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Eastern Kentucky University President Michael Benson, in a recent article co-authored with Yale Law School student Hal Boyd, argues that America must recapture its commitment to the lofty ideals of higher education.

Their article, headlined “The Public University: Recalling Higher Education’s Democratic Purpose,” appears in the National Education Association journal Thought and Action and is a synopsis of their upcoming book that argues for additional state support for higher education.

“The University, after all, is more than just a place for scholars to share a heating system or a common grievance over parking,” Benson and Boyd write. “It is a sanctuary of citizenship where young and old come to expand their skills, broaden their horizons, and prepare themselves for the rigors of 21st century citizenship. History teaches us that our contemporary political and economic challenges do not serve as a ready excuse to jettison our nation’s democratic ideal for higher education; rather, daunting difficulties should remind us just how important it is to recapture the democratic purpose of higher education in America.”

The authors trace the history of higher education in the U.S., including George Washington’s ill-fated hopes for a national university to prepare the “future guardians of the liberties” in the “science of government,” the Morrill Land-Grant Act of 1862 that established land-grant universities in every state and the G.I. Bill that offered unprecedented educational subsidies for veterans.

The entire article can be read at

Last fall, Benson was invited by the J. Reuben Clark Law Society to speak at the Yale Law School, where he addressed the role of the G.I. Bill and the Morrill Act in shaping universities and discussed how those landmarks inform today’s debates regarding higher education. Boyd was president of the J. Reuben Clark Law Society at Yale at the time.