Courtney Brown, Buell Gallagher, Henry Wriston

Dollars, Sense, and American Education

VTR Date: January 11, 1959


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GUESTS: Dr. Courtney Brown, Dr. Buell Gallagher, Dr. Henry Wriston
VTR: 01/11/1959


ANNOUNCER: The Open Mind, free to examine, to question, to disagree. Our subject today, “Dollars, Sense, and American Education.” Your host on The Open Mind is Richard D. Heffner, historian, teacher, and author of A Documentary History of the United States.

HEFFNER: Last year in the spring, late spring, of 1958, the Rockefeller Brothers Fund put out its report on American Education called “The Pursuit of Excellence.” And in June 2, the president of the New York City Board of Education, Charles H. Silver, wrote a letter concerning the report to The New York Times. In it he quoted from the Rockefeller Brothers Fund Report in this way: “All of the problems of the schools lead us back sooner or later to one basic problem financing. It is a problem with which we cannot afford to cope halfheartedly. An educational system grudgingly and tawdrily patched up to meet the needs of the moment will be perpetually out of date.”

Well, Silver was referring of course to elementary school education and to high school education. Today we are going to concern ourselves to the question of financing higher education. For that purpose I have three very dis­tinguished guests on. Let me introduce them to you right now. My first guest is Dr. Henry Wriston, who is the president of the American Assembly and the President Emeritus of Brown University. My second guest is Dr. Buell Gallagher, president of the City College of New York. And my third guest is Dr. Courtney Brown, Dean of the Graduate School of Business at Columbia University, and the treasurer of the Council for Financial Aid to Education. I think, Dean Brown, that I would begin the program by asking you a question that has to do with your status as treasurer of the Council for Financial Aid, and I would ask in a sense why, and what are the financial problems that confront higher education at the moment?

BROWN: There have been a number of views expressed that the financial needs of higher education may not be as great as they have been represented to be. I think we ought to look at this quite frankly. After all, there are places now in colleges and universities for all of those that are able to get in. There is an adequate faculty, not overly abundant, probably.So when we say there is a critical need for additional financial support for higher education I think we have to look at it in two ways. One, it is a deficit operation but a large part of the deficit has been placed on the backs of the faculties who probably have not received as adequate compensation as they should have over the years as the value has declined in its purchasing power

Secondly, there is ahead of us a very large increase in student enrollments, and there is a time lag, a time lag in getting ready for this. It will take us time to build the dormitories, to build the classrooms. But more importantly than that, it will take us time to train new people for college faculties and university faculties, and it is this latter point that I hope our discussion will develop at considerable length.

HEFFNER: Dr. Gallagher?

GALLAGHER: There is one little footnote comment here. Doctor Brown suggests that there are places now to take care of everybody who can get in. There are additional persons who are financially unable on their own to make it, and in spite of the rapid development of such things as the merit scholarship program and even the new loan funds under the National Education Defense Act, the necessity of making sure that the financial barrier does not keep any qualified person from pur­suing education commensurate with his interest and his abilities seems to me one of the factors that must be in the future. I wouldn’t want us to get the impression that even today we are getting into the different types of post high school education all the different kinds of people qualified in those.

HEFFNER: So money does stand as a barrier right now?

GALLAGHER: Yes, and the second thing that I would add is this, when we speak of post high school education we are talking not only of the standard liberal arts college and university and professional work; we are also talking of a whole burgeoning series of other types of things, the two-year com­ munity colleges, the technical institutes, et cetera. And I would argue that one of the important things we must do as we move into this new area of the population bulge is to make sure that we do not simply duplicate and expand what we now have but rather provide a wide variety– a widening variety of new kinds of opportunity, post high school.

HEFFNER: You say not simply to expand?

GALLAGHER: That’s right.

HEFFNER: But you feel that we do have to expand that?

GALLAGHER: Of course we do.

WRISTON: Well, I would like to point out that the United States is almost unique already in the diversity of its opportunities for higher education, and I am in entire agree­ment with both of you. I think that we ought to diversify still further. This is one reason that we have had local management is because this was supposed to be responsive to local needs, and while you wouldn’t put a technical institute, for example, in some parts of North Dakota, at the same time you wouldn’t put a farming school in the heart of New York City. In other words, a ground for differentiation of function not only by the quality and by the character but also by the location, and different parts of the country need different kinds of institutions, and I think they should be multiplied. And let me point out, as perhaps the oldest man here who started raising money for colleges in 1919, that there has always been this acute need for money. I ran the campaign that I then was engaged in for three million dollars for faculty salaries, and we have been running like Alice In Wonderland…you have to run twice as fast to stay in the same place.

HEFFNER: But have we stayed in the same place? Because I wonder — I am thinking of higher education generally.

GALLAGHER: No, we have not. We have lost ground badly.

HEFFNER: And this is something I think very few people realize.

RISTON: I would disagree with this. I think we have gained ground. We have founded more colleges in the last forty years than in any period like that in the history of the world.

GALLAGHER: This is true but how about the level of payment of faculty salaries, for example?

WRISTON: Well, it depends on the institution. In some of which I am familiar it has more than kept pace with the economic situation. This is not true of the United States as a whole and there needs to be a leveling up everywhere. Even in the places where it has more than kept pace. We must remember that faculties were always a synonym for poverty in America. As long as you can go back in the history of higher education professors and poverty were two words to the same thing.

HEFFNER: You are not suggesting that we not have changes in our language, are you?


HEFFNER: Or are you, Dr. Wriston?

WRISTON: It is not a semantic problem in any case.

BROWN: I wonder if we can’t pick this one up. If we had adequate faculty salaries I think we would have far less difficulty in attracting the kinds of keen intellects and keeping the good minds on the campus that we sometimes lose. I think all of us have had the experience of losing top-flight minds to other kinds of activities. It might be business, it might be even to a foundation.

GALLAGHER: We lose them even before we get them, that’s the trouble.

HEFFNER: What do you mean by that, Doctor Gallagher?

GALLAGHER: In coming through their college course, making their own professional choice, over and over again the keen mind, the great potential, does not go into the poorly paid profession, it goes into one that is better paid not only intrinsically because of the money that goes with it but also because of the social standing and other things that go along with that.

HEFFNER: Well you are talking about two prob­lems here. One has to do, in a sense, with expanding to meet what potentially would be the numerical demand, the quantitative demand; and the other to better our educational structure.

BROWN: Well, I think that the really key point here is that if we are going to attract the number of people to college teaching in the next decade that will be required we must find a really substantially higher level of real income for them.

GALLAGHER: Something around four hundred thousand new teachers, new teachers, at the college level in the next ten years.

HEFFNER: Well then why don’t you take – may I make this suggestion, just as a lay person, or as someone who used to teach. I think the question has come up as to why we don’t take the limited financial and other resources that we do have available at this time and divide them up amongst fewer students. If you are concerned with attracting and then keeping the best faculty people and increasing the caliber of American Education why assume that we can continue to admit anyone and everyone to hi her education?

GALLAGHER: You don’t mean this?

HEFFNER: No, I don’t, but Terry Ferrer and I have had this discussion. I think I ought to bring up the question why. I don’t think I have a very good answer for it.

WRISTON: Oh, I would like to try this because while I think that we ought to have a pursuit of excellence we also have to bear in mind that this is a democracy and you can go back to Thomas Jefferson, you can go back as far as you want in the history of American education, and everyone has recognized that there has to be a common schooling, and as the world has gotten somewhat more difficult to understand and our public problems more difficult to comprehend that common schooling has to run beyond reading, writing, and the rule of three.

HEFFNER: Does it have to run up to college?

WRISTON: Well, it has to run, I think, beyond high school for all those who are competent to take it. Now I have one somewhat heretical view on this. I do not want to see anyone who has the capacity and the will to go to college denied that because of money. I don’t see the necessity to subsidize people who have neither the capacity nor the will to go to universities, and that is being done in parts of the United States at a terrific rate, and there is a vast saving there.

I would like to see those who are able to pay, pay something for their education, and particularly if they don’t take fullest advantage of it. But when you take a great univer­sity and find that it is graduating at the end of four years only fifteen per cent of those who entered only four years before, there is a waste of money involved there. Now that great univer­sity — and it is a great one — needs vastly more resources, and I wouldn’t withdraw a cent from those. But it also needs freedom from the political pressures, which are now requiring it by the state constitution, I may say, to admit every high school graduate.

HEFFNER: Well, isn’t this in a sense a positive answer to the question that I asked, whether it wouldn’t be better to divide our limited resources up amongst fewer students? You would eliminate these students who were going to eliminate them­ selves.

BROWN: Well, apart from this elimination have we really much of an alternative here? We can talk about this question but the fact of the matter is that there will be a sub­stantial increase in the number of those enrolled in colleges ten years hence. Everything indicates that has already begun. I think about seven per cent increase in the enrollments of last year’s freshman class over those that graduated. I think we almost have to accept this as a fixed fact and go on from there. As Doctor Gallagher has said, we will need probably another four hundred thousand trained college teachers within the next decade. This takes care of the attrition as well as the expansion. Now where can we get them? They are just not being turned out. They are definitely not being turned out, and they are not being turned out because we have not put enough financial support behind the fellowships, the additional — these are the doctoral fellowships, as well as some of the master’s fellowships that are destined for teaching. We are not going to be able to put PhDs in the classroom in anything like the number that we are talking about. The pursuit of excellence is not going to be pursued at all unless we can do something and do it very quickly.

HEFFNER: All right, now who is going to do what?

WRISTON: Well now one point I want to stress there is that the need for scholarships is probably greater at the graduate level than anywhere else.  We are closing an enormous number of PhD candidates of first class caliber because they get married — they are human — they have children, and they just can’t subsist upon their fellowships, and so they take part time teaching jobs, and gradually they have to have more teaching to pay their expenses, they take less and less graduate work, and as Dean Barzun of the Columbia Graduate School reported, the stage in PhD candidates is one of the most serious of any industry in The United States.

GALLAGHER: And we are having this waste in the face of probably a seventy-five per cent shortage in terms of the production.

WRISTON: That’s right.

HEFFNER: You mean of faculty people?


HEFFNER: Well before you get to the faculty person you are concerned with the numbers and the caliber of the students who are going to go to college.

WRISTON: The two go together.

HEFFNER: All right, but if the two go together where and how are you going to get the money to do the job?

GALLAGHER: You are going to get it out of the will of the people to pay the bill for what they know needs to be paid for.

HEFFNER: All right, I would accept that, then ask how is this will going to be manifested? Through scholarships?

GALLAGHER: Through two great channels. Number one, a greatly increased flow of philanthropy. Number two, a greatly increased flow of tax funds. Both of these must be achieved.

HEFFNER: Do you gentlemen agree with this?

WRISTON: Oh certainly. And the flow from philanthropy has been growing, and unfortunately, as I think Doctor Brown can point out, it has been growing at a somewhat more rapid rate in some ways than public support of higher education. Is that not true?

BROWN: Yes, that’s correct. Data that has been compiled at the Council for Financial Aid to Education came up with the rather surprising finding that during the past decade there has been a gradually diminishing percentage of the total educational, higher educational, bill paid by federal, state, and municipal governments, and a progressively larger percentage paid by private philanthropy.

HEFFNER: Does this distress you?

BROWN: And secondly? A progressively larger percentage paid by tuitions and fees. No, it doesn’t distress me at all. I am perfectly delighted with these findings because what it really means is that this nation has once again accepted the challenge of doing a major job through voluntary effort. Now voluntary effort is not going to be enough. I think all the resources that we can marshal for higher education will have to be marshaled in the next ten years to meet this thing because here again bear in mind there is this lead time it will take five years to train a good college teacher, and we must get at it right now.

GALLAGHER: It does distress me that there is a marked lag in public support of public higher education at the present time only because the great hopefulness that we rightly derive from the awakening of private philanthropy is not yet accompanied by a similar awakening on the part of our legislators and those who frame our tax laws and our budgets at the municipal, state, and federal levels. Having worked both at the federal level and now at the municipal level in terms of the making of budgets for public higher education I can speak with some authority at this point. The governmental forces have only so many let’s say welfare dollars to distribute between health and education and old age insurance, pensions, and all the rest of the business. They tend to let education be squeezed to the minimum in order to do the other things. While they would like very much to do this job of sup­ porting public higher education with public funds they are not yet backed up by the taxpayers who will pay the bill. Therefore, they hesitate to be aggressive.

HEFFNER: Is there anything that would lead you to suspect that this is going to be changed or that it is changing?


HEFFNER: What? Certainly not the budgets of the municipal colleges in New York City.

GALLAGHER: The anxiety of mothers and fathers who want their children to have an education. They will therefore insist that the taxpayers, of whom they are a part, pay the bill to see that this does happen.

HEFFNER: Well, hasn’t this anxiety been felt up to this point?

GALLAGHER: Yes, but it is growing. And the real squeeze is on now with the population bulge. It is pre­cisely the moment when it is beginning to be felt.

WRISTON: You must remember that the great pressure has been to do something for the older people because our older population was growing with great rapidity with the lengthening part of life. Now with this population bulge, the emphasis is going to shift to youth, and in this old question between age and youth it is time that youth had its fling.

HEFFNER: Last week a program on the fountain of youth, this week and assertion that we ought to turn more to youth, but let me ask this question, which has been asked by a number of people who knew we were going to do this program, and I am just passing on the questions. Are we rich enough, really, in a practical sense? Now we are rich enough in an absolute sense. Now wait a minute, this is not a rhetorical question. Are we rich enough in terms of what you anticipate we will do within the framework of who we are and what we are to support a higher educational structure that will maintain the caliber that you gentlemen will want, that will keep the students you gentle­men want in college? Which seems to mean just about anyone with a basic minimum.

GALLAGHER: Not just in college, in many diverse kinds of post high school education.

HEFFNER: All right, post high school education. Do you think that it is realistic without basic changes on your own parts, in your own institutions, increasing the number of the ratio between students and faculty people, et cetera, to meet this financial crisis?

WRISTON: Well, I will make an answer on that. I think there is a lot of room and always has been room for some reform within the colleges.

HEFFNER: Like what? In what instance?

WRISTON: Well, for example, in giving the students who are capable more head, and not requiring them to go through so many hoops.

GALLAGHER: This is true.

WRISTON: Not requiring them to go to so many classes. Let them do more on their own. Use more tutorial work. Use seniors in leading freshmen. There are many, many things. But let me say that also has been going on a great many years. Probably no institution in the world has been more self-critical than American higher education, and this, as I say, also goes back to Thomas Jefferson. And George Tichner in 1825 said at Harvard that no one is taught anything in American college that will ever do him any good either culturally or any other way. This was one of those slight exaggerations of which we are getting a good many right now. But there is opportunity for reform in the curriculum, in simplifying the curriculum, cutting out extra courses, but when all that is said and done the fact remains it is going to take more money, and there is no escape from it. Now the private institutions have got to make programs that appeal to people, and go out and ask for money, and the public institutions have got to cooperate with each other and with the private institutions in awakening the public to the need for a better distribution of the tax dollar between the various services which the public wants.


WRISTON: Well, there is tax support for private colleges already in tax exemption, and they have just given us a new one in that the excise taxes went off on the first of January.

HEFFNER: Should there be increased aid?

GALLAGHER: I don’t believe that private institutions should rush to the public trough, no.

HEFFNER: You don’t?

GALLAGHER: I think that they are doing a fine job in awakening the American public, and particularly the business community, to the need.

HEFFNER: Do you think there is enough private money, let’s say, to take us to twenty-five or thirty years from now, that there is enough private money to keep the private institutions going?

GALLAGHER: I have no doubt about it. Let’s take some facts. I think we spent last year for education both operating and expansion — higher education — approximately four billion one hundred fifty million dollars. This is a lot of money, to be sure. But it is spread over 1871 colleges and universities, including some 6o junior colleges. It is a lot of money but it is less than one per cent of the gross national product of this nation. Now education is in one sense the major thing that

has made this country great. It is perfect nonsense to ask, really- – I didn’t mean this—

HEFFNER: That’s all right; other people have said the same thing.

GALLAGHER: –it’s perfect nonsense to raise the question of whether less than one per cent of our gross national product is too much to be putting on education or whether we can put more.

HEFFNER: Of course remember my qualification was realistically within the context of what we are and who we are and what we have done in the past can we assume that you are going to meet your financial needs. And your answer is yes, that’s fair enough.

WRISTON: No question about it.

GALLAGHER: Well, I would argue here, as I said a moment ago, the big stumbling block is the education of the legislators at state and federal levels who appropriate funds for public support, and the lag is one that — well, it would be five years I should think before the parental pressure builds up to the point where successive elections and campaigns have firmly committed the men who do the voting so that they then do begin to see that more than one per cent, up toward two per cent of the gross national product is available.

HEFFNER: Do you think these should be the men who do the voting in Washington or in the municipal or state capitals?

GALLAGHER: Well, partly those in Washington.

HEFFNER: Well, this isn’t a very serious question about federal aid.

BROWN: You cannot do the job solely at the municipal or the state or the federal level, it must be all three.

HEFFNER: Do you gentlemen agree with that?

WRISTON: Well, I think the federal government can do some things that it doesn’t now do. For example, there is a great deal of research done in universities, and the amount for that is at a different rate from the same work done in any other private laboratory. Now one form of non-subsidy, but real help, would be to pay the full cost of that research done at the universities and colleges. Now this is not a small amount of money. I think it runs over two billion dollars a year, doesn’t it?

GALLAGHER: It is a major factor in main­taining graduate schools in the nation.

HEFFNER: Would you also suggest that the federal government extend financial aid in more direct manner to public and to private schools?

WRISTON: Well, I wouldn’t at this point so far as the private institutions are concerned. So far as the public institutions are concerned it is already extended quite a little through the Morrill Act, the land grant colleges, and there are other programs, and I see no reason why it shouldn’t. I would like to point out, however, that the recent bill does nothing for the humanities, and all the pressure has been toward science and toward engineering and toward that, and if we build a one-sided society we are just moving back to technocracy. We aren’t making much progress. So if the federal government is going to do this I think it ought to have a far more balanced program than to merely get excited about some Russian achievement and then go chasing off to catch up in that one respect.

HEFFNER: Let me ask Dean Brown how he feels about federal aid, direct aid aside from let’s say payment for services, really payment for services rendered.

BROWN: Well, that’s where it is mostly today. This has been pointed out in the contracts. But as you know, at the last meetings of the Association of Land Grant Colleges and state universities there was a recommendation that the federal government subscribe seven and a half billion dollars over the next ten years of matching funds to be applied to the land grant colleges and state universities. Now I have no very strong feeling about that one way or the other. I think it is probably a desirable thing. I am not prepared to say that the private institutions need seek federal help at this time I am so encouraged by the data that we have seen in the expansion of private support that I think that we can continue to develop the kind of vigorous programs that have characterized a flexible and in some respects, front-running kind of educational experience that comes out of competition between the publicly-supported and the private institutions. This is good for the country to have this.

HEFFNER: Well, let me ask Dr. Gallagher about this question.

GALLAGHER: I would follow that up with an additional point, agreeing entirely with what Doctor Brown has said, I would argue that we are going to get the necessary public support for the public institutions only as private support for the public institutions adequately develops. You take the great state universities, these are they, which over the years have accumulated great private endowments and have large amounts of 3 private funds flowing to them. That then leads the legislators to appropriate the necessary funds for the public treasury.

HEFFNER: And do you want these to the national legislators too?

GALLAGHER: Yes. In some instances it will be necessary to do it at the national level. The level of per capita taxable wealth in North Dakota and New York does not compare. The youngsters in the two states ought not to be on a differential basis simply because of the differential income in the two states. Federal support at least in terms of equalization in that direction is very important. In the next place your state and particularly your municipalities do not have the adequate tax base on which to rest. Only the federal government has the total outreach.

HEFFNER: That’s a very positive statement and we have to end our program on it. Thank you, Doctor Wriston, Doctor Gallagher, Doctor Brown. We will be back on The Open Kind next week when we begin a series of programs on persuasion for profit, an examination let’s say of the engineering of consent. And my guests will be Nicholas Amstag of Time, Max Lerner, and William A. Durbin of American Cyanamid. See you then.