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American Collegiate Populations

A Test of the Traditional View

Colin Burke

Publication Year: 1982

American Collegiate Populations is an exhaustive and definitive study of the membership of American colleges and universities in the nineteenth century. Colin B. Burke explores the questions of who went, who stayed and where they came from, presenting as answers to these questions a mass of new data put together in an original and interpretive manner.

The author offers a devastating critique of the two reference works which until now have commanded scholars' attention. Burke examines Bailey Burritt's Professional Distribution of College and University Undergraduates (1912) noting that Burritt's categories oversimplify the data of the 37 institutions he studies. Donald G. Tewksbury's American Colleges and Universities Before the Civil War (1932), the author explains, presents a skewed interpretation of collegiate decline in the antebellum period. Using a far larger data base and capitalizing on the advances in quantitative history made in the last decade, Burke adopts appropriate analytic categories for college students and their subsequent careers. Amierican Collegiate Populations thus becomes the referent work to replace Burritt and Tewksbury and will likely have an equal longevity in print.

American Collegiate Populations systematically compares denominational colleges, colleges by region, and student groups from a host of angles - age entering college, geographical origins, parental occupations. subsequent careers, and professional choices. Burke shows the reach of American colleges back into the socio-economic fabric of the culture. a reach that carries implications for many subjects - religious, economic, social, and intellectual - beyond the mere subject of college alone.

Few works force the re-thinking of a whole field of historical inquiry - particularly one that has important bearings on current policy - as Burke's study does. The findings and implications presented in American Collegiate Populations will profoundly affect the scholarly community for decades to come.

Published by: NYU Press


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Title Page

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Copyright Page

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p. ix

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Introduction: The Traditional View

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pp. 1-9

The early nineteenth-century American colleges have been the target of as much criticism as has any segment of American education and, to a significant degree, "good" educational practice and policy for modern times has been defined as the opposite...

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1. The Institutions

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pp. 11-52

In 1923, Donald G. Tewksbury published what has become a classic in the history of American higher education and the major source for those interested in the rationality and stability of antebellum American colleges. The Founding of American Colleges and Universities in the United States was completed...

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2. Enrollments

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pp. 53-89

The thesis that enrollments were declining is critical to the traditional interpretations of the antebellum colleges. Both the intellectual-meritocratic historians such as Hofstadter and egalitarian critics cited studies by Henry Barnard and Francis Wayland to show...

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3. Student Backgrounds

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pp. 90-136

The critics of the early colleges applied the same sets of values, concepts, and assumptions to the study of the students of the antebellum period that they used to interpret the institutions and the enrollment patterns. The result was a picture of a uniform antebellum...

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4. Student Careers

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pp. 137-211

Although the traditional histories of the antebellum colleges relied upon the supposed background characteristics of the students, the most important judgments of the colleges were based upon generalizations concerning the careers of the alumni...

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5. The Colleges in Perspective

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pp. 212-262

The traditional view of antebellum education was made credible by a description of American higher education after the Civil War that was interwoven with the generalizations concerning the oldtime colleges and their students. The failure of the old institutions...


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pp. 263-297

Appendix A: Schools in Operation 1800–1860

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pp. 299-342

Appendix B: NonCollegiate Institutions

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pp. 343-368


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pp. 369-373

E-ISBN-13: 9780814725054
E-ISBN-10: 0814725058
Print-ISBN-13: 9780814710388
Print-ISBN-10: 0814710387

Page Count: 386
Publication Year: 1982

OCLC Number: 859686165
MUSE Marc Record: Download for American Collegiate Populations

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Subject Headings

  • Education, Higher -- United States -- History.
  • College attendance -- United States -- History.
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