Success and Excess: The Contours and Character of American Higher Education Since 1960

John R. Thelin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


Higher Education in the United States during the six decades from 1960 to 2010 has been a success story characterized by expansion, prosperity and prestige. These characteristics, however, were inseparable from problems of excess and lack of clear educational purposes. Furthermore, these problems remain unresolved early in the 21st century, creating a crisis of confidence for colleges and universities.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)106-114
Number of pages9
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 2013

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Many, perhaps most, of the expansions and innovations through 1970 I have described thus far were a national mandate that was carried out primarily by state governments. The irony was that these goals were outlined in a national or federal commission report – the landmark 1947 Truman Commission report on Higher Education for American Democracy. Where the federal government did take a substantial role in the funding and shaping of American higher education was through sponsored research – including creation of such agencies as the National Science Foundation (NSF), the National Institutes of Health (NIH), and, later, the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) and the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH). This presence was sufficiently strong so that by 1963 Clark Kerr identified the so-called “Federal Grant University” – in which somewhere between 15 and 20 top flight research universities received about 80 % or so of the sponsored research grant dollars flowing from federal agencies.


  • Higher education

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science
  • General Social Sciences


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