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What college was like the year you were born

  • 1971: Prospective students compete for new scholarship

    - Total enrollment: 8.9 million (58.2% male; 41.8% female)
    --- Total public enrollment: 6.8 million (76.0% of total)
    --- Total private enrollment: 2.1 million (24.0% of total)

    Prospective college students got a new opportunity to pay for tuition in 1971 when the PSAT joined forces with the National Merit Scholarship Corporation. The results of the first test put 15,000 high school seniors in the running for 3,000 four-year scholarships, each worth up to $1,500 a year, per The New York Times.

  • 1972: Title IX opens new opportunities to women

    - Total enrollment: 9.2 million (56.9% male; 43.1% female)
    --- Total public enrollment: 7.1 million (76.7% of total)
    --- Total private enrollment: 2.1 million (23.3% of total)

    Colleges that receive federal funding were no longer allowed to prohibit students from participating in education programs, sports, and other activities on the basis of sex after Title IX of the Education Amendments became law in 1972. The legislation brought greater gender equality to university campuses across the country.

  • 1973: Predecessor to University of Phoenix is created

    - Total enrollment: 9.6 million (55.9% male; 44.1% female)
    --- Total public enrollment: 7.4 million (77.3% of total)
    --- Total private enrollment: 2.2 million (22.7% of total)

    John Sperling created an adult education program for nontraditional students in 1973, per Daniel L. Bennett, Adam R. Lucchesi, and Richard K. Vedder of the Center of College Affordability and Productivity. That program would help lead Sperling eventually found the University of Phoenix, a for-profit college that would eventually be investigated for abusive student recruitment practices.

  • 1974: Congress grants greater privacy to college students

    - Total enrollment: 10.2 million (55.0% male; 45.0% female)
    --- Total public enrollment: 8.0 million (78.1% of total)
    --- Total private enrollment: 2.2 million (21.9% of total)

    College students got the right to privacy over certain academic records after Congress passed the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act in 1974. It requires that universities obtain written permission from students before releasing grades, transcripts, class schedules, and other documents to their parents under many circumstances.

  • 1975: Government probes abuse at for-profit colleges

    - Total enrollment: 11.2 million (55.0% male; 45.0% female)
    --- Total public enrollment: 8.8 million (79.0% of total)
    --- Total private enrollment: 2.4 million (21.0% of total)

    The U.S. Office of Education teamed up with the American Institutes for Research to investigate student consumer abuse at for-profit colleges and universities in 1975. It found that there were 14 types of abuse at these institutions that ultimately left students at a disadvantage, and that almost none of these schools were “totally free of some potential for abuse,” per Daniel L. Bennett, Adam R. Lucchesi, and Richard K. Vedder of the Center of College Affordability and Productivity.

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  • 1976: Congress offers more funding for medical students

    - Total enrollment: 11.0 million (52.8% male; 47.2% female)
    --- Total public enrollment: 8.7 million (78.6% of total)
    --- Total private enrollment: 2.4 million (21.4% of total)

    Congress passed the Health Professions Educational Assistance Act in 1976. The law boosted the availability of scholarships and grants to university students pursuing education in health and medicine, according to Mary A. Fruen, author of “Medical Education and Societal Needs: A Planning Report for the Health Professions.”

  • 1977: Federal work-study program covers majority of tuition

    - Total enrollment: 11.3 million (51.3% male; 48.7% female)
    --- Total public enrollment: 8.8 million (78.4% of total)
    --- Total private enrollment: 2.4 million (21.6% of total)

    On average, the federal work-study program covered 90% of public university tuition and fees in the mid-1970s, per Judith Scott-Clayton of the Brookings Institution. Five decades later, that same program would only pay for 16% of tuition and fees at public institutions.

  • 1978: Supreme Court upholds affirmative action in college admissions

    - Total enrollment: 11.3 million (50.1% male; 49.9% female)
    --- Total public enrollment: 8.8 million (78.0% of total)
    --- Total private enrollment: 2.5 million (22.0% of total)

    In 1978’s U. of California v. Bakke, the U.S. Supreme Court made a landmark decision that allowed race to be considered during college admissions, effectively permitting affirmative action for minorities. However, it banned the use of racial quotas in filling seats, per The Chronicle of Higher Education.

  • 1979: Federal government creates Department of Education

    - Total enrollment: 11.6 million (49.1% male; 50.9% female)
    --- Total public enrollment: 9.0 million (78.1% of total)
    --- Total private enrollment: 2.5 million (21.9% of total)

    The U.S. Department of Education was founded under President Jimmy Carter in 1979. It would become responsible for enforcing civil rights statutes that protect college students on the basis of criteria like sex, disability, age, and national origin, as well as establishing financial aid policies.

  • 1980: For-profit colleges gain popularity

    - Total enrollment: 12.1 million (48.6% male; 51.4% female)
    --- Total public enrollment: 9.5 million (78.2% of total)
    --- Total private enrollment: 2.6 million (21.8% of total)

    The 1980s would begin to see a major rise in enrollment at for-profit colleges. Throughout the decade, for-profit institutions were responsible for as much as 50% of the increase in people attending college, according to data from the National Center for Education Statistics.

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