8 Drastic Ways College Has Changed Over The Past 50 Years

Years ago, around this time, I received my college acceptance letter to the school I would end up graduating from: Howard University. It wasn’t my dream school, but it ended up being the best decision I ever made for myself. I know that right about now, plenty of people are stressing out over whether or not they got into this school or that, fretting over the costs, wondering if their SAT or ACT score should have been higher, daydreaming about what it’ll be like to live on the same dorm floor as dozens of strangers of different races, ethnicities, genders, backgrounds, etc. But believe it or not, if you were going to college in, say, 1966, you might not have done any of those things. Hell, the idea of living in a co-ed dorm would have been a pipe dream, and you could probably pay for an entire year of college with a part-time job. Yeah, really.

College has gone through a lot of changes over the past few generations, and not just because we can use Wikipedia instead of ancient library tomes to help us out with an essay. From college costs to college dorms and everything in-between, check out these eight drastic ways college has changed over the past 50 years.


Co-Ed Dorms Didn't Exist Until 1970

You might not think a co-ed dorm is a big deal, but it sure was 50 years ago. In 1970, Oberlin College became the first American college to allow co-ed dorms. People were absolutely fascinated by the concept; LIFE magazine even did a feature on it! Students had to insist that co-ed dorms weren't massive orgies and, eventually, they became more of a norm on college campuses across the country.

LIFE Magazine

College Was A Fraction Of The Cost Back In The Day

Ready to cry? Of course you are! Did you know that Harvard cost $150 a year in 1915? You're probably thinking, "Yeah, well, that was in 1915. That's probably the equivalent of a lot more money today!" Well, you're not wrong: $150 in 1915 is approximately $3,308 today. But how much is the cost of tuition at Harvard these days? Oh, you know, over $49,000.

The cost of college is so inflated these days that it's damn near criminal. Not too long ago, many state schools were actually free! And if you didn't go to a free college, it wasn't impossible to pay off your college tuition while working a part time job and taking out some modest loans. Now? It's impossible.

Gold Diggers Of 1935

Colleges Were A Lot Easier To Get Into

With more people going to college now than ever before, it's understandable that the competition is a lot more rigid than it was in the '70s. But this is nuts: Did you know that Columbia University--yes, one of the most well known Ivy League schools on the planet--had an acceptance rate of 65 percent in 1988? Now? That's looking more like seven percent. No wonder our parents don't understand how stress inducing the college process is now.

Pinterest

Strict Curfews Were Common

College campuses felt a lot more paternalistic back in the day, to the point where students who lived on campus had a legit curfew that they had to abide by. Yes, really. Imagine having to be tucked away in bed by 11 PM every night? Uh, hell no.

Howard University Hilltop

It Wasn't Odd For A Woman To Go To College To Find A Husband

Have you ever heard about getting your "MRS" degree? Finding a husband ASAP was encouraged as a priority for many women back in the day, so there were women out there who went to college in the hopes of meeting an educated man and tying the knot. I'm not saying that there aren't women out there who are at college for similar reasons these days, but, uh, who is seriously trying to pay $30,000+ a year to find a man? Just get a Tinder account.

Pinterest

You Had To Rely On A Communal Dorm Phone

Can you imagine having to take all your calls--personal or otherwise--in a common area with little privacy? Well, that was a reality for loads of students for decades. Unless you were lucky enough to have a private dorm phone, you were waiting for mom or bae to call you back on the dorm telephone. Aren't you glad you have a cell phone?

Pinterest

There Was A Lot Less Diversity On College Campuses

To be fair, there are still plenty of universities that suffer from a lack of racial/ethnic diversity. However, it's a hell of a lot better than it used to be. If you think you're one of a handful of non-white people on your campus, you'd shudder to imagine what those numbers looked like in the '60s or '70s. Fun fact: In the United States, Latinos have made the largest jump in college graduates over the past 10 years.

Pinterest

Courses like Gender Studies, Africana Studies, And More Simply Didn't Exist

A combination of social change, student activism, and a diversifying college population helped prompt the creation of fields that focused on marginalized groups and cultures that weren't seen as relevant or even legitimate. The chances of finding a gender studies major at a university--even an all-female one--was rare, and even a historically black college like Howard University didn't even have an African Studies department until 1988!

The Black Power Mixtape

Which is the most surprising change to you? What ways should college change now? Tell us in the comments!

You can follow the author, Ashley Reese, on Twitter or Instagram. Don’t worry, she doesn’t bite!

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