Most Americans have barely noticed a trend that gravely threatens our future. Step by step, public higher education is disappearing across our nation.
Our dominance in higher education is our greatest asset as we compete with other nations. While the U.S. has less than 6 percent of the world's population, most surveys indicate that we have 85 percent to 90 percent of the world's greatest colleges and universities. Students from all over the world flock to America to obtain college degrees.
It is not a coincidence that our greatest period of economic growth came in the 20 years following the end of World War II. Real incomes of ordinary Americans almost doubled. This growth came as the percentage of our population going to college increased 500 percent because the G.I. Bill of Rights provided a free college education for those who served in the war effort.
It wasn't until Lincoln became president with the passage of the Morrill Act in 1862 that public higher education really began to develop in the U.S. In 1800 with a population of 5 million, there were only about 1,000 Americans enrolled in colleges. All of them were at small, expensive, private institutions.