The Research Universities in the 1930s
The impact of the Depression upon the research universities was initially cushioned by the extraordinary surge of prosperity that they experienced in the late 1920s and that persisted even while the country's financial system was deteriorating. When the effects of the economic collapse did penetrate, all but the most favored institutions experienced a period of considerable hardship. These difficulties then receded only grudgingly through the remainder of the 1930s. During the preceding golden age the scope of university research had significantly expanded. Just as important, university commitments to research were irrevocably enhanced. No longer a frill accompanying the educational enterprise, research was now fully rooted in university departments. The rapid pace of scientific advance and the latent competition between institutions further assured that university research would continue to expand despite persistent financial difficulties. The result was a paradox of a sort: university research tended to prosper during the 1930s despite the severe pressures felt elsewhere in the universities. 1 Over time this divergence produced increasing strain between the limited resources available in the university research system and the burgeoning demands of research itself.
The research universities were comparatively unscathed by the effects of the Depression until 1932, almost three years after the initial crash in the stock market. The factors determining university budgets were well