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Three Presidents That Shaped Higher Education

Many presidents had lasting impacts on education—from Abraham Lincoln granting land to universities to Richard Nixon implementing Title IX. As we approach Presidents’ Day Here are three presidents that helped shape the American higher education system:

  1. Woodrow Wilson. Before rising to the presidency of the United States, Woodrow Wilson was president of Princeton University. It’s little wonder, with his understanding and value of the academy, that Wilson would champion education. Wilson oversaw a comprehensive economic policy in the United States, including federal funding (when in the past there had only been state or local funding) for education.

  2. Franklin D. Roosevelt. Through the WPA, Roosevelt literally built American education as Works Progress Administration initiatives constructed and repaired schools. Roosevelt also made education accessible to service members when he signed the The Servicemen's Readjustment Act of 1944 (better known as the GI Bill) into law.

  3. Dwight D. Eisenhower. Immediately before taking the mantle of the presidency, Eisenhower was president of Columbia University. Eisenhower first created the cabinet-level Department of Health, Education and Welfare (the agency was later bifurcated by President Carter). Eisenhower understood that the students of today are the leaders of tomorrow and that if the United States didn’t have strong educational institutions, it would not be victorious in the Cold War. In 1958 he signed the National Defense Education Act which provided robust funding to education at all levels.