Higher education, the simple it sounds today, equally harsh it did in the middle of the 20th century. With primary education being a priority of government and people also, higher education was a hotter cup of tea especially for those who belonged to remote places and also those who could not afford the financial demands of higher education. Thus resulted in a lesser number of graduates and postgraduates. The government of the United States decided to overcome the problem by introducing a new legislature named ‘The Higher Education Act’ on November 8, 1965. The act primarily emphasizes strengthening the educational resources of colleges and universities helping students by providing them financial assistance for their post-secondary and higher education. This turned out to be one of the most influential and talked-about acts passed by the government.
After the government’s decision, the implementation started in January 1965. Representative Edilth Green of Oregon introduced H.R. 3220 as a bill. The main purpose of the bill was providing education for all the sections of society. The Senate version S.600 of the bill was introduced by Senator Wayne Morse. These were the initial days of the bill. Later, several changes in the bill were proposed and suggested. Several new programs were added to the bill while several older programs were removed as well. Various committees suggested several changes and they were followed step by step with each amendment. The act went through a number of reauthorizations and amendments. After its expiry, the act went through some extensions also and kept on being polished as years passed by. The complementary changes made it much more flawless. The recent change in the act was made in December 2017. The act is now known as “Promoting Real Opportunity, Success and Prosperity through Education Reform” (PROSPER). Despite the concerns associated with it, the act seems to have covered all the necessary aspects of today’s education system.
‘Education for All’
The education system in the middle of the century was still in its early days as far as the awareness of the importance of higher education was concerned. People knew what basic education was but they were still unaware of the higher education. There were only some sections in the society who were familiar with the concept. Not many institutes offered these courses back then, hence those who offered it, also charged a lot of fees for the admitting students. Thus higher education was not designated for those who were not financially stronger. Never the less, the government realized the importance of a highly educated population in the country’s growth and development leading to the commencement of the act. The act mainly aimed to educate as many people in the country as possible, and the provisions made in the act made it look possible. “Education is a common man’s right, but higher education is his need.” and this act stressed upon fulfilling the need.
Enriching and involving the poor
Though some people were pursuing higher education, there was a major part of the society who could not afford the financial expenses for higher education. Through this act, poor students are granted scholarships to aid financial expenses. The scholarship helped them financially as well as mentally. It encouraged the students and also a number of primary educated students to pursue higher education, thereby inculcating a desire in them to get involved in the higher education system. Likewise, these scholarship programs were introduced only for those who were eligible, hence there was no discrimination on any basis and the able got what they deserved. The basic act in 1965 had the provisions needed at that time. However, with the amendments and reauthorizations, the act only kept getting better for the masses.
The act was getting equipped with a lot of new scholarships, new financial policies, new provisions which were more than helpful for financially weaker sections of the society. Education loan was quite a lengthy and hectic process until then, but this act made the procedure smoother and simpler. The interest rates were also reduced to an affordable limit thereby making the whole procedure much reasonable.
Higher education meant the increase in the skillset of the personnel, and with all sections of society involved, there was a considerable increase in skilled manpower, which helped the country grow rather fast in terms of business as well as employment. Also by taking responsibility, the government increased reliability and trust among the people of the country.
Strengthening the Institutes
As higher education was difficult to pursue students, it was equally difficult for the institutions to provide it. The resources needed to provide the kind of education were not available in a fair amount. Financial aid was also a highlighted problem behind a very few institutes offering these courses. But one of the primary aims behind the act was to strengthen the educational resources of colleges and universities. The resources may be in the form of financial aids, manpower, instruments, schemes, etc. But they were essential in order to provide a good quality of higher education.
Another provision was made in the act regarding library enhancements. This helped the colleges to increase the number of books in their libraries and provide students with the highest quality study material. This also inculcated the reading habit among students and enhanced their ability to research on different topics.
The institutions have been able to develop a reputation with the number of facilities and the quality of education. The amendments in the act such as GEAR UP were useful for filtering the admitting students and preventing the drug addict students from taking admissions, which helped to develop a fair image of the institute socially. It also had provisions for improving the quality of teachers and teaching. This improved the results up to an extent and also attracted students looking for admissions. The program launched in this act strengthened some of the historically black colleges and universities. This act has indeed been a blessing for the educational institutes.
PROSPER Act – A Fix for the Education System
After a number of amendments and reauthorizations, the act looks to be a complete one. The last reauthorization of the act took place in December 2017. In this reauthorization, the overhaul of the act was finalized by the representative Virginia Foxx. The new bill is called the PROSPER act. The act simplifies the work-study procedure and also the financial aid procedure. Thus looks to be a well-sorted and organized act. According to the committee spokesman Michael Woeste, “the reforms within PROSPER act are necessary to provide students with high-quality education and also fix a system that has not been serving the needs” There are some allegations about this act not being specific about the LGBT community, but apart from that, this act doesn’t seem to have any flaws.
This concludes that the Higher Education Act of 1965 has proved to be one of the most revolutionary acts in the history of the US Congress. The US is called a superpower in the world right now and this act certainly has contributed to the reason more than anything else.
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