Copyright
William Rainey Harper.

The trend in higher education online

. (page 22 of 24)
Online LibraryWilliam Rainey HarperThe trend in higher education → online text (page 22 of 24)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


the integrity of the college. It must, however, be
admitted that the adoption of this policy by larger
institutions introduces a difficulty for the smaller
institutions, but this difficulty is not insuperable,
and several ways have already been suggested for
meeting it.

Then, too, as already hinted, the proposition,
subordinates the college almost wholly to the pro-
fessional school. It is largely because of the increased
demands of the professional schools that it seems
necessary to shorten the college course. This does
not seem to be in harmony with the fact that a com-
paratively small number of students really expect
to enter professional schools. Why should students
who do not have the professional school in mind
be required to shorten the term of college residence ?
If it is answered that the student who enters any
line of business activity needs the year thus saved
in order that he may begin his work earHer, it may
be said that the facts do not bear out this proposition ;
and, in any case, a year of business is not to be
treated as a year of college work in the sense that it
is equivalent to the first year's course of study in a
professional school. It is therefore as inexpedient
to adjust the whole college policy to the supposed
needs of a minority who are planning to enter the
professional school, as it is to adjust the whole
poHcy of a high school to the needs of a minority
who enter college.

And, finally, it is to be urged in opposition to the



LENGTH OF THE COLLEGE COURSE 347

proposed movement that it is in general contrary to
the drift of educational movements, and that the
very thing which it proposes can easily be secured
by other means. Among other educational tenden-
cies today may be cited (a) that of the high school
to enlarge its scope and add to its curriculum one
or two years of additional work; (6) that of strength-
ening the faculties and curriculum of the average
smaller college; (c) that of avoiding the waste in
the earHer years, and the consequent possibihty of
college entrance at an earHer age; and (d) that of
distinct separation between college and university
methods. To each and all of these the proposition
stands opposed.

Following the example of one of the speakers
this morning, I would suggest that the plan which
has been in operation at the University of Chicago
for nearly ten years has seemed to many of us to
meet in large measure the demands called for this
morning. This plan provides a course of four
years and a course of two years. It permits students
of exceptional ability to do the work in three years.
It makes it possible for those who so desire to
prolong the work five years. It is adapted to the
needs of individuals of different classes. With the
completion of the two-year course a certificate is
given, granting the title of "associate" in the univer- A ^
sity. This, for the present, is sufficient in the way
of a degree. To students who maintain a standing
of the highest grade certain concessions are made.



348 THE TREND IN HIGHER EDUCATION

The details of the plan have been worked out
as experience has indicated the need. The provi-
sion of a two-year course meets the need of many
who cannot take a longer term of residence, and
likewise of many who ought not to take a longer
course. The provision of a normal four-year course
meets the need of the average man or woman.
This plan does not imply that this average man or
woman who spends four years in residence is par-
ticularly stupid, or that a year has been wasted.

It is believed, from an experience of ten or more
years, that this plan contains the solution of at least
many of the points now under discussion.



XXIII

THE SITUATION OF THE SMALL
COLLEGE^

In my opinion the two most serious problems of
education requiring solution within the next quarter
of a century are, first, the problem of rural schools,
which falls within the domain of lower education;
and, secondly, the problem of the small college, which
lies within the domain of higher education.

This second problem, which forms the subject of
our consideration here, is at the same time serious and
delicate; serious, because the greatest interests, both
material and spiritual, are at stake; delicate, because
there are involved special and peculiar questions of
privilege and right. The study of the problem is a
difficult one, because it deals with data insufficiently
gathered and not yet properly tabulated; because,
also, the territory covered is so vast and includes sec-
tions so differently situated.

I may be pardoned for mentioning my personal
experience : My student life was divided, my under-
graduate work being done in a small college, my
graduate work in a large college or university. My
life as a teacher has been almost evenly divided,
twelve years having been spent in institutions termed

I An address given in Charleston, S. C, July lo, 1900, before
the National Educational Association.

349



350 THE TREND IN HIGHER EDUCATION

** small," thirteen in institutions which may be called
*' larger." I approach the subject, therefore, with
no prejudice born of lack of experience in one or the
other kind of educational institution.
We shall consider —

I. Some factors which would seem to guarantee
the life and the growth of the smaller institutions.

II. Some factors which will be found to stand in
the way of such development.

III. Some changes affecting the small colleges
which are to be expected, and which are to be
desired.

I

Let us notice, first of all, the widely prevailing be-
lief that the smaller institution has certain decided ad-
vantages over the larger in the character of the results
produced. This belief is entertained so strongly and
in so many quarters that, whether true or false, it
furnishes a substantial element of strength to the
cause of the smaller college. It cannot be said that,
if this belief is false, its falsity will soon become appar-
ent; for, in weighing evidence on both sides of so
delicate a question, the number of points to be con-
sidered is very great, and the individual equation, in
each case, is altogether different. Who can say
dogmatically that it would have been better or worse
for this or that boy had he gone to the larger institu-
tion instead of to the smaller; or to the smaller
instead of to the larger ?

The student of the small college, it is urged, has



SITUATION OF THE SMALL COLLEGE 351

an advantage in that he comes into closer contact
with the officers of the faculty. It is certainly true,
other things being equal, that the student who knows
his instructor intimately and is himself intimately
known by him, has a much greater chance of achiev-
ing satisfactory results than the student who has Httle
or no personal contact with his instructor. But
here two things should be noted. First, is it a fact
that in the larger institutions the student comes into
less vital touch with his teachers ? A study of this
question, extending over several years, has con-
vinced me that the student in the larger institutions
not only comes into relationship with a greater num-
ber of instructors, but also touches in the closest
possible way as many of this number, as he would
have touched in the smaller college. And, second,
is it a question merely of close contact, or of receiving
that deep incitement which stirs the soul to its very
depths ? I have known instructors in both large and
small institutions, close touch with whom would
deaden rather than quicken any higher life ; and it is
only fair to say that the number of such is as great
proportionately in the small as in the larger institu-
tion.

Again, the student of the small college, it is urged,
has great advantages, especially in the earlier college
years, because in most cases he does his work under
men who have the rank of professor, while in the
larger institutions he is turned over to young men
who are only tutors or instructors. And yet it



352 THE TREND IN HIGHER EDUCATION

should be remembered that these same tutors
and instructors, if they were in the smaller insti-
tutions, would enjoy the rank of professor. I have
in mind a university in which every man who is
ranked as an assistant professor, instructor, or tutor
has been offered a full professorship in a small
college, and several of them the presidency of such
an institution.

Further, the student of the small college, it is
urged, has greater opportunity to develop respon-
sibility; the number of students being small, each one
stands out more definitely and receives greater
recognition, while, at the same time, he actually
counts for more in the various activities of the college
life. It should be remembered, however, that the
incentives to excel and the number of activities
which present themselves to the student ambition
increase even more rapidly than the proportionate
increase in numbers; and that these opportunities
are higher in character and more varied in propor-
tion to the horizon of those who find themselves in
this or that environment.

But I have allowed myself to wander somewhat.
The point I wish to present is this : The behef in
the superior advantages of the small college has taken
so strong a hold upon the minds of men in general
that, although it rests upon grounds which are in
large measure fancied or sentimental, it will serve
as a strong factor in assisting to maintain and to
advance the interests of the smaller as against those
of the larger institutions.



/^TUATION OF THE SMALL COLLEGE 353

A second factor which has helped the smaller j
institutions in the past, and one which will continue I
to render strong assistance, is that feeling, sometimes I
of awe and almost fear, at other times of jealousy and
hostiHty, which is invariably aroused in the minds of j
many toward an institution that has grown large and \
powerful. The small college is loved and cherished, i
in most cases, just because it is small and weak; f
while the larger institution is hated and opposed, J
because it is powerful. This has been the history
of every institution that has become great. It is the
history of nearly every one of the state universities
in the western states. It is the feeling with which
the smaller towns or cities in a state regard the one y
great city of a particular region^^.^^^

Legitimate use may be made of this characteristic
of human nature. I do not, observe, call it a weak-
ness. It is a mark of strength when a man, or a
community, or a nation turns in sympathy and com-
passion toward that which is small and weak, and
finds this very weakness in itself so strong as to
serve as a ground of appeal for help. The small
college will always have friends because of its weak-
ness. And the corollary of this is equally true: the
larger institution will have enemies because of its
strength. Moreover, this is as it should be; that
which is strong will be more likely to become stronger
as the result of opposition than as the result of sym-
pathy and help. The latter, too, is often weakening,
instead of strengthening. This feehng, therefore, of



354 THE TREND IN HIGHER EDUCATION

hostility toward the larger institutions — a feeling
entirely natural and altogether general — is in itself
a guaranty of a continued interest in the small as
opposed to the large institutions.

Closely associated with this is another factor,
which, through all time, will stand arrayed on the
side of the small college — a strong and noble phalanx
of supporters. I mean the faculty and the alumni
of the institution.

No greater acts of heroism or self-sacrifice have
been performed on battlefield, or in the face of dan-
ger, than those which are written down in the book
of the recording angel to the credit of the teachers
whose very blood has gone into the foundations of
some of our weak and strugghng colleges. Blood
thus freely and nobly given can never have been
given in vain. It will cry out to heaven in behalf
of the cause for which it was spent, and this cry will
be heard and answered, and new friends will be
raised up. The love of an alumnus for his alma
mater is something sacred and very tender. Does
the true son think less of his natural mother because
she is, perhaps, poor and weak, or even sick and
deformed ? The true college man is and will be all
the more devoted to his spiritual mother, if, per-
chance, in the varying tides of human vicissitude,
she has become low ; or if, in spite of long and weary
years of struggle, she has failed to grow into full and
perfect vigor. There are scores of colleges which
live today, and in God's providence will continue



SITUATION OF THE SMALL COLLEGE 355

to live, because of the devotion, even at a terrible
cost, of a few teachers, or a few alumni. Such devo-
tion money cannot purchase. It is worth more than
money. It is a gift more precious than anything
material. It is, moreover, the very essence of the
life of the institution for which it is cherished. And,
as the essence of that Hfe, it is the guaranty of the life
of the institution.

Another factor in the preservation and upbuilding
of the small college — a factor the potency of which
will increase with passing decades — is the desire
of men who have been successful in accumulating
wealth to do something with that wealth which will
be constructive^ creative. The faculty of amassing
wealth is a constructive faculty, a creative faculty,
and the man who has this faculty, if he is of a benevo-
lent disposition, is likely to turn it to a work which is
likewise of the constructive or creative type; for
example, to the development of college work.

It might almost be said to be a law of philanthropy
that it is exercised within a territory co-extensive
with the horizon of the philanthropist. The great
majority of men who have achieved a moderate suc-
cess in life are known only within a certain district.
Occasionally a man is strong enough and large
enough to have his name and fame extend beyond
the locality in which his work is done; such men
are the exceptions. And just so, men whose hearts
and minds are large enough to take in the whole
world, whose benefactions are bestowed over a wide



356 THE TREND IN HIGHER EDUCATION

area, are exceptions. Most men of liberal mind
limit their benevolences to those causes with which
they themselves may keep in close touch. In every
section of the country, and in almost every county of
every state, there are men who are disposed to use
their means for the improvement of the particular
locality in which their wealth has been accumulated.
It is impossible to interest such men in any kind
of benevolent work at a distance. If rightly
approached, they will undertake work at home.
Although interested in educational work, they are
nevertheless not interested in the work of the large
institution, even when it is close by. They cannot
be persuaded that the larger institution, with the
several millions of dollars which it has already
secured, can need additional endowment; and, in
any case, they cannot be persuaded that the smaller
gifts which they might make would be appreciated
in the midst of so much wealth. Here then is a
condition of things which will bring about benevo-
lence to the smaller institution within reach. The
number of such men today is very large, and that
number is constantly increasing with the grow-
ing prosperity of the country. The small college
furnishes an opportunity for these men, within their
own circle, to do a work for the cause of higher
education — a cause which has a peculiar fascination
for many minds, inasmuch as it is a constructive and
creative work. In this condition of things there is a
guaranty that provision will be made in the future.



SITUATION OF THE SMALL COLLEGE 357

here and there throughout the entire country, for
the development of the smaller institutions.

Still another guaranty for the future of the insti-
tution under consideration is the fact that, whatever
may be said of the relative advantages of the small
and the large institution for the average young man
or woman, it cannot be denied that the small college
is particularly adapted to the needs of many an
individual. And yet I do not mean to say that these
individuals are below the average ; for many of them
certainly are far above the average. I have in mind
young men and women of certain peculiar tempera-
ments, as well as those in whose case the transition
from a certain mode of life to the more free and
liberal atmosphere of the larger institution, the uni-
versity, would prove to be too sudden. Just so long
as there are localities in which, for one reason or ,/
another, the privilege of thinking for oneself upon
every subject is denied, or in which the habit has not
yet been cultivated, there will be needed for those who
are destined, in the providence of God, to reach out
and attain higher possibilities, places of transition
between that which is more restricted and that which
is more free. To step suddenly from one atmos-
phere to another would seriously interfere with proper
growth. The smaller college furnishes such a place
of transition, and prepares minds that have been
under restriction for the broader and higher privi-
leges of the university. This narrowness to which I
have alluded may be the outcome of an imperfect



358 THE TREND IN HIGHER EDUCATION

religious system, or of a lack of proper facilities in
the lower spheres of educational activity; or, as in
certain districts of our country, the result of geo-
graphical separation from the great centers of influ-
ence, or isolation from the great routes of travel; but,
in any case, the small college is specially adapted to
the needs of such persons. The demand for this
peculiar work, being so strong and so universal, con-
stitutes in itself a guaranty for the future existence
of the college.
/ Perhaps it is at this point that I may mention the

economic side of student Hfe, which controls, far
more generally than perhaps we might suppose, the
possibilities of higher education. The average young
man or woman who desires a college education finds
more or less difficulty in securing the means with
which to make such education possible. It is a
question of so many hundred dollars a year. It is
evident that in large institutions the expense is more
considerable than in the smaller. It is true that all
of the larger universities furnish aid to many stu-
dents, and that in general any deserving student is
able to secure help sufficient to assist him in com-
pleting his work; but many men are unwilling to
accept such assistance. Many have neither the cour-
age nor the cleverness to secure it; and if all who
desire an education were to make application to the
larger institutions, the funds at the command of those
institutions would prove sadly inadequate. It is only
because the smaller institutions, scattered through-



SITUATION OF THE SMALL COLLEGE 359

out the country, are able to do the work for the young
man or woman of moderate means, that the larger
institutions can, in any satisfactory way, meet the
demand which is made upon them. Only a few
comparatively can gather together so large a sum as
five or six hundred dollars a year for a course of
college study, and yet such a sum, in most of our
larger institutions, is quite small, in view of the
many and varied demands made upon the student.
There must be institutions in which the man who
can command only two or three hundred dollars a
year may find help and guidance in his pursuit of \
higher education. The larger institutions, located
in many cases where rents and food are more expen-
sive, and where the demands of society compel a
style of living which would not be considered
necessary elsewhere, are prohibitive to the sons and
daughters of families whose annual income is fifteen
hundred dollars or less; and if an estimate were
made, the great majority of families would find their
classification in this category. As long as there are
famihes with small incomes, and as long as in these
famihes there are sons and daughters who desire a
higher education, there must be colleges in which
this education may be obtained at a minimum of
expense. The future of the small college is, there-
fore, absolutely assured. ^

In this same connection there is to be considered
what may be called the geographical law of higher
education. In accordance with this law, about 90



s6o THE TREND IN HIGHER EDUCATION

per cent, of those who attend college select for that
purpose an institution within one hundred miles of
home ; or, to put the matter in another form, the con-
stituency of even the largest institutions comes in
great measure from within one hundred miles of the
institution itself. This fact is at once an explanation
of the large number of colleges scattered throughout
our land, and the ground for behef that this large
number will, in one form or another, remain for the
most part undiminished.

It is to be noted still further that educational
tradition is peculiarly conservative. The tradition
in the United States, estabhshed two and one-
half centuries ago, and continuing almost without
change until within the last quarter of this century,
has been in favor of the small college. It is only
within twenty or twenty-five years that the larger
institution, or the university, has been known on
American soil. The tradition is deeply rooted.
This fact points unmistakably to the policy of the
future; and while the university idea, which has so
recently sprung up among us, has before it large
and unlimited possibiHties, the policy of estabHsh-
ing small colleges here and there is one so strongly
fixed that no great modification of it may be expected.
The additional fact that, side by side with the more
recent development along university lines, the col-
leges have grown, financially as well as numerically,
is evidence in favor of the proposition just mentioned.
There is no reason to suppose that the larger insti-



SITUATION OF THE SMALL COLLEGE 361

tution, however influential it may become, will sup-
plant the smaller. The two may go forward side
by side, each exerting upon the other a helpful
influence. It is not conceivable that the policy of two
centuries and a half, a policy which has been found
so acceptable on every side, should suddenly suffer
serious modification. In any case, such modifica-
tions will be gradual, and will permit an easy adjust-
ment under the new conditions which may arise.
One of the most important factors to be considered
in any study of the small college is the religious pur-
pose and control with which a great majority of
these colleges stand connected. The smaller col-
leges, for the most part, have been founded with a
distinct and definite religious aim. This aim has
been, in some cases, to protect certain peculiar
tenets of religious faith; in others, to provide a
rehgious atmosphere which should be in harmony
with the feelings and opinions of its patrons ; in still
others, to secure a definite and tangible guaranty of
specific Christian influence. In all these cases
there was a distinctly religious motive. The fact
that so many of these colleges are supported by par-
ticular denominations of Christians, and that
almost every denomination feels the necessity of
supporting colleges in the territory in which that
denomination is represented, shows the strong and
all-pervading influence of the religious spirit. If
denominationahsm in Christianity were to disappear,
one of the strongest foundations of our small col-



362 THE TREND IN HIGHER EDUCATION

leges would likewise be removed; but just as, in
these United States, the denominational spirit has
developed and flourished, and has become a marked
characteristic of American life in contrast with
European life, so the small college, inseparably-
connected with the denominational spirit, has
grown and developed in striking contrast with the
educational policy of Europe. If men of deep reli-
gious convictions continue to cherish such con-
victions, and to propagate them, they will find it
necessary to educate those who shall hand down
these same traditions. To do this with economy
and certainty, there must be institutions for higher
study which shall be pervaded by the spirit of the
denomination desirous of maintaining and develop-
ing this growth. This factor is as strong as any
that has been mentioned, perhaps strongest of all,
and yet this and all that have preceded it find their
basis in another factor — the last which I shall pre-


1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 22 24

Online LibraryWilliam Rainey HarperThe trend in higher education → online text (page 22 of 24)