We've Been Here Before: A Brief History of Catholic Higher Education in America

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Michael T. Rizzi, Ed.D.

Abstract

Many issues facing modern Catholic colleges and universities — such as how to differentiate their curriculum from that of secular institutions, how to incorporate a Catholic perspective into professional education, and how to maintain a Catholic identity with a diverse student body — are as old as the universities themselves. This article provides a short history of Catholic higher education in America as a reminder that many of these issues have been debated for more than two centuries and are not unique to our age. It offers a broad overview of the development of Catholic colleges and universities from 1789 to the present, and offers some thoughts on how to use this historical perspective to frame and understand modern questions about Catholic university mission.

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