Influence of 1790 -1869 History

Influence of 1790 -1869 on Present Day Higher Education

History of 1790 to 1869 higher educationCohen and Kisker (2010) state that “practically every aspect of contemporary higher education can be traced to the formation of universities in the latter part of the nineteenth century and many colleges in the Colonial era” (p 1). This is especially true in the formation of the student body. These foundations of the composition of the student body and lives of students in American higher education were significantly formed during the 1790 -1869 educational era.

Women in Higher Education

Today’s composition of the American higher education consists of a great diversity of students varying in gender, race and nationality. Women in higher education even possess their own support system entitled Women in Higher Education. This organization focuses on enlightening, encouraging and empowering women to seek higher education and careers within fields of higher education (Women in Higher Education, 2010). In 2006, women comprised 57 percent of all undergraduate students and 60 percent of all graduate students (Cohen & Kisker, 2010, p 465).

Women in higher education started from humble foundations, though. They had been oppressed and kept outside of the reaches of education. Much of this was due to the point that “people feared that the social system would break down if women were allowed to be educated. They worried that women would cease to fulfill their traditional roles if they received a higher education. It was even thought that a woman risked brain fever or sterility” (Horany, 2010, p 1). This is reflected in the statistics from 1790 to 1869 where the “era opened with around 1,000 students, all white males. It ended eighty years later with 63,000 students, including some women …” (Cohen & Kisker, 2010, p 71).

These same ratios of attendance in women transferred into the percentages of minorities in education as well. These attendance rates began to reflect the nature of the larger society. As the number of minorities increased in the population, they also increased in higher education. “The percentage of American college students who are minorities has been increasing. In 1976, 15 percent were minorities, compared with 32 percent in 2007” (National Center for Education Statistics, 2010, p 1). This changes began to emerge during the creation of our country as “people from more varied backgrounds began attending” (Cohen & Kisker, 2010, p 71).

Society and Education

These changes reflected the larger population sentiment that began during the 1790 -1869 era as the population believed education was the gateway to a better life. This perception persists today as the tendrils of thoughts of Manifest Destiny and the American Dream continue. This is evident through the increased enrollment rate in higher education (National Center for Education Statistics, 2010).

Lifestyles of contemporary students were founded through much of the early colonial era and the establishment of an emerging nation. The 1790 -1869 era marked the beginning of fraternities which continue to influence many students. Originally, fraternities were formed in 1776 and “due to the desire by its members to unify students at the nine colleges in the colonies and to strengthen the intellect of the members” (Fleming, 2010, p 1). Some of these reasons still exist today. They are used not simply for housing accommodations but also social networking, leadership opportunities and to provide a sense of community for students (Lynn, 2008). University Campus


Another issue facing students is financing. For the 2010 -2011 school year, Harvard published tuition expenses as $34,976. The President Emeritus Lawrence H. Summers advices potential students of possible financial initiatives to assist students (Harvard, 2010). This tuition is astronomically higher than the $55 yearly fees of 1790. Yet in this time, Harvard began its determination to help all students have access to higher education through provisions to cover their financial obligations (Cohen & Kisker, 2010). These efforts made higher education available to a more diverse population both then and now.


Discipline has continued to be a focal point in higher education. Many universities are facing unusual behaviors not previously encountered at this level. The most grievous is documented as murder, but generally they are “characterized as rebellious or emotional in nature. Rebellious disruptive behaviors seem to be intentional, defiant, annoying, and disrespectful. … College instructors often experience, on a daily basis, students who are chronically late, who talk to friends during class, who eat or sleep in class, and who engage in arguments with instructors or other students. … Instructors, using only the authority of their position, are no longer able to maintain decorum in their classrooms or a sense of personal safety” (Hernandez & Fister, 2001, p 1).


The American College Counseling Association was designed to help deal with these rising complications in the classroom. Their main focus is to work within higher education. They are “made up of diverse mental health professionals from the fields of counseling, psychology, and social work” (American College Counseling Association, 2010, p 1).

Many of this disciplinary issues were seen in earlier eras of higher education. Students were sent by families, away from home for the first time, to universities who, founded by religious denominations, were more stringent in their management. These young people rebelled and were in turn disciplined. Many times these disciplinary actions were expulsion which were swiftly rescinded due to the lack of funding needed by the struggling institutions. These financials concerns are no longer at the forefront of higher education to this degree. As a result, in extreme cases, expulsion is executed.

“Understanding history is thus essential for those who would reform higher education” (p 1) and especially in understand the foundational aspects of student life. As administrators in higher education comprehend the background of student life, they are more efficient in executing necessary changes. Lifestyles and the statistical composition of the student body can be addressed and altered as needed.


American College Counseling Association. (2010). Who we are. Retrieved from    

Cohen, A. & Kisker, C. (2010). The shaping of American higher education: Emergence and growth of the contemporary system. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Flemming, B. (2010). A brief history of fraternities. Retrieved from

Harvard. (2010). Cost of attendance 2010 -2011. Retrieved from   

Hernandez, T. & Fister, D. (2001). Dealing with disruptive and emotional college students: a systems model. Retrieved from

Horany, E. (2010). Women’s issues then and now. Retrieved from

Lynn, K. (2008). Should I join a fraternity or sorority? Retrieved from   

National Center for Educational Statistics. (2010). College enrollment. Retrieved from

Women in Higher Education. (2010). Women in higher education. Retrieved from



Tracy Harrington-Atkinson

Tracy Harrington-Atkinson, mother of six, lives in the mid-west with her husband. She loved storytelling and sharing her stories with her children. As they grew, she started writing her stories down for them. She is a teacher, having taught from elementary school to higher education, holding degrees in elementary education, masters in higher education and continued on to a PhD in curriculum design. Her husband, Kerry and Tracy breed miniature dachshunds and love to spend time with their growing family. She has published several books including Calais: The Annals of the Hidden, Rachel's 8 and Securing Your Tent.

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