Tag Archives: GI Bill

Toward a Privatized Public University

“The United States Country Report: Trends in Higher Education from Massification to Post-Massification,” suggests that higher education followed a linear path through three eras:  massification, maturation, and post-massification (Gumport 1-3).  Massification refers to the explosive development of higher education following the institutionalization of the GI Bill and the new population seeking college degrees.  Maturation identifies the era following massification, when institutional expansion slowed; this era was characterized by a diversification of the student body, a distinction between the student and the worker, and changes in college tuition.  Post-massification, then, indicates an era in which institutions felt the pressures of a changing market and a population that had become disenchanted with the perceived “public good” of higher education. 

The story of Geneseo, according to “The Transformation of SUNY Geneseo,” is much more convoluted—and even seems to present an evolution contrary to the trends suggested by The United States Country Report.  In the 40s, 50s, and 60s, Geneseo certainly saw the massification caused by the GI Bill, however, in the period of time from the late 60s to early 90s, Geneseo’s era of maturation seemed to coincide with its era of post-massification; that is, at the same time Geneseo’s student-body was diversifying, the administrators at Geneseo seemed to recognize and capitalize on the upcoming shift in market values and changing values of the general population that brought about the demands of the post-massification era.

In the 70s and 80s—and even earlier—Geneseo embodied the trends presented by the country report.  Geneseo’s “new student majority” consisted of students at or above the age of 22; the student body was increasingly comprised of part time student who held full- or part-time jobs; women were the predominant gender at the school, and racial minorities contributed to a greater percentage of students (Mahood 214-220).  Yet, Geneseo was at once ahead of and behind its time:  while most Universities in the era of maturation saw increased faculty and staff, Geneseo was faced with the possibility of enacting six levels of faculty cuts (SUNY at Sixty, 65).  Additionally, proposed construction projects, including the building of new dorms and classrooms, were denied and/or suspended.

The administrators at Geneseo had to make a decision:  decrease selectivity and thereby increase enrollment in order to receive greater state and federal aid, or hold true to their values.  They did a little of both.  In 1977, Geneseo accepted 88% of students—its highest acceptance rate in the institutions history—in order to stave off faculty cuts (SUNY at Sixty, 70).  Geneseo’s next actions anticipated trends in higher education, fiscal conservatism, and public opinion that most higher-ed institutions would not react to for at least ten years.

By increasing enrollment, administrators sought to increase the potential audience for the solicitation of their changing institution.  First, Geneseo increased its professional/vocational programs—administrators created the BS in accounting and expanded the business and economics programs, started programs in the field of urban studies, and expanded fields such as biochemistry, physics, and computer science (SUNY at Sixty, 67).  According to the country report, the trend of increased vocational programs in higher-ed didn’t take off until the late 80s when the consumerist population—who increasingly saw higher-ed as an irresponsible use of resources—demanded that higher-ed institutions provide educations with more practical implications (Gumport 30).  At the same time, professors created Geneseo’s hallmark courses, Humanities I & II; these courses ground Geneseo in its status as a liberal arts institution by asking students to explore the philosophy, history, and literature of prevailing Western ideologies (SUNY at Sixty, 69).  After just one year at 88% acceptance, Geneseo returned to its rigorous standard and accepted fewer than 50% of applicants.

After achieving a good balance between vocational courses and liberal arts studies, administrators began a scourge of departments that they saw unsuccessful in anticipation of the fiscal conservatism that would limit Geneseo’s funding.  This began with the removal of drama, dance, and physical education departments, although students could still enroll in individual courses in these areas of study.  At this time, the school also saw cuts to art and music.  Most shockingly, administrators dissolved the School of Library and Information Science due to its declining enrollment rates; in dissolving this most traditional department, scholars noted Geneseo’s move toward privatization:  although a public school, Geneseo became more concerned with the values of private schools—selective admissions, name value, and adoption of market ideologies—than with that of public schools, namely providing an accessible education to all.

Yet, these were not the only changes at Geneseo.  At a time when most universities were increasing faculty and staff, Geneseo fired 104 faculty members (SUNY at Sixty, 73).  However, the institution saw this as an opportunity to develop a new teaching staff with different expectations:  taking advantage of the fact that the federal government was investing more money in research institutions than ever before, Geneseo made it clear that professors would both teach, and perform research (Gumport 25, SUNY at Sixty, 75).  Accordingly, administrators outfitted Geneseo with both a faculty and a curriculum that would provide the most “bang” for a student’s “buck.”  In a time when most universities were expanding, Geneseo doubled down on its qualities that administrators thought would favor conditions of the changing market.   Whether by chance, or keen insight, Geneseo’s recognition of changing values allowed it evolve into the “public Ivy” that it is considered to be today.



Gumport, Patricia, Maria Iannozzi, Susan Shaman, and Robert Zemsky. The United States Country Report: Trends in Higher Education from Massification to Post-Massification. Rep. N.p.: n.p., 1997. Print.

Bright, Frederick, and Wayne Mahood. SUNY Geneseo: 125 Years of Excellence. Geneseo: Clarion Publications, 1996. Print.

Mahood, Wayne. “”A Touch of New England in Western New York:” The Transformation of SUNY Geneseo.” SUNY at Sixty: The Promise of the State University of New York. Albany: State U of New York, 2010. 63-76. Print.



Reading & Writing

Research Reflection Prompt #2
Due: Sunday September 25

Introduction and Context This week we will will be reading selected materials on the history of higher education in the United States. You will then write a blog post on the relationship between higher education in the United States in relationship to the local history of your institution.

gi-bill_thumbThere are many book-length histories of American post-secondary education in your campus libraries. And we invite you to read in this material. However, for the purposes of this course, and the intellectual work you are doing this week, we have compiled selected materials that will introduce you to the governmental policies, social trends, and cultural forces that helped to determine the direction of post-secondary education during the past century.

As you read 1) prepare to bring your observations to our class discussion of post-secondary education this Thursday, 2) gather insights and taking notes for your second piece of writing that will be posted on your blog by Sunday and 3) use what you are reading to begin thinking about the kinds of questions might be the most useful in the interviews you will be conducting later this semester.

Reading List Everyone should read the Servicemen’s Readjustment Act of 1944

image035The relevant section for us is Title II Chapter IV Education of Veterans, 6-14. The pamphlet The Gi Bill of Rights and How-it Works provides another version written for military personnel that includes a complete text of the Bill and “An Explanation of its Provisions” and “Questions and Answers.”


Here is a short list of other readings that we believe will be helpful for all of you to consider as well:

College Education and the Midcentury GI Bills
, by Marcus Stanley, The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Vol. 118, No. 2 May, 2003: 671-708

Review of When Affirmative Action Was White: An Untold History of Racial Inequality in Twentieth-Century America, by Ira Katznelson. New York Times August 28 2005

Brown vs. Board of Education

Federal Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965

President Lyndon Johnson signing the Federal Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965
President Lyndon Johnson signing the Federal Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965

Trends in Higher Education from Massification to Post-Massification, by Patricia J. Gumport
, et al. Academic Reforms in the World: Situation and Perspective in the Massification Stage of Higher Education. Reports of the 1997 Six Nation Higher Education Project Seminar. Hiroshima, Japan February 6-7 1997

Distinctively American: The Liberal Arts College, by Eugene M. Lang, Daedalus. 128.1 (Winter 1999): 133-50

The Higher Education Resource Hub Page


In Search of Prestige: the Geneseo Story


SUNY Geneseo was founded in a time of crisis. The formerly reputable “Geneseo Academy,” also known as the “Temple Hill Academy”—a high school specializing in the training of teachers—was failing due to its “strict denominational control and the narrow religious sectarianism of the period” (Mau 2). In 1866, the year of Geneseo’s inception, the village of Geneseo was “recovering from two disastrous fires that wiped out over 250 feet” of Main Street, and taxpayers faced the burden of constructing a twelve-mile water line from Conesus lake in an attempt to prevent similar fires (Bright 2). If these setbacks were not problematic enough, the Town of Geneseo owed a 40,000 dollar debt for a “foolish expenditure” on the construction of two iron bridges crossing the Genesee River (Bright 3). And the aftermath of the Civil War loomed over the nation. Nevertheless, advocates for the creation of a “normal school” (aka, a teacher’s college) in Geneseo took the risk, and procured 45,000 dollars for the construction of a normal school—only to have the state legislature fail “to approve the school, giving authorization, instead, to the village of Brockport.” Only after the Wadsworth family pledged 10,000 dollars to the founding of the school, did the state legislature approve of the “Geneseo Normal and Training School” (Bright 3, 4).

The Geneseo Normal and Training School opened in 1871, with a mission to “furnish competent teachers for the public schools of the state” (Mau 6). In an attempt to reassert the prestige of Geneseo education formerly garnered by the Geneseo Academy, the new normal school assessed applicants based on age, the “[possession] of good health,” moral character, and aptitude in topics such as “reading, spelling, geography, and arithmetic (Mau 6). The Geneseo Normal and Training School at first consisted of one building, “Old Main,” which principal William Milne lamented could hold no more than 120 students. When William Milne’s brother, John, took over as principal, he oversaw the creation of four new buildings: a gymnasium, library, science hall, and swimming pool jold-main(Mau 6, Bright 6). During this time, the college offered three courses of study: “the two year Elementary English Course, the three year Advanced English Course, and the four year Classical Course.” In addition, students enrolled at the college had to take ”29 semester hours of methodology and 20 of observation and practice teaching” (Mau 8). Notably, from the opening of the school in 1871, the institution reimbursed students for travel expenses accompanying their attendance at Geneseo; however, this practice ended in 1889 due to an increase in enrollment that made the practice financially impractical.

In 1905, The Geneseo Normal and Training School metamorphosed significantly; not least of these changes were the welcoming of Principal James Sturges, and the institution’s new identity: the Geneseo Normal School. This branch of Geneseo’s evolution reflected a new educational aesthetic that focused on a “growing professional consciousness, a concern for promoting upward mobility among normal school students, [and] the growth and influence of the social sciences, particularly educational psychology” (Bright 7). Accordingly, the new Geneseo Normal School saw curricular changes and new tracks of study: the Professional, or Normal, in 1905, Kindergarten in 1906, Primary-Kindergarten in 1908, Teacher-Librarian in 1910, and the “Special Class” in 1921; the special class trained for the education of “mentally handicapped children” (Mau 12-13). Notably, during this time, Geneseo increased the rigor of admissions by requiring students to have a four-year high school degree or an “equivalent approved by the Commissioner of Education” (Mau 12).

The institution received yet another name in 1921: the “State Normal School, Geneseo, New York.” Between 1921 and 1941, enrollment at the school doubled—only to lose almost all men at the start of the war— and three-year programs became the popular mode of earning a diploma (Bright 9). Additionally, this period saw the beginning of the standardized student-teaching program and the department of special education.
Apparently unhappy with their nomenclature work in the 20’s, the New York State Legislature renamed the college “Geneseo State Teacher’s College” in 1942 (Mahood 104). Immediately, administrators at the college became concerned with how they would accommodate the influx of students returning from the war—especially now that the Servicemen’s Readjustment Act of 1944 guaranteed that fifteen and a half million veterans could now receive up to “four years’ tuition, fees, books, and living expenses (Mahood 132). The administrators began planning “major capital construction outlays” which included what is now Wadsworth Auditorium, Frasier Library (now the only building open 24/7), and Erwin Hall (Mahood 133).

The GI Bill not only presented a logistic and spatial conflict with how the college would accommodate so many students, but it also forced the newly named Geneseo State Teacher’s College into a position of competition: in order to maintain the dwindling prestige and increase allure for a Geneseo education, Geneseo needed to stand out amongst other colleges in Western New York—especially state schools like Brockport and SUNY Buffalo. As Wayne Mahood notes, “should Brockport [have received] dorms first, it would have a draw that Geneseo wouldn’t” (134). In turn, Geneseo petitioned the state to receive funds to finance a new 150-student residence hall. By the end of the petition, Geneseo had worked out funding for four new residence halls; with the resources to house students, administrators turned their concerns not only to the influx of veterans, but to the recruitment of standout high school students by sending out pamphlets to 4,500 high school students (Mahood 135). Additionally, administrators added a “Speech Correction” degree and “its first graduate program, the Master of Science in Education for elementary school teachers” in an attempt to oblige the growing body of students at the institution (Bright 12).

Partially in response to the GI Bill—and in an attempt to ensure veterans a quality education—New York Governor Thomas Dewey suggested the creation of a state university: the State University of New York, or SUNY (Bright 13). For Geneseo, this meant many changes: new buildings—academic, dining, and residence halls, the addition of foreign languages to the curriculum, a school physician, more athletic programs, and the expansion of physical education courses. Additionally, the university created the secondary education programs that it is so well known for today. In this time, the college opened the department of physics and started its own radio station—WGSU FM (Bright 16).


Argentieri, Lisa. “Exhibit on College History Continues through September.”OldVersion Milne Library News and Events. N.p., 29 Nov. 2011. Web. 19 Sept. 2016.

Bright, Frederick, and Wayne Mahood. SUNY Geneseo: 125 Years of Excellence. Geneseo: Clarion Publications, 1996. Print.

Mahood, Wayne, and Frederick Bright. SUNY Geneseo: From Normal School to Public Ivy, 1871-2007. Virginia Beach, VA: Donning, 2008. Print.

Mau, Clayton C. Brief History of the State University Teachers College: Geneseo, New York. 1956.