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Why the Next U.S. President Must #RethinkCollege

October 17, 2012

For anyone who's been following the U.S. presidential election season coverage, we've all seen there are many important issues up for debate. 

One of the most critical issues is the future of higher education and how we can ensure more young adults are able to get into college and complete a degree. As the foundation's director of postsecondary education work wrote last week, college students need help:

"Our nation’s colleges and universities are under pressure like never before – to produce more graduates with fewer resources. And if the status quo remains, we won’t even get close. At the same time, the Pell Grant system, which supports 9.4 million students, is approaching a fiscal cliff. Student debt loads are unsustainable. Too many students are stuck with debt and no degree. Left alone, these trends will collide and the social and economic implications for our nation will be nothing short of profound."

With the next presidential election right around the corner, this is an important discussion to have right now. The Gates Foundation, along with the Carnegie Corporation and TIME Magazine, this week is co-sponsoring the TIME Summit on Higher Education. You can follow the conversation about the future of college on Twitter at #RethinkCollege. 

In 2013 and beyond, the next president will have huge challenges to address in higher education. Below is a look at five of the boldest decisions by past U.S. presidents over time that have shaped the system we have today. 

The most telling takeaway from this list? The last major reform was in 1972. 

1. 1862: President Lincoln grants federal land to states to establish public colleges. 

2. 1944: President Roosevelt signs the GI Bill to ensure war veterans have a path to education. 

3. 1946: President Truman establishes the Commission on Higher Education to support college students. 

4. 1950: President Truman establishes the National Science Foundation to begin funding scientific research through public universities. 

5. 1965: President Johnson signs the Higher Education Act, establishing the first major federal student aid program. President Nixon follow in 1972 with the creation of Pell Grants. 

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