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Education, Funding

federal supervision, land-grant colleges, direct student loans, Manhattan Project, federal subsidies

Education is an enormous investment that requires contributions from many sources. American higher education is especially expensive, with its heavy investment in laboratory space and research equipment. It receives funding from private individuals, foundations, and corporations. Many private universities have large endowments, or funds, that sustain the institutions beyond what students pay in tuition and fees. Many, such as Harvard University in Massachusetts and Stanford University in California, raise large sums of money through fund drives. Even many state-funded universities seek funds from private sources to augment their budgets. Most major state universities, such as those in Michigan and California, now rely on a mixture of state and private resources.

Before World War II, the federal government generally played a minor role in financing education, with the exception of the Morrill Acts of 1862 and 1890. These acts granted the states public lands that could be sold for the purpose of establishing and maintaining institutions of higher education. Many so-called land-grant state universities were founded during the 19th century as a result of this funding. Today, land-grant colleges include some of the nationís premier state universities. The government also provided some funding for basic research at universities.

The American experience in World War II (especially the success of the Manhattan Project, which created the atomic bomb) made clear that scientific and technical advances, as well as human resources, were essential to national security. As a result, the federal government became increasingly involved in education at all levels and substantially expanded funding for universities. The federal government began to provide substantial amounts of money for university research programs through agencies such as the National Science Foundation, and later through the National Institutes of Health and the departments of Energy and Defense. At the same time, the government began to focus on providing equal educational opportunities for all Americans. Beginning with the GI Bill, which financed educational programs for veterans, and later in the form of fellowships and direct student loans in the 1960s, more and more Americans were able to attend colleges and universities.

During the 1960s the federal government also began to play more of a role in education at lower levels. The Great Society programs of President Lyndon Johnson developed many new educational initiatives to assist poor children and to compensate for disadvantage. Federal money was funneled through educational institutions to establish programs such as Head Start, which provides early childhood education to disadvantaged children. Some Americans, however, resisted the federal governmentís increased presence in education, which they believed contradicted the long tradition of state-sponsored public schooling.

By the 1980s many public schools were receiving federal subsidies for textbooks, transportation, breakfast and lunch programs, and services for students with disabilities. This funding enriched schools across the country, especially inner-city schools, and affected the lives of millions of schoolchildren. Although federal funding increased, as did federal supervision, to guarantee an equitable distribution of funds, the government did not exercise direct control over the academic programs schools offered or over decisions about academic issues. During the 1990s, the administration of President Bill Clinton urged the federal government to move further in exercising leadership by establishing academic standards for public schools across the country and to evaluate schools through testing.

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