Document Type

Occasional Paper

Publication Date



Taken together, general statements concerning the nature of the contemporary American comprehensive colleges and universities punctuate the ambiguous state of knowledge about and recent research on this sector. This paper examines the origins of five major institutional types from which contemporary comprehensive institutions have emerged. The institutional types demonstrate that as an aggregate these colleges removed the gender, class, religious and racial barriers of the early higher education system by providing specialized curricula, by serving particular populations, or by combining these two traits. The origins of the five institutional types discussed are: normal schools/teachers colleges, sectarian colleges -- Protestant and Roman Catholic, YMCA colleges, and historically black colleges. The paper suggests that the seemingly artificial nature of the authoritative typology devised in the 1970s by the Carnegie Commission has historical grounding and that the present 595 comprehensive colleges and universities are bound to each other by more than contemporary classificatory criteria.


Working Paper #6


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