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In the United States, the last Democratic debate a widely discussed proposal for free tuition for all students who attend public Universities ( State and Land-Grant Universities ) came up.

Democratic Candidates Spar Over Free College at Debate

Not to get into the merits of the issue or who supports what position; broadly most of the Democratic Candidates on the stage support this plank. Some disagreement still exists on the universality of the program. A few supported extending the policy to all students independent of means. Most on stage wanted to exclude wealthy families from the program. ( only the lower 90% of Americans, by household incomes should benefit from the program ).

It occurred to me this might not be the first time such a discussion was held. Given distinct universal elementary and high school debates have already taken place historically.

My Questions are:

  1. Was this argument to exclude people of means used in the elementary or high school public school debates in the 19th and early 20th centuries?
  2. Given the Elementary School and High School movements spanned centuries and decades respectively in the U.S., How popular were they? Did they have broad support among the populous or were they more a pursuit of a handful of supporters who gradually moved them into law?

I framed these questions with regards to the United States history but any country's historical perspective pertaining to the above issues should be well received, and interesting.


Short History on the Century long Public Elementary and High School reforms which went on in the United States.

Public Elementary School Timeline in the US (1635 - 1918):

Public High School Timeline in the US (1910 to 1940):

The American High School Movement
In 1910 18% of 15- to 18-year-olds were enrolled in a high school; barely 9% of all American 18-year-olds graduated. By 1940, 73% of American youths were enrolled in high school and the median American youth had a high school diploma.

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