William Rainey Harper.

The trend in higher education online

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years. With these may usually be closely associated
the work of the preparatory department, or academy.
This period of six years is, I am inclined to think, a
period which stands by itself as between the period of
elementary education and that of the university.
The work of the freshman and sophomore years is
only a continuation of the academy or high-school
work. It is a continuation, not only of the subject-
matter studied, but of the methods employed. It
is not until the end of the sophomore year that


university methods of instruction may be employed
to advantage. It is not until the end of the sopho-
more year that the average student has reached an
age which enables him to do work with satisfaction,
except in accordance with academy methods. At
present this consecutive period of preparation, cov-
ering six years, is broken at the end of the fourth
year, and the student finds himself adrift. He has
not reached the point when work in any of his pre-
paratory subjects is finished. He is compelled to
continue the same work under new and strange con-
ditions, with new and strange instructors. Not
infrequently the instructors under whom he is placed
in the freshman year of college are inferior to those
with whom he has been associated in the academy.
A great waste of energy, time, and interest follows /
this unnatural break in the prosecution of the stu-
dent's work. Nature has marked out the great di- ^'-")
visions of educational work,and the laws of nature J
may not be violated without injury. My firm con- 1
viction is that in time this difficulty will be appre-
ciated, and that a large number, perhaps even a
majority, of the colleges now attempting to do the
four years of the preparatory course and the four
years of college work will be satisfied to limit their
work to the six years which include the preparatory
training and the first two years of college life. The
motive for this change will be found in its economy,
and in the possibility of doing thorough and satis-
factory work, where today such work is impossible.


There are at least two hundred colleges in the
United States in which this change would be desir-
able. These institutions have a preparatory school,
as well as a college course. The number of students
in the preparatory school is perhaps a hundred and
fifty. In the freshman and sophomore classes they
have thirty to forty students, and in the junior and
senior classes twenty to thirty. The annual income
of these institutions is restricted for the most part
to the fees of the students, and will average from all
sources, let us say, eight to ten thousand dollars.
In order to keep up the name of the college, the in-
come is made to cover the expenses of eight years —
that is, the preparatory and the collegiate depart-
ments. In order to do the work of the junior and
senior years of the college, even superficially, where
the classes are so small, as much of the total income
is spent upon the instruction during these two years
as upon that of the five or six years below. It is
evident that, even with this disproportionate expen-
diture, the work of the junior and senior college
years can be done only in a superficial way, because
the library and laboratory facihties are meager, the
range of instruction is very narrow, and a single
instructor is often required to teach in three or four

But this is not the most significant fact. When
the money paid by the students of the first six years
has been used for instruction of a few men who are
working in the last two years, in order that the college


may continue to be known as a college, there does
not remain sufficient income to do justice to the work
of the lower years. This is an attempt to do the
higher work at the cost of the lower. Nor are
examples of this kind limited to states in the West
and South. More than one instance will be found
in the state of New York, while in Pennsylvania and
Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, and Michigan, such institu-
tions abound.

The reduction of institutions of this class to the
rank of colleges which should do, in addition to the
preparatory work, only the work of the freshman and
sophomore years, would accomplish several results :

1. The money now wasted in doing the higher
work superficially could be used to do the lower
work more thoroughly.

2. The pretense of giving a college education
would be given up, and the college could become an
honest institution.

3. The student who was not really fitted by
nature to take the higher work could stop naturally
and honorably at the end of the sophomore year.

4. Many students who might not have the
courage to enter upon a course of four years' study
would be willing to do the two years of work before
entering business or the professional school.

5. Students capable of doing the higher work
would be forced to go away from the small college
to the university. This change would in every case
be most advantageous.



6. Students living near the college whose ambi-
tion it was to go away to college could remain at
home until greater maturity had been reached — a
point of the highest moment in these days of strong

The substitution of the six-year institution,
including the academic or high-school course, for
the present four-year institution, without prepara-
tory work, would, at one stroke, touch the greatest
evils of our present situation.

Directly along this line will be another change;
namely, the development of high schools into junior
colleges. Evidence that this change is already
taking place may be found on every hand. The
establishment of hundreds of high schools through
all the states is in itself a new element in our educa-
tional machinery which has disarranged the former
system, but has, at the same time, greatly advanced
the interests of education itself. The quickening
influence of these institutions is seen, not only in the
increased number of those who continue their work
in the college and the university, nor merely in the
fact that a larger number of more intelligent men and
women is thus contributed to the various communi-
ties, but especially in the fact that the teachers of the
schools of a lower grade are vastly stronger and better
prepared for their work.

The suggestion is made from time to time that
the people will not consent to continue the public
support of these high schools. But, as a matter of


fact, they do continue to support them; and, more
than this, these schools are constantly increasing
their requirements for admission, as well as their
faciUties for instruction and the number of years of
the curriculum. It has now come to be generally
recognized that the ideal high school must have a
curriculum of four years, and in many sections of
the country this has already been secured. In
others, it is coming. The next step in the develop-
ment of this work will be the addition of one or two
years to the present course; or, in other words, the
carrying of the high school up to the end of the sopho-
more college year. Already this has practically
been accomplished in certain schools of Michigan
and in some of our cities. It can be done at a mini-
mum of cost. Today only 10 per cent, of those who
finish the high school continue the work in college.
If the high schools were to provide work for two
additional years, at least 40 per cent, of those finish-
ing the first four years would continue to the end of
the sophomore year.

With this modification of the high school on the
one hand, and with the suggested modification of
many of our colleges upon the other, there would
come to be a system of colleges, state or non-state,
which would meet the demands of the situation as
today they are not met. Many of the normal \
schools of western states practically occupy this I O^f*^
position. - - J 1^^"^

Again, the small college of America is every- ^^^^^^^''*


where practically of the same type. So far as the
general plan is concerned, each college is a duplicate
of its nearest neighbors. A terrible monotony
presents itself to the eye of one who makes any
attempt to study the aims and motives of these insti-
tutions. All ahke try to cover too much ground,
and, worse than this, all alike practically cover the
same ground. A change in this respect is desirable,
and inevitable. This change will come partly in the
way of the estabhshment of colleges for particular pur-
poses ; a college, for example, established principally
for the study of science; another college estabhshed
principally for the study of literature; another for the
study principally of historical subjects. The prin-
ciple of individuaUsm, which has already been
appUed in education to the work of the student and
to the work of the instructor, must find application
to the work of the institution. The idea has pre-
vailed that every newly founded institution should
duplicate the work of those which had preceded it,
and in consequence the colleges of our country are,
with a few notable exceptions, institutions of a single
character. This means narrowness, but it means
more. Inasmuch as each institution tries to cover
the same ground, and all the ground, the result has
been that no effort has been undertaken to estabUsh
a school which will allow thoroughness or depth.
The college that has no endowment, or an endow-
ment of a hundred thousand dollars, seeks to do the
same thing which the institution with millions of


dollars of endowment finds it difficult to accomplish.
The technical school with no endowment, or an
endowment of a hundred thousand dollars, seeks to
cover every field of technical work. The time will
come when institutions will cultivate individuaHsm;
when one institution will give a large measure of its
strength and energy to the development of a depart-
ment of history and poHtics, another to physics and
chemistry, and another to the biological sciences,
another perhaps putting all its efforts into the great
field of electricity. This will be in striking contrast
with the present poHcy, in accordance with which
the most poorly equipped college announces courses
in every department of human learning; and stu-
dents are compelled, in self-defense, to dabble in
everything rather than to do work in a few things.

Notable examples of what may be done in this
way are to be found in the case of the splendid work
of the late Professor March, in philology and Anglo-
Saxon, in Lafayette College, and the equally notable
results secured at Haverford College, under Pro-
fessor J. Rendel Harris, in the department of New
Testament Greek. These institutions, lacking the
means to develop equally all the departments, chose
to select a single department on which to spend the
highest energy, and the character of the work done
in this department gave tone and coloring to the entire
work of the college. In these institutions, although
colleges, work was done of which even a university
might be proud.


A still further change will be the development
of a spirit of co-operation. It is only within a few
years that there has been any co-operation worth
mentioning among colleges and universities, and
the co-operation which has so far been inaugurated
is of an exceedingly superficial character. Enough
of it has been worked out, however, to make those
who have tasted it desire still more, and the few steps
already taken are but precursors of many to follow.

It is not enough that there should be associations
in which, once a year, the representatives of certain
institutions may come together for the reading of
papers and the passing of resolutions. With better
classification of educational work, with the greater
similarity of standards for admission and for gradua-
tion, and with the variety of type secured, so that
individual institutions will have individual respon-
sibiUties, there will be found a basis for co-operation
such as has not hitherto existed. This association
will be similar to that which men in all divisions of
the business world have found necessary and help-
ful. Such relationship will serve as a protection
for all who thus stand together, against misun-
derstanding and ignorance. It will secure results
which no institution of its own strength could secure.
It will lift educational work above the petty jealousies
and rivalries which today bring reproach and disgrace
upon it. It will mitigate the evils of competition, and,
indeed, will substitute for these evils the blessings
which follow honorable and legitimate rivalry.


Such a relationship entered into by the colleges
of a certain district will dignify the work of the small
college and secure for it a proper place by the side of
the institution under state control. This relationship
will be, in effect, a federation of higher institutions,
and through this federation it will be possible for
each of the interested colleges to strengthen its
facilities. There is no reason why a great specialist
in a particular department might not be the servant
of two or three institutions, to the advantage of the
subject represented, the colleges thus associated,
and the cause of higher learning. Such an associa-
tion, in brief, will open up new possibilities for the
small college, and it will secure privileges which today
are far beyond its reach.

There will also exist in the days that are coming
a close and closer association of the smaller colleges
with the larger institutions or universities. The
great advantages which will be found to accrue both
to the college and to the university in such associa-
tion will bring it about, for, after all, institutions, like
individuals, move along the line of least resistance.

I cannot here point out these advantages in
detail, but among them will be included :

1. The intermingling of the teachers and lec-
turers, those of the college doing work in the univer-
sity and those of the university doing work in the
college — the interchange of blood, as it were.

2. The recognition of university appointment
thus bestowed directly and indirectly upon the
teacher of the college.


3. The opportunities for special investigation at
the university afforded the younger college instruc-

4. The special assistance of many kinds which
the university may render the college in the conduct
of its work.

5. The prestige secured to the degrees of the col-
lege in view of reenactment by the university.

6. The loan of books and apparatus to the col-
lege by the university.

7. The establishment of scholarships and fellow-
ships in the university open to students of the col-

8. The assistance rendered in the selection of

9. The financial confidence created, upon the
basis of which larger endowments may be secured.

10. And, in general, that help which a stronger
agent may furnish one not so strong in the accom-
plishment of the latter's work.

All this points to the development of a system in
our higher educational work. The change of cer-
tain colleges into junior colleges, and of others into
academies, the association of the colleges of a
denomination or a geographical district with each
other, and the close association of such colleges with
the universities — all this will contribute toward a
system of higher education (something which does
not now exist in America), the lack of which is sadly
felt in every sphere of educational activity. System


means organization, and without organization,
without the sharp distinctions and the recognized
standards which come with organization, the work,
however excellent, lacks that essential element
which gives it the highest character and produces
the best results.

There are some advantages, perhaps, in lack of
system; if so, we have enjoyed these advantages
long enough. The time is ripe for something more
definite and regular and tangible, and the modifica-
tions which have been suggested in the policy of sec-
ondary and college education will contribute in this

As a summary of what has been said, I shall
append these few sentences :

The small college is certain of its existence in the
future educational history of the United States.

It must, however, pass through a serious struggle
with many antagonistic elements, and must adjust
itself to other similar and, sometimes, stronger

In the process of this struggle and adjustment
some colleges will grow stronger; some will become
academies; some, junior colleges; the high schools
will be elevated to a still more important position
than that which they now occupy; while, all together,
high schools, colleges, and universities, will develop
greater similarity of standard and greater variety
of type; and, at the same time, they will come into
closer and more helpful association one with another.


The general result will be the growth of system in
the higher educational work of the United States,
where now no system exists.

The future of the small college will be a great
future; a future greater than its past, because that
future will be better equipped, better organized, and
better adjusted.









C0313 54.11'^,


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