Public Higher Education
To the Editor:
I want to compliment Dr. Saveth and COMMENTARY for their extremely useful contribution to the history of higher education in New York State. (“Democratic Education for New York” in the July number.) The enactment by the legislature and the governor, upon the recommendation of the Temporary Commission on the Need for a State University, of this significant new set-up seems to me to mark a turning point in higher public education in New York State. . . . All those who had part in this matter deserve great credit.
I suppose all of us are entitled to some doubts on particulars. I myself, for example, find it hard to believe that the decentralized two year colleges or institutes will develop in sufficient numbers and maintain adequate quality on the basis of fifty per cent local community support. The communities that need these institutes the most are precisely those that are least able economically to support them. Furthermore, since they are designed to be principally technical and vocational, they may make but a small contribution to what we need the most in contemporary society: a general education in preparation for good citizens.
In the long run, it seems to me that the further development of education in this country, particularly higher education and adult education, must depend upon public support. The religious denominations, with the possible exception of the Roman Catholic Church, are finding it increasingly difficult to operate higher educational institutions at an adequate level of scholarship. I hope there will always be sufficient private support for independent colleges and universities because they are exceedingly necessary in any free system of education, but I think we might as well be prepared for the necessity of calling upon public support for the sustenance of our higher education. The problem then will be to find a formula for public grants of money which will not mix church and state nor cause the private non-sectarian institutions to become politically dependent upon the government, although I do not fear this development as much as most of my colleagues.
Bryn J. Hovde
The New School
New York City