Foundations and University Research
Early in the 1920s the major philanthropic foundations significantly altered their standing policies toward higher education: instead of attempting to strengthen and sustain a broad spectrum of American colleges and universities, they committed themselves above all to furthering the advancement of knowledge, chiefly by facilitating the conduct of research. 1 Although this reorientation reflected only a small number of actual decisions, taken at a few major foundations, they represented a substantial portion of the philanthropic resources potentially available to higher education. Some fundamental developments on both sides of the relationship between foundations and higher education had presaged this change. On campus the unanticipated spurt in attendance was producing a higher- education system that was too large and too diverse to be decisively shaped by the actions of one or several foundations. In the foundations the passing of the original donors permitted general objectives to be determined by experienced and knowledgeable professional staffs. All evidence indicates that these new foundation leaders were completely earnest in their desire to fulfill their broad mandates to work toward the "welfare of mankind," as they understood it, and, at least by implication, toward the improvement of American society. Their challenge consequently became to formulate programs that held at least the promise of broad and significant benefits to society, while also being commensurate with the means available. 2 After 1920 these criteria dictated a policy of what was then called "concentration": a trend over time to focus foundation resources upon objectives that were strategically important and carefully delimited.