THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT AND HIGHER EDUCATION
IN Chaps. VIII and IX on income and expenditure the growth in importance of the federal government in relation to higher education was discussed, largely in financial terms. In the present chapter finances are not to be excluded, but the approach will, in general, be more inclusive and focus upon broader questions that involve the problem of control--a subject that has constantly intruded itself in these pages.
The relation of the federal government to higher education must be considered as one aspect of the drift toward the centralization of governmental functions that has long been perceptible in this country. Earlier conceptions of the relations between the states and the federal government have, in spite of resistance, gradually been refashioned and reshaped in fact if not in theory. Functions previously regarded as completely local have shifted under the pressure of circumstance until responsibility for them is now vested in administrative officers with jurisdiction over wide areas. The larger role assumed by the federal government in educational matters may be accounted for in part by this natural trend.
One particular factor has assumed importance in determining the relation of the federal government to the local governments. The mounting costs of the increasing number of services performed by local governments have imposed a constantly growing burden upon the tax sources at their disposal. The general recession of business conditions in the late twenties served only to accelerate and accentuate the difficulty experienced by local, county, and state governments in financing their own activities. The difficulties are further complicated by geographical variations in the distribution of wealth which, in turn, gives rise to the argument that the larger governmental units should serve as equalizing agencies for the smaller ones. The crisis precipitated by the depression led those charged with the responsibility of carrying on local affairs (state, county, municipal) to turn to Washington, sometimes willingly, sometimes regretfully, to seek the aid of the federal government. Moreover, they frequently received encouragement from Washington to do so.