The most striking changes in education in the early 1960s affected adults, who enjoyed new opportunities in higher and continuing education. A burst of enrollment in higher education had followed the GI Bill in the years after World War II. Of 14 million persons eligible, 2.2 million veterans jumped at the chance to have their college tuition paid as partial compensation for their military service. Eventually, nearly 8 million took advantage of the Bill's educational benefits. This set the stage for continued growth of colleges and universities in the 1960s. In states with rapid population growth the expansion was breathtaking. In Florida, for example, where in the early 1940s there had been one university for men, one for women, and one for blacks, along with one public junior college, by 1972 there were nine public coeducational universities and twenty-eight community colleges.
The demand for such institutions increased in part because of the enrollment of women. The proportion of women in college populations grew from around 33 percent in 1960 to more than 40 percent a decade later. The increased enrollment of both women and men was served mainly by the establishment and enlargement of public institutions. In 1940 about 47 percent of the 1,494,000 students enrolled in colleges and universities were in private, denominational, or sectarian institutions. By 1970 the enrollment reached 7,136,000, with nonpublic institutions serving only 28 percent of the total.
The establishment of community colleges--160 between 1960 and 1966--opened doors for many young people and brought back to school adults seeking to acquire new knowledge and skills. In the five years