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chapter 109: Further Observations on the Universities - Viscount James Bryce, The American Commonwealth, vol. 2 
The American Commonwealth, with an Introduction by Gary L. McDowell (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 1995). Vol. 2.
Part of: The American Commonwealth, 2 vols.
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Further Observations on the Universities
As the many years that have elapsed since the last preceding chapter was written have brought many changes to the universities of the United States, it seems fitting to note here the more important among those changes, and thus convey more fully than can be done by insertions made here and there in that chapter the present state of the universities, the course which their development is taking, the reflections which a more intimate knowledge of them suggests.
I. Except in the newest parts of the West such as Oklahoma and parts of the Pacific slope, the founding of colleges or universities has almost stopped. It is generally felt all through the more populous and well-settled regions that there are already at least enough degree-giving institutions, and that it is more important to strengthen and improve those that exist than to create new ones. Nevertheless the desire of a rich man to perpetuate his name by a new foundation and the desire of a denomination to have the satisfaction of pointing to a college as its very own may be expected to cause new institutions to be from time to time, though less frequently than heretofore, established even in districts where they are not needed.
The development of the already existing universities and colleges goes on with undiminishing speed. It is seen in four directions: additions to the endowments, the creation of new departments, the raising of salaries paid to teachers, and an increase in the number of students. In 1913 the total gifts of money for the purposes of higher education amounted to $24,983,090, and the number of students in institutions of higher education (including science schools) had risen from 55,687 in 1889 to 227,074, exclusive of those in preparatory departments.
In every civilized country the march of scientific discovery has led to an enormous increase in the applications of science to productive industry. This has been followed by a demand for men conversant with these applications, and to supply that demand the teaching of applied science has been provided on a scale undreamed of even a generation ago. Nowhere, perhaps not even in Germany, has this movement gone so fast or so far as in the United States. While the existing universities have been enlarged by the addition of scientific departments, a host of independent or affiliated scientific schools and technical institutes have sprung up. Most of these have been planted in the cities, but the agricultural colleges, perhaps the most numerous class, are often placed in rural areas. Of these latter many are really secondary schools, or are teaching engineering quite as much as agriculture, but some of the best have experimental farms attached to them. Many of the states, and especially the Western states, have been active in setting up and endowing such schools of agriculture either as parts of a state university or as independent institutions, and in the case of the best of these, such as those of Wisconsin and Illinois, the large sums spent in buildings and annual grants are deemed to have been amply repaid to the state by the increase in its production whether of tillage crops, or of fruit, or of milk and cheese, or of other forms of food. The classes in these best agricultural colleges are attended by crowds of students, some of them middle-aged or elderly farmers; while the universities also send their lecturers out through the country and supply from their head offices information and advice to those who apply for it. Thus one may say that the idea that agriculture in all its branches is a science, to be pursued with exact knowledge and by scientific methods, has now thoroughly laid hold of the American mind, and is, in the north and west, almost as fully realized by the farmers as by the men of science.1
These new developments, including the enlargement of the professional schools (medicine, dentistry, and law) attached to the universities, have of course led to large increases in the teaching staff. The number of professors and instructors of all kinds rose from 7918 in 1889 to 30,034 in 1912. There has also been a tendency to raise the salaries of the teachers, and in some few universities the full professor now receives $5,000 to $6,000 a year.2 But as a rule the remuneration allotted to presidents and teachers of all grades remains small when compared on the one hand with the attainments now expected and on the other hand with the growing cost of living.3
The most considerable improvement in the position of the professor has come from a private source. Mr. Andrew Carnegie has created a fund with an annual income (in 1909) of $500,000 for the purpose of providing retiring allowances for professors in those universities and colleges in the United States, Canada, and Newfoundland that comply with certain conditions prescribed, the most important of which is that they are not to be under the control of any particular sect or denomination, the trustees of the fund having a discretionary power to determine how this principle is to be applied in each particular case.4
The recent development of the higher education is, however, most conspicuous in the enormous increase in the attendance of students. In 1889–90 the total number returned to the Bureau of Education as collegiate and resident graduate students was 44,926 men and 10,761 women. In 1910–11 the numbers were 169,026 men and 10,761 women. In 1910–11 the numbers were 169,026 men and 64,549 women, besides several thousand students in the collegiate and graduate departments of a different and much less advanced group of colleges for women. The actual number was larger, because there are colleges which make no return. But these figures are enough to show how rapid has been the growth in twenty years, a growth whose rate is far in excess of the rate at which the population has grown, and which is twice as large for women students as for the men. Of the total number of students who are receiving higher education no accurate record is attainable, for though the Bureau of Education Report gives a total enrolment of 308,163 in the preparatory, collegiate, graduate, and professional departments of the 606 universities, colleges, and technological schools that have made returns, it is quite impossible to say how many of these are receiving instruction of a true university type. The institutions that make up the 606 enumerated are of all kinds and descriptions. Many are not above the grade of secondary schools, and it is impossible to draw the line between them and those which give an instruction corresponding to that of universities in Europe. Still, without venturing to form any numerical estimate of the students in institutions of the latter class, it is safe to say that they bear a larger proportion to the population of the United States than similar students do to the whole population in any other country. That is to say, universities and technical or professional schools of the university level are more numerous and attract more students, not merely absolutely, but relatively to the whole community, than in the most advanced of European countries.
Of the quality of the instruction given it is even more difficult to speak in general terms than it is to fix the type to which each institution belongs. But the fact remains that the institutions are there and the students are there. The revenues grow; the attendance grows. Quantity at least has been obtained. Of quality I shall speak later.
This striking growth in the number of students seems due to two causes. One cause, operative all over the country, but perhaps most operative in the Western states, is the sense that a knowledge of applied science has great practical value for many occupations, and especially for agriculture and for the various branches of engineering, and that it is therefore worth while “as a business proposition” to spend some years in acquiring that knowledge systematically rather than to begin practical life on leaving school at fifteen or sixteen years of age. The other cause is that university education has become fashionable,5 and is more and more coming to be considered not a luxury for the few, nor a thing needed only by those who mean to enter one of the so-called “learned professions,” but a preparation for life with which all those who can afford the money and the time ought to be furnished. Formerly young men intended for a business life seldom thought, except in two or three of the older states, of going to college. Now they are just as likely to go as are any others. This is the most noteworthy new feature of the last thirty years, and is also the most striking educational difference between America and Europe. A university education has in the United States ceased to be the privilege of the few. It is for all the world.
The change is itself largely due to two economic facts. One is the rapid increase in the number of persons with incomes large enough to make it easy for them to send sons and daughters to college. The other is the creation of state universities, especially in the Western states, in which instruction is provided at a very low charge. These have so much popularized the higher education that through their example and influence the afflux of students to all colleges has increased. It may be added that charges are everywhere moderate, and that in the smaller towns of the West, a student can lodge and board cheaply. Two other causes, however, must not be altogether omitted. Colleges have profited by the modern passion for athletic competition and the immense interest which the public take in football and baseball matches between the teams of different universities. Many a boy finds in these an incitement to university life which the desire for knowledge might have failed to provide. Nor can it be denied that the rivalry, not only of denominations but of particular places, even comparatively small places, has borne a part in this immense multiplication of teaching institutions. Each little city or even rural area thinks it a feather in its cap to possess a college, and those who own real estate believe that it raises the value of the land they have to sell. Once the college is established, its staff as well as the local people are concerned to “boom” and “boost” it. So the resources of advertising are called in, sometimes with a certain lack of the dignity which befits a seat of learning. Thus it happens, not only that colleges are established where they are not wanted, but that many students are drawn to them who ought to be preparing themselves at school, including some whom nature has not blessed with the gifts needed to profit by the higher branches of education.
This increase has tended to give the universities, and especially the larger ones, a much more prominent place in the life of the country than they formerly had. They have become objects of general interest. Questions affecting them are more amply discussed in newspapers and magazines, and appear to lay more hold on the attention of the community at large than is the case in England or perhaps in any European country. The alumni of the greater universities form associations, some few of which have branches in the chief cities of the country, while others are locally established. They meet from time to time; and when their Alma Mater celebrates an anniversary or opens a new building or inaugurates a new president, they flock to her, and give importance to the festivity. They are inclined—sometimes unduly inclined—to discourage innovations. The elder man was even in the days of Horace laudator temporis acti, se puero, and a reforming president sometimes finds the influence of the alumni to be a drag on his efforts. But they respond generously when the university asks them to contribute to some new object; indeed, it is largely through them that extension funds are raised. In one university the custom has grown up that each “class” shall on the completion of the twenty-fifth year from graduation offer not less than $100,000 (£20,000) to the university treasury.
With this rise in the importance of the American university its headship has come to be an office of enhanced dignity and influence. The man selected for it is usually a person of literary or scientific eminence, though he is also expected to possess administrative talents. He is now, in the larger universities, almost always a layman, and needs to have unusual energy and tact, for one of his chief duties is to travel hither and thither delivering public addresses, meeting the societies of the alumni of his university, and endeavouring, by a description of its desires and needs, to obtain further funds for its purposes. His powers in the management of the institution and the selection of professors are much greater than those of the head of an English or Scottish university. But he is often also a leading figure in the state, perhaps even in the nation. No persons in the country, hardly even the greatest railway magnates, are better known, and certainly none are more respected, than the presidents of the leading universities. Much of course depends on personal qualities. The place will not give strength to a weak man. But if he be strong, the place doubles his opportunities for exerting his strength, and ensures a wide and attentive hearing for anything he may have to say.
Although the terms “university” and “college” continue to be loosely used in the United States, and although it is still difficult to draw lines dividing into classes the various institutions which bear these names, still it may be said that three main types are now beginning to emerge, to one or other of which all may be referred.
The first includes the larger among the old degree-giving bodies of the Eastern states, such as Harvard, Yale, and Columbia, to which may be added some more recent institutions of private foundation, such as the University of Chicago, Cornell University in New York, Stanford University in California, and Washington University in St. Louis. All these were originally colleges giving instruction of the old-fashioned kind in classics, mathematics, and moral philosophy. They have now superadded to those subjects, formerly deemed to constitute a general liberal education, various professional and technical departments, as well as post-graduate courses in special but not professional subjects, the students in which, taken all together, exceed in number those pursuing the course for the regular academic arts or science degrees. In these institutions it is now the practice to use the term “university” to denote the aggregate of all the various aforesaid schools and to restrict the term “college” to that central department which prepares students for some regular degree in the liberal arts, science, or philosophy.
The institutions of this type are all (with minor differences in their constitutions) governed by bodies of trustees who perpetuate themselves by cooptation (with sometimes the addition of persons representing the alumni) and they are supported by endowments plus the sums which the students pay for instruction.6
The second type embraces universities founded and supported wholly or mainly by a state. There are several of these in the Eastern states, such as the Universities of North Carolina,7 Virginia, Vermont, and Maine. But the largest and most characteristic examples occur in the West, such as the Universities of Michigan, Illinois, Wisconsin, Iowa, Minnesota, California. There are in all thirty-eight such state universities, including three in Ohio, and the youthful universities of New Mexico and Arizona. These resemble the first type in having an undergraduate department giving a general liberal education, round which cluster a number of professional and technical schools, the schools of medicine and agriculture being the most important. They differ from the first type in being governed by a body, usually called regents, appointed by the state government (generally by the legislature) and in being supported by annual or biennial grants from the revenues of the state, which has of course provided their buildings and apparatus. In a few of them instruction is gratuitous to citizens of the state; in all it is supplied very cheaply to citizens and cheaply to all comers. Women students are admitted on equal terms with men. As respects instruction, they differ little from the universities of the former type. Being state supported, they are of course absolutely undenominational.
The third type is less easy to describe, and is, indeed, rather a residual mass than a well-defined class. It includes those degree-granting bodies, most of them called colleges but some of them universities (there being seldom any distinction in fact corresponding to the difference in name), which confine themselves wholly or mainly to the giving of a general liberal education without providing either post-graduate courses or professional departments. To this division belong a very few Eastern colleges of high rank and a large attendance of students—Princeton, Dartmouth, and Brown (in Rhode Island) are examples—which have not yet set up professional schools. Johns Hopkins in Baltimore holds a peculiar position, for having begun with post-graduate and professional schools it has now engrafted thereon an academic department. Here too we must place those old New England colleges such as Williams, Amherst, and Bowdoin, which, situated in small country towns, have adhered to the older traditions and devoted themselves chiefly to the preparation of students for the B.A. degree, whether in literary or in scientific courses. These latter colleges have as a rule remained, and have wished to remain, comparatively small. They retain, and they well deserve, the credit of making their instruction thorough and of cultivating a strong social spirit among their alumni. From them have come many of the strongest intellects and characters of the last generation. In this division we must also place the large number of small colleges in the Middle, the Southern, and the Western states, most of which provide only the regular undergraduate course, though a very few have begun to develop special departments, especially of a technical kind. Most of these are connected with some denomination, those of the Roman Catholic, Methodist, Protestant Episcopal, Presbyterian, and Baptist bodies being the most numerous, but students of all persuasions are freely admitted to them. There are such great differences among them both as regards the size and qualifications of the staff, the attendance of students, and the standard of instruction that no general statements can be made. Comparatively few, however, have an attendance exceeding five hundred; many might be classed rather with upper secondary schools than with universities; some can scarcely be called efficient even as schools. Some few, such as the Iowa College at Grinnell, resemble the small colleges of New England, such as Amherst, in the thoroughness of their academic work; and it is to be desired that this useful order was more largely represented in the West. As has been already observed, colleges of this third type now spring up less frequently than formerly, and we may conjecture that in the West and South the weakest among them will either die out, or frankly admit thmselves to be no more than secondary schools, or possibly be affiliated to some strong state university, while the richest and strongest will grow into institutions of the first type. Denominational sentiment is a less powerful force now than it was fifty years ago, so the state university, with its conspicuous visibility and its command of money, begins to dwarf all but the best endowed universities of private foundation.
It was noted in the preceding chapter that the old system of prescribed courses for degrees limited to a few subjects, taken in regular order, had about 1880 begun to break up and disappear in nearly all the universities. The process went on briskly after 1890, until, in some institutions, a student might attend lectures and offer himself for examination in any one or more of the numberous subjects taught. The subjects need not have any relation to one another, the selection of a prescribed number among them being left entirely to his personal tastes. After a while a reaction set in against this “unchartered freedom.” Much debate followed as to the desirability of prescribing a certain small number of regular curricula, either for the whole or at least for the first year, or first two years, of the students’ four years of residence. Great diversity still exists, both in opinion and in practice; indeed, the present situation is, if not chaotic, yet evidently transitional. Only two things are pretty clear: the first that the general tendency is at present away from the extreme form of what is called the elective system; the second that nothing like the rigidity of the old curriculum will reappear. Probably, while some universities may continue to allow the widest freedom, the bulk will arrange some four, five, or six groups or curricula suited to different tastes and capacities, or will permit the student a choice, within certain limits, or subjects to the approval of some members of the faculty entrusted with the duty of advising.
Controversies, similar to those with which Europe is familiar, are carried on regarding the respective values of various subjects of study. But the main issue between the ancient classics versus the natural sciences and so-called “modern subjects” has been practically decided in favour of the latter. Latin and (still more) Greek are, especially in the West, vanishing quantities. Less than ten per cent of all the students in the universities and colleges acquire an effective knowledge of the former, less than two per cent of the latter language, understanding by “effective knowledge” the ability to read a previously unseen but easy Latin or Greek passage two years after graduation. If universities of the first type only were taken, the percentage would be larger, yet even in them small. Efforts are being made to restore the study of the ancient authors to their proper place in the scheme of a truly liberal education. But in America, as in Europe, the stream runs strong towards those branches of instruction deemed most directly useful for gainful occupations. Even in Europe, where traditions are more powerful than in America, it is hard to convince persons who have not themselves either a knowledge of the ancient languages or a taste for letters and for history, of what is called the “cultural value” of a knowledge of ancient literature. Philosophical courses have in America declined less than classical; and history, which does not usually require a knowledge of ancient languages, holds its own. It is indeed one of the subjects for which a comparatively ample provision is made in Universities both of the first and of the second of the above-mentioned types. The number of persons teaching it in all the Universities and colleges must be reckoned by hundreds, indeed, by many hundreds. It is, however, towards scientific subjects, and especially towards applied science, that the drift is strongest. The same tendency prevails in Europe, and seems likely to continue for a good while to come.
The graduate schools mentioned in the preceding chapter as novelties have immensely expanded. Johns Hopkins has the honour of having led the way; and now such schools have been created in most of the great universities, a notable instance in which the educational spirit and enterprise of Americans have outstripped the conservatism or the poverty of English and Scottish seats of learning. It may, however, be doubted whether it would not have been better if some at least of the universities which have founded these schools had, instead of attempting to spread themselves over a large variety of subjects, each confined itself to a few only, on which its resources might have been concentrated. Some few universities may command revenues large enough to enable them to cover the whole field of knowledge, but in others the spirit of rivalry induces the spending, in efforts to do many things imperfectly, the money which might better have been employed in doing a few things thoroughly. The academic department must of course make full provision for all the general academic subjects; and to specialize a university, on its general teaching side, would be to narrow it, and to lose the benefit that comes from the mingling of minds pursuing different branches of scholarship or scientific enquiry. But more might be done for advanced study in particular subjects if one university devoted itself chiefly to one group of subjects, another to another, so that the graduate student might resort to an institution which had gathered together the most eminent teachers and investigators in the line he desired to follow, and had provided the most complete laboratory or apparatus. The country is so large that there would always be several universities dedicated to each group, so that none would enjoy a monopoly, yet the benefits incident to division of labour and specialization of function would follow. Nearly all the scientific work of the country, except that directly connected with inventions of practical commercial value, is done in the universities and the need for strengthening research departments begins to be more and more recognized.
It may be added that in this, as in some other respects, there is at present less diversity between American universities than the European visitor who sees the vastness of the country, the different economic conditions of its different parts, and the different elements in its population has been led to expect. Oxford and Cambridge are more unlike either the Scottish universities or the new universities in Manchester and Liverpool, than any American university is to any other, for although the appliances are generally (not always) inferior in the newer parts of the country, although the students are less well prepared and possibly rougher in externals in some districts than in others, still the educational habits and views of policy and methods of instruction are essentially similar all over the country. This is a natural result of the long course of historical development in Britain, as compared with the shorter time during which the higher education has been developing itself in the New World, but it suggests the wish that American universities may in time similarly differentiate themselves from one another, for there is in variety a sort of richness helpful to the thought and imagination of a great country.
The restless activity of our time has further displayed itself in the university extension movement, which, coming a little later than it did in England, has reached even larger proportions. It was felt that something ought to be done for those who could not spare the time to follow a regular degree course, as well as for those whose previous training had not qualified them to matriculate. Of the many institutions which are doing this work, twenty-three state universities offer general extension work, and fifteen of these have organized departments for the purpose. Correspondence study has been found valuable for students living in rural areas which lecturers cannot easily reach. Some universities, notably the great one at Chicago, have established summer schools to which great numbers of students resort who have not time for a regular four years’ course. It is believed that these extension methods have been helpful to the elementary teachers and are serving to bring the teaching profession of a state into closer touch with the leading universities, a thing profitable to both.8 They throw, however, a heavy burden on the university staff, which is already so hard worked as to have insufficient time for study and research.
The number of women students has increased faster than that of men and faster in the West than in the other parts of the country. In the University of Illinois the proportion of one-fourth is steadily maintained, but in Chicago the attendance of women bears a higher ratio. All state universities are coeducational, though fears are expressed that as these institutions become more fashionable places of resort it may prove less easy to maintain that spirit of hard work which has hitherto prevented questions of college discipline from causing trouble. There is even some talk of establishing separate departments for women in the state universities. In the East coeducation does not make way. Parents prefer to send their daughters to colleges for women only, and three colleges which taught men and women together have recently ceased to do so.9 So far, the women are said to have shown more assiduity and zeal in their studies than the men. A sort of differentiation is visible in the fact that while men prefer science as practically serviceable, women favour the courses in languages and history, and keep going, in the West, the classes in Latin and Greek. As the public schools in the North and West are chiefly staffed by female teachers, who in some states are five-sixths or even more of the total number of instructors, this equal right of access to the universities does much for the teaching profession.
Among the minor changes of the last twenty years it is not without interest to note that the growth of an æsthetic spirit among the educated classes has led some universities to erect handsome buildings in mediæval or post-mediæval styles. Washington University at St. Louis has followed the types of English college architecture with felicity; the University of Chicago has reproduced the hall of Christ Church, Oxford and the tower of Magdalen College. Stanford University, near San Francisco, has beautiful cloisters and lecture rooms of a colonial Spanish type; and the University of California has half erected, half carved out of the hillside, a Greek theatre modelled on that at Epidaurus which has preserved the admirable acoustic properties of the original. So too, the faculties of nearly all the greater universities have now blossomed out into a variety of gowns and a still richer and more brilliant variety of coloured hoods worn upon solemn academic occasions. The effect when a long procession, clad in all the colours of the rainbow, winds across the green spaces of the college campus under the shade of spreading trees has been such as to silence the cavils of those who condemned this departure from democratic simplicity. It is an innovation which even the alumni do not disapprove.
Three other questions besides that relating to curricula and the range of choice allowed to students, have of recent years begun to claim the attention of those who direct university policy.
One of these is the increased passion for athletic competitions, especially in football and baseball, and, to a much smaller extent, in rowing. The ordinary undergraduate plays games far less than does the ordinary English youth at Oxford or Cambridge, and as little as the ordinary youth in a Scotch or German university. But he is incomparably more interested in the performances of his college team when it competes with that of another university. The members of the team are the heroes of their time. The contests sometimes draw fifty or sixty thousand spectators and excite passionate curiosity over the country, among women not less than among men; and while the long list of hurts, not rarely fatal, received in their contests leads to protests against the roughness of the way in which football is played, some college presidents declare that the preoccupation of the undergraduate with these games has reduced the attention, not too great before, which is given to study. But these contests continue to be the most conspicuous, and to many the most attractive, feature of university life, especially in the Eastern states, where the rival claims of learning might be thought to have a better chance than in the strenuously practical and fiercely competitive West.
Another topic of discussion is the possibility of creating in those universities which have grown very large something in the nature of the residential colleges at Oxford and Cambridge. It is thought that these might furnish social groups of a size favourable to the formation of friendships and the creation of a sort of quasi-domestic life. The idea has not yet had time to strike root, but if it does, benefactors to give effect to it will be found, for the universities have now among their alumni a great many rich men who are on the lookout for means of spending their fortunes on purposes useful in themselves, and calculated to perpetuate their names.
The third question touches a more vital point. In the professional and scientific and post-graduate departments of universities, diligence and interest on the part of the students are the rule. They have entered in order to fit themselves for their future avocations, and they apply themselves steadily, throwing their force into work which they feel to be for their practical benefit. But in the so-called “college,” or academic part of the institution, that which gives a general liberal education, whether in languages or philosophy or history or natural science, things are said to be otherwise. The average undergraduate, especially the son of well-to-do parents, is now described as being more absorbed in social life and its amusements than in the subjects in which he is lectured and on which he is examined. He does no more than is absolutely needed to get his degree. The man who enjoys his work and follows it con amore is the exception. That intellectual stimulation which a university ought to give is received by comparatively few; that atmosphere of keen and eager thought which ought to pervade all the more vigorous minds is, if not wanting, yet comparatively faint.
To these criticisms, those who know Oxford and Cambridge sometimes add another, viz., that there is not a sufficiently close relation between teacher and student whereby the latter is influenced and stimulated privately as well as in class lectures. Many of the teachers are young men—the instructors (as distinct from the full professors) are nearly all so. Yet it is alleged that the want of something resembling a college and something in the nature of a tutorial system prevents the teachers from getting into personal touch with the students as individuals as they do in the older English universities, though to be sure neither in Scotland nor in Germany.10
How far either of these allegations is true, I am not able to determine. But this at least seems certain, that in most universities, including the oldest and greatest in the Eastern states, intellectual distinction in the work of the college is little sought by ambitious spirits, and little valued by their companions. A prominent athlete is a far more brilliant and honoured figure than the man most distinguished in the studies of the place. Undergraduates declare that the assiduous student, even if there be nothing of the bookworm about him, is apt to be looked down upon as a dull and plodding fellow. And a further point of unlikeness to English and Scotch conditions appears in the fact that nobody seems to think he will get any better start in his profession by having done well at college; nor when references are made to men who have won success or fame in after life, does one hear anything said about their university careers, though statistical enquiries have shown that the proportion of successes in life is much larger among those who did in fact apply themselves to their studies.11 In England there are of course many undergraduates, perhaps a half, who neglect their work, and others who, though they do study, are moved less by love of knowledge than for the sake of getting a degree sufficiently high to help them forward in their future profession. Still there are also many who are really interested, and care far more for their studies than they do for the amusements of the place. Among nearly all the men of talent the desire to achieve distinction is strong, and the men who achieve it are marked out among their fellows. Accordingly those who in the American universities regret what they think the deficient interest taken by undergraduates in their studies and the preponderating attraction of interuniversity contests in such games as football, have begun to canvas the question whether the introduction of honour courses and of competitions for literary and scientific distinctions may not be needed. Observers from other countries have long expected that such a debate would some day arise, and await with curiosity its issue.
One who surveys the progress of the United States during the last fifteen or twenty years finds nothing more significant than the growth of the universities in number, in wealth, and in the increased attendance of students from all ranks of life. They have become national and popular in a sense never attained before in any country. This growth is not due to any set purpose; and in it the national government has had no hand.12 For nearly a century it was a quite spontaneous growth, due to private liberality and denominational zeal, since it is only within the last few decades that the state legislatures have thrown themselves effectively into the work. Effective as their action has been, it has been done without concert, and seldom upon any fixed plan, so the state universities have enjoyed a large freedom of natural development and have, taking them all in all, suffered little more from governmental control than have those which depended on private liberality or on the payments made by students.
In some ways they would all, both state and private institutions, have profited by a little more, not indeed of uniformity, yet of systematic direction and regulation. There has been much waste of effort and of money in planting several weak colleges where one strong one would have rendered better service. Weakness has meant acquiescence in a low standard of entrance requirements (hard anyhow to avoid in the newer states where secondary schools are still insufficient in number and quality), in imperfect teaching, in degrees which witness to no high level of attainment. This has been specially unfortunate as respects the profession of medicine, where the maintenance of a high level is essential for the safety of the whole community. Some of the American medical schools are equal to any in Europe, but some are far below the level of any recognized in England, France, or Germany.13 The abundance of colleges and universities whose performances are obviously mediocre has naturally lowered among the people at large the conception of what a university ought to be and achieve, and the eagerness of rival institutions to secure students has led not only to superficiality but to a preference of the subjects most attractive to the practical mind and a corresponding undervaluing of those whose virtue lies in the general intellectual cultivation they give.
Nevertheless, with all these defects the universities and colleges have, taken as a whole, rendered an immense service. They have brought instruction within the reach of every boy and girl of every class. They receive a larger proportion of the youthful population than do any similar institutions in any other country. They are resorted to hardly less by those who mean to tread the paths of commerce or industry than by those who prepare themselves for a learned profession. They have turned a university course from being the luxury which it has been in the Old World into being almost a necessary of life. And they have so expanded their educational scheme as to provide (in the larger institutions) instruction in almost every subject in which men and women are likely to ask for it.
So far then as quantity goes, whether quantity and variety of attendance or quantity and variety of instruction, nearly all that the needs of the time and the country demand has been attained.
Quality is of course another matter. In education, improvements in quality do not always keep pace with increase in quantity, and often follow with sadly lagging steps. Nevertheless, they do generally tend to follow. No doubt the first and easier thing for an ambitious institution is to devote itself to material improvements, to enlarge its buildings and its library, its scientific apparatus, even its gymnasium.14 When money is spent on these things the result can be seen, and even the least instructed visitors are impressed. To secure more able, more learned, more inspiring teachers, and by their help to improve the instruction given and the standard of attainment which a degree represents is a slower and more difficult task. Yet here, too, the natural tendency is upward, and the emulation of these numerous and aspiring bodies helps that tendency. When one university has made evident its excellence by the work of its teachers and by the kind of men it turns out, others feel they must try to reach its level by similar methods.
The things which the most judicious friends of the universities (including many of their presidents) hold to be now most needed, would appear to be the following:
(1) The development in each region of the country—by which I mean in each populous state or in each group of less populous states—of at least one university which may serve as a model to the others in that section, setting before them in a tangible form the organs of activity and the excellences of arrangement and method which a first-rate place of education, learning, and research ought to possess. In some parts of the country there are several universities so much ahead of others that they are already being taken as patterns. In other parts none such yet exist.
(2) As a means to the above end, there is required a higher scale of salaries for the teaching staff. This is no doubt needed in European countries also, but in those countries the attractions which other careers have for a man of energy are seldom so great as in the United States, and the cost of living is neither so high nor rising so rapidly.
(3) It is felt that there ought to be a stronger pulse of intellectual life among the undergraduates in the “college” or academic department. They are not generally idle or listless, but rather, like most young Americans, alert and active in temperament. Their conduct is usually good; in no country are vices less common among students. But those who are keenly interested either in their particular studies or in the “things of the mind” in general are comparatively few in number. Athletic competitions and social pleasures claim the larger part of their thoughts, and the university does not seem to be giving them that taste for intellectual enjoyment which ought to be acquired early if it is to be acquired at all.
(4) The conception of a general liberal education, the ideal of such an education as something which it is the function of a university to give in order to prepare men for life as a whole, over and above the preparation required for any particular walk of life, is described as being in some institutions insufficiently valued and imperfectly realized. Those whose views I am setting forth admit that professional and other special schools can give, and often do give, an effective training of the mental powers in the course of the special instruction they impart. What they miss is that largeness of view and philosophic habit of thought which the study of such subjects as literature, philosophy, and history is fitted to implant when these subjects are taught in a broad and stimulating way. In short, the pressure of the practical subjects and of the practical spirit in handling these subjects, is deemed to be unduly strong.
How far the criticisms summarized under the two last heads as made by competent American observers are generally applicable, I will not attempt to determine. They are given because they are made by persons entitled to be heard. This, however, may be said, that forces and tendencies are discernible all over the country which cannot but work for raising the level of instruction and diffusing more widely those educational ideals which the best representatives of university progress already cherish.
Foreign critics often say, and some domestic critics have echoed the censure, that what is chiefly admired in America is bigness, things being measured by their size or by what they cost. This quantitative estimate finds little place in the universities. With very few exceptions, the teaching staff are not thinking of size, nor of money, except so far as it helps to extend the usefulness of their institution. All the better men, and not merely the ablest men, but the good average men, feel that it is the mission of a university to seek and find and set forth the real values. It has been well said by one of the most acute and large-minded of all recent visitors to the United States15 that nowhere in the world do university teachers feel more strongly that the first object of their devotion is truth. They are of all classes in the country that which is least dazzled by wealth, least governed by material considerations. No wealth-seeker would, indeed, choose such a profession. To one who looks back over the last twenty years, the universities seem to have grown not only in their resources and the number of their students, but also in dignity and influence. They hold a higher place in the eyes of the nation. They have almost entirely escaped any deleterious contact either with politics or with those capitalistic groups whose power is felt in so many other directions.16 Through the always widening circle of their alumni they are more closely in touch than ever before with all classes in the community. The European observer can express now with even more conviction than he could twenty years ago the opinion that they constitute one of the most powerful and most pervasive forces working for good in the country.
 Though many of the so-called agricultural colleges are still far from having reached the level of those few mentioned above. Some trenchant remarks on this subject may be found in the Report of the Carnegie Foundation for 1909.
 In Harvard the maximum salary is in the Law School $7,500, in other departments $5,500, but this maximum is reached only after a number of years’ service as full professor.
 In 1908 one-third of the degree-granting universities paid their full professors an average salary of less than $1,000 a year, and only 20 paid an average of $3,000 or over, only 5 paying an average salary of $3,500 or over. The salaries of assistant professors are much lower, those of instructors lower still.
 In 1913 the total number of retiring allowances in force was 315, and 83 widows’ pensions, total annual distribution being $570,423.
The creation of this fund has had the incidental result of tending to establish, not without protests and complaints, a sort of unofficial standard of excellence for colleges, and this “by-product” is deemed valuable.
 A degree conferred at one of the few oldest and most famous universities has even a social value, especially to a member of a “new rich” family which is, as people say, “on the make.”
 Cornell, however, receives also a grant from the state of New York though not strictly a state university.
 The state university of North Carolina, founded in 1789, seems to be the oldest state institution of the modern type, though in several states, such as Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Pennsylvania, the legislatures had granted charters and money to colleges which were or subsequently became self-governing. See an interesting paper entitled The Origin of American State Universities by Dr. Elmer Elsworth Brown (Univ. of Calif. Publications, 1903).
 The universities and colleges in and near Boston have organized a combined system of courses and offer the degree of A.A. to those who attain a certain standard.
 One of these has provided a separate college for women.
 Except of course in what is called in Germany the seminar.
 Distinction in a professional school (law and medicine) in a few of the greatest universities is, however, supposed to help a man in his start in professional life, and in some few universities there are honours to be won by competition. Harvard so awards scholarships, and the number of those who thought they obtain the honour do not receive, because they do not need, the emolument, practically equals that of those to whom the stipend is paid.
 Except of course in respect of the land grants made by Congress to the states for university and agricultural education. Latterly, moreover, the Agricultural Department at Washington has rendered valuable help to agricultural state colleges.
 The Carnegie Foundation Report for 1909 observes, “There are in this country more medical schools than in all Europe, and these schools have turned upon the public a far larger number of physicians than are needed, the majority ill trained and educated, the imperative need being now not more medical schools but fewer and better ones,” p. 91.
 One university is reported to have recently mortgaged its campus for $400,000 to erect what is called a stadium, while paying its full professors an average yearly salary of $1,800 only.
 Professor Dr. Lamprecht of Leipzig in his Amerikana.
 The exceptions to this general statement are so rare as to emphasize the fact that it is almost universally true.