This Week in History: College Tuition at US Universities

Milestone moments do not a year make. Often, it’s the smaller news stories that add up, gradually, to big history. With that in mind, in 2017 TIME History will revisit the entire year of 1967, week by week, as it was reported in the pages of TIME. Catch up on last week’s installment here.

Week 25: June 23, 1967

As commencement season wound down, TIME took a look at what was going on at America’s colleges and universities — and found that those in charge weren’t exactly feeling the celebratory mood of graduation time. In fact, at private universities ranging from the most elite to the most niche, a financial crisis was looming, as costs quickly surpassed revenue.

What had changed? The magazine identified several factors in play. For one thing, public universities were getting more support from legislators, which translated to more money in their budgets, which meant more competition for faculty, students and other resources, which meant that professors and support staff could demand higher pay. Secondly, fields of study, especially in the sciences but in the humanities as well, were getting more specialized, which made them more expensive to teach. “Before World War II, a single professor could teach everything that Columbia expected a student to know about China; now he would pick up fragments of Sinology from 20 specialized scholars,” the story explained. Thirdly, reliance on endowments meant that funds were locked into places where they weren’t necessarily most useful — as one administrator explained, nobody earmarks money in their will for janitors. And finally, though fundraising drives were proving successful, that money tended to pay for expansion of one kind or another, which in fact raised operating costs even more.

But there was hope for the future — and TIME placed it in the person of Kingman Brewster, president of Yale, who was injecting some pep into the school and shaking it out of “complacency over its declining fiscal fortunes.”

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