriculum was not well developed, and politicians in Harrisburg often considered it a costly and useless experiment. The college was a center of middle-class values that served to help young people on their journey to white-collar occupations.

GI Bill
Following World War II, the GI Bill made college education possible for many veterans by paying tuition and living expenses. It helped create a widespread belief in the necessity of college education. It opened up higher education to millions of ambitious young men who would otherwise have been forced to immediately enter the job market. Most campuses became overwhelmingly male thanks to the GI Bill; by the end of the century women had reached parity in numbers.