Request Inspection Copy

If you are an Academic or Teacher and wish to consider this book as a prescribed textbook for your course, you may be eligible for a complimentary inspection copy. Please complete this form, including information about your position, campus and course, before adding to cart.

* Required Fields

To complete your Inspection Copy Request you will need to click the Checkout button in the right margin and complete the checkout formalities. You can include Inspection Copies and purchased items in the same shopping cart, see our Inspection Copy terms for further information.

Any Questions? Please email our text Support Team on


Email this to a friend

* ALL required Fields

Order Inspection Copy

An inspection copy has been added to your shopping cart

History of American Higher Education 3ed

by John R. Thelin Johns Hopkins University Press
Pub Date:
Pbk 560 pages
AU$87.00 NZ$90.43
Product Status: Available in Approx 14 days
add to your cart

Other Available Formats:

Colleges and universities are among the most cherished'and controversial'institutions in the United States. In this updated edition of A History of American Higher Education, John R. Thelin offers welcome perspective on the triumphs and crises of this highly influential sector in American life.

Exploring American higher education from its founding in the seventeenth century to its struggle to innovate and adapt in the first decades of the twenty-first century, Thelin demonstrates that the experience of going to college has been central to American life for generations of students and their families. Drawing from archival research, along with the pioneering scholarship of leading historians, Thelin raises profound questions about what colleges are'and what they should be.

Covering issues of social class, race, gender, and ethnicity in each era and chapter, this new edition showcases a fresh concluding chapter that focuses on both the opportunities and problems American higher education has faced since 2010. The essay on sources has been revised to incorporate books and articles published over the past decade. The book also updates the discussion of perennial hot-button issues such as big-time sports programs, online learning, the debt crisis, the adjunct crisis, and the return of the culture wars and addresses current areas of contention, including the changing role of governing boards and the financial challenges posed by the economic downturn.

Anyone studying the history of this institution in America must read Thelin's classic text, which has distinguished itself as the most wide-ranging and engaging account of the origins and evolution of America's institutions of higher learning.

Introduction: Historians and Higher Education
1. Colleges in the Colonial Era
2. Creating the "American Way" in Higher Education: College-Building, 1785 to 1860
3. Diversity and Adversity: Resilience in American Higher Education, 1860 to 1890
4. Captains of Industry and Erudition: University-Builders, 1880 to 1910
5. Alma Mater: America Goes to College, 1890 to 1920
6. Success and Excess: Expansion and Reforms in Higher Education, 1920 to 1945
7. Gilt by Association: Higher Education's "Golden Age," 1945 to 1970
8. Coming of Age in America: Higher Education as a Troubled Giant, 1970 to 2000
9. A New Life Begins? Reconfiguring American Higher Education in the Twenty-first Century
10. Prominence and Problems: American Higher Education since 2010
Essay on Sources

"I do believe that the book is worthy of being the major new overview of US higher education."


— Education Review

"A readable and concise introduction to this subject, it propels audience members to develop an appreciation for the heterogeneous... academe story as a whole."


— Teachers College Record

"Apart from being first-rate historical interpretation, Thelin's book offers several advantages that should make it attractive to the general reader as well as the scholar... His writing is brisk, concise, and humorous... Part public policy analyst and part social historian, Mr. Thelin weaves a tight narrative that keeps moving. He gives you the view from the administrative building, and he also tells you, often with accompanying photos, what students were like."


— Lexington Herald-Leader

"Extremely well written and meticulously documented."



"Well written and engaging... retains the reader's attention... Thelin has raised the bar for historians of higher education to clear."


— Facilities Manager

"Thelin offers an historical analysis of contemporary trends and issues in higher education today, e.g., access, affordability, accountability, and assessment. How colleges addressed those issues within different periods of time and societal contexts makes for a more enlightened image of higher education in the US as it exists today."


— Choice

"Fills a real need in the scholarship... Accessible and informative, providing a reasonable foundation on which to build a rich understanding of the development of American higher education."


— Register of the Kentucky Historical Society

"Destined to be the standard work in this area for years to come."


— Journal of College Student Development

"Despite its age, Rudolph's single-volume history has endured... Now John Thelin's A History of American Higher Education provides a worthy replacement."


— History of Education Quarterly

"This is a splendid book, by far the best to appear on the subject since the 1962 publication of Frederick Rudolph's The American College and University: A History. John Thelin's work will supplant Rudolph's as the dominant overview of the history of American higher education. Comprehensive but not encyclopedic, Thelin's account is interspersed with lively anecdotes and a creative emphasis on cultural history that will keep the attention of readers. It is a tour de force."


— Thomas G. Dyer, University of Georgia

"The thing about any John Thelin book—including this timely revision of his masterwork—is that it will be deeply researched, thoughtfully organized, and beautifully written. His synthetic range of resources is astounding, and you can almost taste the popcorn at the football games and touch the ivy on the buildings."


— Michael A. Olivas, University of Houston Law Center, author of Suing Alma Mater: Higher Education and the Courts

"John Thelin's new edition of his comprehensive and balanced history of American higher education makes an important contribution to students and to scholars. Culminating in his new chapter on the 2010s, this is the most up-to-date such history now available."


— Bruce A. Kimball, Ohio State University, author of The Liberal Arts Tradition: A Documentary History

"John Thelin's A History of American Higher Education sets the foundation for discussions of colleges and universities in the United States. Thelin has spent years delving into archives and engaging literature to tell a fascinating and lively story of higher education. His humor, engaging writing, and vast knowledge make history come alive for the readers and he pushes them to consider the historical foundations of the current issues, scandals, challenges, and successes within the higher education context."


— Marybeth Gasman, University of Pennsylvania, coauthor of Educating a Diverse Nation: Lessons from Minority-Serving Institutions

"In this new edition, Thelin masterfully examines continuities and challenges across centuries of American higher education, exploring purposes, access, funding, governance, equity, and student life. He concludes by probing how twenty-first-century economic, demographic, and legal developments are affecting—and sometimes unsettling—basic institutional principles and commitments."


— Linda Eisenmann, Wheaton College, author of Higher Education for Women in Postwar America, 1945–1965
John R. Thelin is University Research Professor and a member of the Educational Policy Studies Department at the University of Kentucky. His many books include Games Colleges Play: Scandal and Reform in Intercollegiate Athletics, also published by Johns Hopkins.