Effects of the Great Depression on Private Higher Education: Impact On Private College and University Planning
Date of Award
Doctor of Education
Counselor Education and Counseling Psychology
Dr. Beverly A. Belson
Dr. Edward L. Trembley
Private higher education has suffered a loss of dominance in enrollment over the last four decades. Increases in tuition escalated making private higher education distinctly more expensive than options in the public sector. A sharp decline in the birth rate during the 1970s indicates there will be fewer high school graduates for private higher education to recruit. Some private colleges have already been forced to close, while others appear threatened by enrollment decline in the 1990s and beyond.
The Great Depression of the 1930s was a challenging period for the country and the academic community. To discover how private institutions survived the 1930s and to discern how the lessons they learned can positively influence private colleges and universities today, historical methodology was employed. After a review of the history of American higher education with special emphasis on the depression era, three historical case studies were developed. Goshen College, the University of Notre Dame, and Valparaiso University in northern Indiana, were scrutinized and individual and shared methods of survival noted.
A clear idea of purpose and strong leadership were important in the successful efforts to survive displayed by the three case studies. Other techniques one or more of the institutions employed were active fund raising, competent business and endowment practices, strong academic standards, innovative attitudes, positive atmosphere for students, successful alumni and constituent relationships, good working environments with local towns, student recruitment, intercollegiate athletics, and close relationships with the federal government. Planning was also important, although the three institutions did not appear to have implement cogent long-term planning until later in their history.
The lessons learned from successful survivors of difficult periods of history like the Great Depression do provide present educational leaders with a synergistic outline for determining paths through the demanding climate private colleges and universities face.
Hostetler, J. Michael, "Effects of the Great Depression on Private Higher Education: Impact On Private College and University Planning" (1989). Dissertations. 2113.