November 8, 1965
The Higher Education Act (HEA) was the last of the major Great Society education bills initiated by President Lyndon Johnson. In 1965, it was seen as the smaller, less controversial partner to the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) (see chapter 12). President Johnson's single package of comprehensive educational initiatives had been divided into these two bills for consideration by Congress. Because various forms of aid to colleges and universities had been passed previously, whereas general aid to primary and secondary schools was new, the HEA was a far less controversial proposal than the ESEA. Considered independently, however, it was a very large and significant act, helping consolidate prior federal higher-education provisions and putting in place new programs that today represent the largest commitment of federal resources to higher education. The act provided assistance to strengthen institutions that served poor and underrepresented student populations and to make higher education affordable for such students. At root, therefore, the intent of the HEA was significantly to broaden access to college and university education.
The politics of the ESEA in the spring of 1965 had been quite unusual, for the bill had been rushed through Congress with little debate and virtually no amendments in under three months 'time (see chapter 12). The politics surrounding the HEA, by contrast, were far more normal, with the bill moving through Congress on a typical schedule and being subject to debate, amendment, and competing group interests. While the ESEA was passed almost exactly as submitted by the White House, the HEA reflected far more