by Deondra Rose, Duke University
Through much of the twentieth century, a high school diploma was sufficient education to promote socioeconomic security; however, in today’s knowledge economy, there is a premium on higher education. As such, barriers to college education prevent many Americans from achieving the full social, economic, and political inclusion in society that are part and parcel of full citizenship. In this paper, I consider the historical lessons that we can draw from the role that education has played in the transformation of American citizenship since the mid-twentieth century. I make the case that higher education represents a valuable mechanism for promoting equal opportunity and that lawmakers’ efforts to expand access to it have had important implications for citizenship in the United States. From the G.I. Bill to the National Defense Education Act, Higher Education Act, and Title IX, government support for higher education represents one of the most enduring and politically viable mechanisms for expanding equal opportunity and access to full citizenship.