A History of American Higher Education / Edition 2

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Colleges and universities are among the most cherished—and controversial—institutions in the United States. In this updated edition of A History of American Higher Education, John R. Thelin offers welcome perspective on the triumphs and crises of this highly influential sector in American life.

Thelin’s work has distinguished itself as the most wide-ranging and engaging account of the origins and evolution of America's institutions of higher learning. This edition brings the discussion of perennial hot-button issues such as big-time sports programs up to date and addresses such current areas of contention as the changing role of governing boards and the financial challenges posed by the economic downturn.

Johns Hopkins University Press

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Editorial Reviews

Teachers College Record

A readable and concise introduction to this subject, it propels audience members to develop an appreciation for the heterogeneous... academe story as a whole.

Education Review

Worthy of being the major new overview of U.S. higher education.

Journal of College Student Development

Destined to be the standard work in this area for years to come.

Historical Studies in Education - Elea U. Herrera

A History of American Higher Education is a 'must read' for any scholar either teaching or taking a course in educational history.

Register of the Kentucky Historical Society

Fills a real need in the scholarship... Accessible and informative, providing a reasonable foundation on which to build a rich understanding of the development of American higher education.

— Julie A. Reuben


This book was extremely well written and meticulously documented.


Thelin offers an historical analysis of contemporary trends and issues in higher education today, e.g., access, affordability, accountability, and assessment. How colleges addressed those issues within different periods of time and societal contexts makes for a more enlightened image of higher education in the US as it exists today.

Faciities Manager

Well written and engaging... retains the reader's attention... Thelin has raised the bar for historians of higher education to clear.

— Theodore J. Weidner

History of Education Quarterly

Despite its age, Rudolph's single-volume history has endured... Now John Thelin's A History of American Higher Education provides a worthy replacement.

— Jana Nidiffer

Lexington Herald-Leader

Apart from being first-rate historical interpretation, Thelin's book offers several advantages that should make it attractive to the general reader as well as the scholar... His writing is brisk, concise, and humorous... Part public policy analyst and part social historian, Mr. Thelin weaves a tight narrative that keeps moving. He gives you the view from the administrative building, and he also tells you, often with accompanying photos, what students were like.

— Art Jester

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781421402673
  • Publisher: Johns Hopkins University Press
  • Publication date: 10/31/2011
  • Edition description: second edition
  • Edition number: 2
  • Pages: 504
  • Sales rank: 157,638
  • Product dimensions: 5.90 (w) x 8.90 (h) x 1.40 (d)

Meet the Author

John R. Thelin is University Research Professor and a member of the Educational Policy Studies Department at the University of Kentucky. His many books include Games Colleges Play: Scandal and Reform in Intercollegiate Athletics, also published by Johns Hopkins.

Johns Hopkins University Press

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Table of Contents

Introduction : historians and higher education
1 Colleges in the colonial era 1
2 Creating the "American way" in higher education : college-building, 1785 to 1860 41
3 Diversity and adversity : resilience in American higher education, 1860 to 1890 74
4 Captains of industry and erudition : university-builders, 1880 to 1910 110
5 Alma mater : America goes to college, 1890 to 1920 155
6 Success and excess : expansion and reforms in higher education, 1920 to 1945 205
7 Gilt by association : higher education's "golden age," 1945 to 1970 260
8 Coming of age in America : higher education as a troubled giant, 1970 to 2000 317
Notes 363
Essay on sources 393
Index 409
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