1. Development of Higher Education in US
(1) Foundation of American Colleges: Liberal Arts
University in America began with Harvard College in 1636 as a pastor training institution, established by Protestants that came over from England in 1620.
With the development of towns and villages, Harvard established the goal of training individuals with the potential to become village chiefs and mayors by providing a wide range of education and fostering sound judgment abilities. Known as liberal arts education, this is where the liberal arts college was born. Subsequently, various new departments such as medicine and law were created, leading to the transition into a big university. As America became an established nation in 1776, Harvard University is obviously a private institution, and had been a leader in education training from 140 years before the founding of the nation. While Harvard College did became a university, there are now about 600 liberal arts colleges across the country.
(2) Establishment of State Universities
The state university was first established in America in 1789. Contrasting with private universities created with the goal of training leaders, state colleges provided standardized education for state citizens with the goal of training individuals to contribute to the development of the state, including immigrants that had only recently become American citizens. State universities developed educational opportunities in agriculture and stock raising, the two main industries of the time period, and eventually added other practical fields such as engineering.
With this defined goal of providing an equal college education to all citizens, a few colleges were founded under the same name of state university—the same system as that of public and metropolitan high schools in Japan. In other words, state colleges included those for top class students, students with average academic level students, as well as students with low grades. Therefore, since American state universities include the names of states, they cannot be thought of the same way as public universities in Japan.
(3) The Current State of American Universities
In modern day America, including state colleges and liberal arts universities, there are now over 4000 universities. Among universities established as liberal arts institutions, like Harvard University, many have added new fields of study, while some have developed as universities focused on graduate level research. Furthermore, many colleges have daringly chosen to not go down the university path, yet have rather maintained excellent educational opportunities as small liberal arts colleges. Other types of higher education institutions include art and music colleges, technological institutes, and military officer training colleges. In each state and geographic region, community colleges can also be found, where anyone who desires can receive the minimum level of education and vocational training.
“Variety” is a keyword that accurately represents college in America today. One could say that education spanning all goals, levels, and fields, can be considered the current state of American university.
(4) Private Universities
Most private universities began as liberal arts colleges and eventually grew into larger, research-focused universities. Including the most prestigious universities, such as Harvard, Yale, and Stanford, there are approximately 460 private universities across the U.S. A common feature of these universities is an emphasis on highly specialized graduate level research.
Within these universities there is a College of Arts and Sciences (CAS). While the closest equivalent in Japan is the Faculty of Arts, the CAS is the original liberal arts college that has existed since the founding of the university. In other words, a university is the aggregate of a liberal arts college with graduate programs. The CAS can be considered the heart of the university.
(5) Community College
Community Colleges are two-year programs that accept any applicants that are residents of the state, and offer minimum education and vocational training.
While compulsory education in the U.S. does not extend beyond high school, a high school degree is considered insufficient for obtaining a job with financial stability. Furthermore, in a country with a drastic gap between the rich and the poor and significant racial diversity, there are many low-income earning immigrants that have not received a full education in their home countries. In this regard, community college plays a significant role in providing these kinds of individuals with vocational training.
Nowadays, many community colleges establish a transfer system to 4-year state universities in the same state and the federal government is offering more affordable financial aid options.
2. Types of American University
The 600 liberal arts colleges across the U.S. are the root of the American university, and still play a key role in U.S. education. In America, where living in a dorm away from home and developing analytical skills, strong judgment, and decision making abilities are the goals of university, the importance of a liberal arts education is widely acknowledged.
Liberal arts colleges aim to provide a wide range of educational opportunities, including dorm life for learning how to deal with the complexity of human relationships after entering society; understanding information and technology relevant to the time period; acquiring knowledge of all fields that forms the basis of character building as an intellectual, including natural sciences, humanities, and the arts. A focus of these four years of college is reflecting and finding oneself; from enrolling in college, students pick a central area of focus by first exploring various fields. College entails looking within oneself, trying out many different things, and deciding one’s direction in life.
Rather than excelling in one particular field, liberal arts colleges seek to train students to become balanced individuals with a wealth of knowledge and strong leadership abilities.
State universities have focused on developing learning opportunities in more practical fields, such as agriculture, engineering, and forestry. There are currently approximately 650 4-year state universities across the U.S.
Aimed at state residents and originally established to provide affordable education and further enrich the state, state universities have created a system to enable any individual living in the state to enroll. Many state colleges have increased in size to become research universities and advance the range of academic departments, resulting in a continued increase in number of applicants and competitiveness. On the other hand, there are still some state colleges that accept all applicants.
Currently, in each state, the range of level among state universities is such that a college exists for the best student in the state, for a student of academic average performance, and even for a student with very poor grades.
3. The American Educational Perspective
Building strong leadership
Organization requires many different people in a variety of positions. For a company, this includes those who will become bosses, directors, managers, and staff members—individuals with many different roles to make the organization function well. Those that become bosses are not only leaders, but also need to be able to cooperate with others. An employee cannot only consider the company when making decisions, but must also consider his or her colleagues. Moreover, having only those with the personality of a boss will not be efficient; a company also needs those that are willing to take on simple tasks.
Countries are the same. Beyond the leaders at the top, individuals with many different abilities for maintaining and developing the country are also needed. America has already developed strong leaders, whether it be in government, economics, agriculture, or any other area of life.
While one perspective is that the original colonists, White Anglo-Saxon Protestants, reigned as leaders in order to maintain their wealth and power, there is a belief in Christianity that the haves will become the have-nots. Therefore, one should not fail to give something to charity, even if it may be something small. In this sense, those blessed with economic and educational opportunities are taught to give back to society that which they have been fortunate enough to have. It has become common for affluent parents to teach their children the importance of educational opportunities. This trend is based on the belief that thinking not only about oneself but also about others is one condition of being a leader.
Furthermore, the frontier spirit and desire to bring people together to create a big and strong America remains today. Thus, elite educational opportunities exist for the purpose of raising individuals that will excel as leaders. In other words, those who become leaders need strong leadership skills, analytical abilities, sound judgment, and furthermore, concern for others, the ability to look at a situation fairly, humility, and a true sense of empathy.
The Necessity of Strong Leaders that Can Support the Country
In America, children begin living in dorms away from their parents once they turn 18, for the purpose of learning fairness and empathy towards others. Furthermore, many colleges in America are located in the countryside with big campuses surrounded by nature and are generally in places where nothing existed before the founding of the college. This geographic trend comes from a desire to not raise students in the middle of the urban draw of the city, where they could be easily distracted and possibly lose their sense of creativity.
Harvard University at its founding raised people who took leadership as pastors, mayors, and village heads. After that, even though state universities began being created with the intention of providing a fair and common education for all, in America, raising leaders has become a matter of fact yet continues to be greatly emphasized. With an increase in immigration, America began raising leaders in all different areas, leading to the need to foster cooperation between immigrants in order to further develop the country.
Economically disadvantaged people from all over the world take on the idea of the American dream, and immigrate both legally and illegally to America. America provides public education for these kinds of people, enabling them to increase their socioeconomic status. Immigrants continue coming to America and gaining access to better opportunities through education. Even with a continued increase in immigrants, the U.S. continues to provide access to high-quality, public education.
Top-level successful individuals also immigrate to rural America. Given the many opportunities that continue to open up for immigrants, many believe that with skills that one can obtain through public education, one can truly succeed.
The children of these very successful immigrants are subsequently raised as Americans and seek educational opportunities to become leaders.
An interesting aspect of elite education in America is that regardless of one’s background, such as whether or not one is a White Anglo-Saxon Protestant, of a different ethnic background, or a new immigrant, all one really needs to succeed is applicable skills. The hard work and success of these first immigrants has established a means for future generations to succeed, such as through scholarships to elite universities.
Liberal Arts Education
The original concept of liberal arts, from the Ancient Greek concept of education, is a 4-year university designed to educate and develop individuals that will excel as leaders in society. The first college created in the U.S., Harvard University, was originally founded as a liberal arts college. The American university is truly rooted in this concept of liberal arts.
Once children become 18 and begin living in university dorms away from their parents, in college they learn analytical abilities and sound judgment. Liberal arts colleges take on the role of developing these skills.
Given the complexity of human relationships upon entering society after finishing school, students learn interpersonal skills through living in dorms. Students also learn skills relevant to the given time period, such as computer skills. Furthermore, students are able to change their majors during the middle of their academic careers or take on two very different majors. The reasoning behind this structure of liberal arts colleges is as follows: after thinking thoroughly about one’s life purpose, one’s abilities, and the best way to live one’s life, one is prepared to enter society.
4. The Core of American Higher Education
While Harvard University and Yale University were originally called liberal arts colleges, after many years they have since become large universities. With the goals of living in dorms away from my one’s parents, developing strong analytical skills and sound judgment, the liberal arts college is still supported as the core of the American university education system, with approximately 600 liberal arts colleges currently in existence.
Large American universities and public universities both have science departments, and furthermore, liberal arts universities commonly have science and engineering departments. Moreover, one can study both science and humanities at the same time. While universities with strong science departments were not created specifically to study science, a few have become well known particularly for their science departments.
In 1820, with the expansion of agriculture in America, universities were designed for the general education of all. However, the need for science and engineering universities became very apparent as these fields began to develop. In 1824, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute was founded, and since then many engineering universities have been established, as well as many engineering and science departments at other universities. Furthermore, some universities have created practical science departments to further entice students to apply.
Currently, MIT : Massachusetts Institute of Technology and CalTech: California Institute of Technology are among the most famous science universities.
At liberal arts universities, private, state, and public universities, one can study a wide range of fine and performing arts. Some schools even accept students without any audition or submission of creative materials; one does not necessarily have to have any advanced skills before enrolling. In America, the arts are greatly emphasized and can be seen in various areas of life, including for the enrichment of one’s own life as well as the lives of others. Compared to Japan, there is a much greater focus on performing and arts education from a very young age.
Also on this list are universities specializing in fine and performing arts. These schools, largely in cities, are for the most part made up of students that have focused on a particular medium since a very young age. These kinds of arts universities require an audition or review of creative materials. Similar to Japanese arts universities, a student must decide on a major such as oil painting or design prior to applying. Famous arts universities include the Juilliard School and the Pratt Institute, both in New York State. On the other hand, students can also study a wide range of arts at general arts departments of liberal arts colleges, including everything from ceramics to oil painting.
American national universities are all designed to develop and train officers—the elite that maintain the national army. Students at these universities have very high intelligence quotients and are considered extremely elite. It goes without saying that students are exempt from all tuition fees. Most famous among these kind of universities include the U.S. Military Academy known as “Westpoint” and the U.S. Naval Academy located in Annapolis.
5. The Definition of Elite Schools
There are many perspectives on the definition of the American elite school, including schools with exceptional research institutes, a high number of successful graduate students, fame of the school, or quality of faculty. However, we focus on undergraduate levels in an attempt to define elite institutions by the following criteria:
1) Schools that gather students with very high academic abilities and talents in a variety of areas.
2) Schools in good financial standing that provide rich and fulfilling student life in many different ways, including high-quality facilities and superb faculty.
3) Schools with graduates that are considered superior by companies and graduate schools and thought of as highly capable of succeeding in society after graduation.
4) Schools with a high number of applicants and a rigorous admissions process.
5) Schools with students from all over the country and not only one local area