The Higher Education Act of 1965

Bill Pruden, Ravenscroft School, Raleigh, NC

November 8, 2020 marks the 55th anniversary of the enactment of the Higher Education Act of 1965, a milestone piece of legislation that altered the relationship between the government and the higher education community and whose influence continues to be deeply felt to this day.

The Act, which has been reauthorized at regular four-year and six-year intervals since 1965, was a centerpiece of President Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society. When it was first passed, the law provided new college opportunities for millions of low- and middle-income American students for whom a college education had long been little more than a dream. Between the creation of work-study opportunities, need-based financial aid programs, and guaranteed low cost federal loans, the Act has, over the course of the last half century, effectively opened the door to college for millions of American students. In making higher education a realistic option for a host of students for which it had previously been an impossibility, the Act has allowed the American democratic experiment to cut across socioeconomic lines. As a result, higher education has become a vehicle for the social and economic advancement of countless students who had once been all but ignored, making ever more real the promise of American democracy.

To learn more and to see the way the Act has evolved and grown in its reach and influence, consult the following links:

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