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What college was like the year you were born

  • 1981: President Reagan supports historically Black colleges

    - Total enrollment: 12.4 million (48.3% male; 51.7% female)
    --- Total public enrollment: 9.6 million (78.0% of total)
    --- Total private enrollment: 2.7 million (22.0% of total)

    President Ronald Reagan established the White House Initiative on Historically Black Colleges and Universities through an executive order in 1981. It would encourage the federal government to provide support for HBCUs, according to The Journal of Blacks in Higher Education.

  • 1982: Women earn more bachelor’s degrees than men

    - Total enrollment: 12.4 million (48.5% male; 51.5% female)
    --- Total public enrollment: 9.7 million (78.0% of total)
    --- Total private enrollment: 2.7 million (22.0% of total)

    Data from the Department of Education shows that women were awarded more bachelor’s degrees than their male counterparts for the first time ever in 1982. The achievement came four years after women first earned more associate’s degrees than men in 1978.

  • 1983: National commission urges colleges to raise standards

    - Total enrollment: 12.5 million (48.3% male; 51.7% female)
    --- Total public enrollment: 9.7 million (77.7% of total)
    --- Total private enrollment: 2.8 million (22.3% of total)

    The U.S. National Commission on Excellence in Education published its landmark report, “A Nation at Risk: The Imperative for Educational Reform,” in 1983. The report warned of a “rising tide of mediocrity” among the nation’s schools and urged universities to raise their admissions standards to bolster fields like math, science, and foreign languages, per Edward B. Fiske of The New York Times.

  • 1984: Discriminatory private college stops accepting financial aid

    - Total enrollment: 12.2 million (47.9% male; 52.1% female)
    --- Total public enrollment: 9.5 million (77.4% of total)
    --- Total private enrollment: 2.8 million (22.6% of total)

    The U.S. Supreme Court issued a ruling in 1984 that said Grove City College must follow anti-discrimination laws, even though it’s a private institution, because its students get financial aid from the federal government. Rather than changing its practices, the college decided to opt out of federal financial aid programs, according to The Journal of Blacks in Higher Education.

  • 1985: Federal official endorses plan to slash student aid

    - Total enrollment: 12.2 million (47.5% male; 52.5% female)
    --- Total public enrollment: 9.5 million (77.4% of total)
    --- Total private enrollment: 2.8 million (22.6% of total)

    In February 1985, William J. Bennett, leader of the National Endowment for the Humanities, threw his weight behind a proposal to cut federal dollars for student aid. According to The Chronicle of Higher Education, he said that college students may need to consider “a stereo divestiture, an automobile divestiture, or a three-weeks-at-the-beach divestiture.”

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  • 1986: Women earn more master’s degrees than men

    - Total enrollment: 12.5 million (47.1% male; 52.9% female)
    --- Total public enrollment: 9.7 million (77.7% of total)
    --- Total private enrollment: 2.8 million (22.3% of total)

    During the 1986–87 academic year, women earned more master’s degrees than men for the first time in U.S. history. Data from the National Center for Education Statistics shows that women were awarded 50.4% of all master’s degrees that year.

  • 1987: College campuses go dry

    - Total enrollment: 12.8 million (46.5% male; 53.5% female)
    --- Total public enrollment: 10.0 million (78.1% of total)
    --- Total private enrollment: 2.8 million (21.9% of total)

    The drinking age was set to 21 in all 50 states by 1987. Since that made it illegal for most freshmen, sophomores, and even some juniors to drink, many college campuses decided to ban alcohol entirely, according to Gabbi Shaw of Insider.

  • 1988: Official warns of loan abuse at for-profit colleges

    - Total enrollment: 13.1 million (46.0% male; 54.0% female)
    --- Total public enrollment: 10.2 million (77.8% of total)
    --- Total private enrollment: 2.9 million (22.2% of total)

    Education Secretary William Bennett asked Congress to address the high rate of student loan default among people who attended for-profit universities in 1988. At that time, student loan default rates were higher than 50% at some of the country’s 6,500 for-profit colleges and universities. He asked Congress to ban schools with default rates higher than 20% from the federal student loan program, per William Beaver of the American Association of University Professors.

  • 1989: US protects Chinese students after Tiananmen Square Massacre

    - Total enrollment: 13.5 million (45.7% male; 54.3% female)
    --- Total public enrollment: 10.6 million (78.1% of total)
    --- Total private enrollment: 3.0 million (21.9% of total)

    The Chinese army killed some 10,000 people during student-led pro-democracy protests at Tiananmen Square in 1989, per the BBC. Shortly after, Congress and President George H.W. Bush enacted new protections for Chinese students at U.S. universities at the time of the incident, allowing them to stay in the country and avoid the risk of labor camps, imprisonment, and executions back home, according to Michael Zennie of Time.

  • 1990: College students with disabilities receive protection from discrimination

    - Total enrollment: 13.7 million (45.5% male; 54.5% female)
    --- Total public enrollment: 10.7 million (78.3% of total)
    --- Total private enrollment: 3.0 million (21.7% of total)

    Congress passed the Americans with Disabilities Act in 1990. The law prohibited universities from discriminating against students on the basis of disability.

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