Americans have shown a great concern in higher education since early colonial times. Research asserts that 75 percent of all educational buildings were built in 20 years. The most significant historical changes, which took place in 1785-1890 in the U.S. higher education, had the great impact on its future development and establishment. Many people considered higher education as a way to get higher status in society. Initially, only persons from elite classes were able to get higher education. Later, many rural youths entered colleges and universities with the aim to escape the farm (Thelin, 2011, p.78).
The research asserts that the period of 1785-1890 was the time of geographical extension of higher education in the United States, as well as implementing new types of institutions and programs. This features characterized the diversity of American higher education. The demand of better educational opportunities goes back to early colonial times. Benjamin Franklin was one of the first, who made propositions to make improvements in this sphere of life underlining the importance of higher education in agriculture, economics, mechanical arts and other professions, which were so necessary for all social classes. The Morrill Act of 1862 is known as a starting point of changing the American educational system. Justin Smith Morrill was the founder of this act, which was also called Land-Grand Act. Under this act, land was given to the towns to develop educational institutions, because land was cheaper than money (Thelin, 2011, p.76). This act was adopted under the influence of the Civil War. First of all, Morrill paid his attention on the development of agricultural and technical education. The USA was then mainly a rural country. There was a need in educated specialists. Higher education was prone to improve people`s equality and freedom as well as their social status. In the early 1800s, researches were devoted to the towns in order to develop educational institutions. The available information asserts that one of the most preferable towns was Oxford, Ohio, which has become home of American academies, colleges and universities. The Morrill Act of 1862 was of the greatest importance in the establishment of higher education, especially agricultural and technical.
According to the research, the government support was given mainly to the undeveloped eastern part of the country. For example, in New York, 145 educational institutions were established, called seminaries (Durst, 2012). Agricultural and technical education was a popular enterprise that gave the youths an opportunity to get education and come back to their farms as highly qualified specialists. The Industrial Revolution (1820-1870) was of the great importance to the development of agricultural and technical education. Substantial evidence of institutional and student diversity was observed during that period. According to the research, many agricultural and technical students were older than 18-22 years of age. This fact reflects a connection between higher education and the regional economy and demography (Thelin, 2011, p. 53). Institutions, which provided training, were founded by state governments or private donors. Agriculture and civil engineering were the disciplines that attracted a lot of students, because the country needed such professionals for the future growth of economy and agriculture Coy & Cross, 1999, p.234). Colleges and universities, which provided training and gave degrees to their students, were opened all over the country. This was a great contribution into the development of higher education in the USA.
In conclusion, the period of 1785-1890 was of great importance for the development of higher education in the United States, particularly agricultural and technical. The higher educational system, which was established under the Morrill Act of 1862, is still working today. A lot of educational institutions that were opened all over the country gave students the opportunity to study different disciplines, thus making contribution into the development of the national economy and agriculture.