The Public Policy Roots of Women's Increasing College Degree Attainment: The National Defense Education Act of 1958 and the Higher Education Act of 1965
© Copyright Cambridge University Press 2016.How do we explain the steep increase in women's higher educational attainment that began in the mid-twentieth century and has continued, unchecked, in subsequent decades? Although many point to the emergence of feminism and the creation of Title IX in the 1970s as the origins of this trend, I argue that two federal student aid programs - the National Defense Education Act of 1958 and the Higher Education Act of 1965 - helped set the stage for women to surpass men as the recipients of bachelor's degrees. Using historical analysis of primary and secondary resources, I present two related case studies that demonstrate the central role that unique political contexts and nondiscriminatory program administration have played in lawmakers' capacity to promote equal opportunity through public policy. This study suggests that women's increasing college degree attainment has important, but frequently overlooked, public policy roots.
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