An interesting discussion has been started in Boston by a proposition made in the Board of Aldermen for the establishment by the city of a free university where any young man or young woman might obtain a university education at the public expense. This called out a communication in the Boston Post of last Tuesday, indicating the weakness of the plan and proposing in its place that the city found a large number of scholarships whose holders should be selected from the high schools for study, during three or four years, in any institution they might prefer, at home or abroad. In this way the money would be spent more economically, the efficiency of institutions of learning already established would be greatly increased, and a better education would be insured to the student than he could get, certainly for many years, in a university established by the city.
The two propositions have been much discussed in the Boston papers this week. Among those who have been interviewed are President Eliot, President Charles T. Thwing, of Adelbert College, ex Governor Clafin, president of the Corporation of Brown University. All of these have taken strong ground in favor of the scholarship plan, and the weight of opinion certainly seems to be on that side. After detailing the many difficulties which surround the establishment of a new college, President Thwing went on to show why an established university, such as Harvard, where in every department the courses offered are many and rich, and systematized by the experience of generations of teachers, where there is an admirable equipment in everything essential to university work, where there is an able body of teachers, and where the whole atmosphere is scholarly, why such a place can give the student a better training than the city of Boston can hope to give.
This whole discussion, as it has appeared in the papers, is very encouraging, as well as very interesting. It shows that we are not only aroused to the real problem in this country, but that we are devising and debating means for its solution. If anything practical shall come of this plan which has been suggested in Boston, education must certainly gain by it. The advantages of college training would be extended to a great many young men who will probably otherwise lose it. If Boston should take the lead in the establishment of public scholarships and be followed by other cities throughout the country, it is almost impossible to conceive what would be the gain to higher education.