There are between two and three million Americans who could be in college right now if they had the money. So says Earl McGrath, federal Commissioner of Education, in an appeal for a $300,000,000 program of scholarship aid by the U. S. government to worthy students of college age.
Although there has been no action on this program by either President Truman or Congress, the President said in March that "a soundly conceived Federal scholarship program in our colleges and universities is a necessary step" in giving American youth the highest possible level of training. The ideal of getting those two million qualified people into colleges is obviously desirable, even though a project of this great scope would be bound to raise problems here and at almost every college in the country.
Most colleges are now recovering from the over-crowding of the GI Bill era, and a new influx of students would put a strain on housing and classroom facilities. But if President Truman's goal of four and a half million students in universities by 1960 is to be realized, a large expansion will be required.
Cooperation between the government and colleges should not pose too many difficulties. The GI Bill proved that there could be a program of federal aid without an excess of government "interference" or "dictation."
If President Truman proposes a measure of this sort to Congress, and there is a strong likelihood that he will, the legislators will be faced with two bills for improvement of education, each tagged at $300,000,000. The other is the program of federal aid to states for schools, which may emerge from committee as the Barden Bill or something less controversial.
Improvement of our school system is undoubtedly the more pressing need, and should take precedence over any college scholarship program. But increasing the opportunity for all qualified students to go to college should be an important part of the Fair Deal educational program.