Higher Education Act Turns 50


During his 1964 presidential campaign, Lyndon Johnson declared a “war on poverty” and challenged Americans to build a “Great Society” that eliminated the troubles of the poor.  Part of his new programs included passing Public Law 89-329, The Higher Education Act of 1965, which he signed into law on November 8, 1965 at his alma mater, Texas State University.

The purpose of this legislation was “to strengthen the educational resources of our colleges and universities and to provide financial assistance for students in postsecondary and higher education” as well as increase accessibility of higher education to all.  The law increased federal money given to universities, created scholarships, gave low-interest loans for students, and established a National Teachers Corps.  It promised to remove financial barriers to college for any student academically qualified.

The HEA of 1965 opened the doors of higher education to millions of academically qualified students. Like most bills that pass Congress, the HEA had resulted from numerous compromises. Congress has had several opportunities to review and modify the legislation over the years, but a solid foundation had been laid in 1965 in San Marcos, Texas, establishing a federal role in providing need-based grants, work-study opportunities, and loans to students willing to invest in themselves. Outreach programs were also created to help the most economically disadvantaged students.

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