The Massachusetts State Constitutional Convention of 1917 marked a turning point in the development of higher education in the state. An amendment adopted at the convention put an end to a long tradition of direct state appropriations to support the development of private colleges and to proposals for cooperative efforts between various state agencies and private institutions. After that time, only state institutions would receive state support. This decision resulted from an attempt to resolve an intense debate over the use of public funding for sectarian and other private institutions, which reflected the intense religious and class conflict inherent in Massachusetts politics at the beginning of this century.

The 1917 amendment had the indirect effect of laying some of the groundwork for later expansion of the state public higher education system. The state legislature could now expand opportunities for access to higher education only through appropriations to state institutions. Private institutions in Massachusetts could grow only through securing funds from sources outside state government. It is possible that without the 1917 constitutional change, Massachusetts might have developed a system of higher education involving greater cooperative effort between the public and private sectors.



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