This prologue provides an overview of American higher education. Over time, as Americans established colleges and universities across the nation, they stridently declared these institutions' commitment to advancing the public good. The form this commitment took surely changed over the years and college and university officials undoubtedly employed the rhetoric of the public interest while simultaneously advancing policies and practices that did little to advance it. Nevertheless, the archival record informing this book's study reveals a broad array of higher-education institutions demonstrating a continuing dedication to the common good even while broader social, political, and economic forces undermined, if not directly opposed, that aim. This book thus investigates the founding decades of eleven very different colleges and universities and explains how these institutions' characteristics both reflected and responded to changes in American society.
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