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#45 The “College Wars” of 1914 Highlighted What We Love About Norwich

Jeff Dobbin 200 Things about Norwich, Fun Facts & Stats Leave a Comment

Charles H SpoonerIn 1914, the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching completed an extensive study and report on the state of primary, secondary, and higher education in Vermont. Commissioned by the Vermont Education Commission, the recommendation of the “Carnegie Report” shocked the Norwich community.

One of the report’s key conclusions was that the state was putting too much funding—a total of approximately $100,000 per year, or $2.4 million in today’s dollars—into three competing colleges, namely Norwich, Middlebury, and the University of Vermont (St. Michael’s College had been founded in 1904 but was not receiving state funding). The report pointed out in particular that this state funding was supporting the education of a large proportion of non-Vermonters. The ultimate recommendation was to withdraw all state funding from higher education and focus on badly needed improvements to the public primary school system.

This recommendation shocked the community and provoked outcry among those who believed in the value of Vermont’s colleges, especially those who recognized Norwich’s unique value. Letters poured into the university and the legislature from Norwich alumni, particularly those who had received state scholarships, describing how irreversibly Norwich had changed their lives for the better. President Spooner testified before the Educational Commission, as did future Norwich president John Thomas, who was then the president of Middlebury.

Following much public debate, the Vermont Legislature voted the following spring to appropriate funds to Norwich, UVM, and Middlebury as usual. Though the “College Wars” were a harrowing period in Norwich history, the outpouring of support from the university community truly demonstrated the love that this community has always had for Norwich University.

You can read the so-called Carnegie Report online here. The full text of President Spooner’s extensive testimony rebutting the report’s recommendation is printed in the Norwich Record and is available online. Numerous news clippings and letters of support can be found in the papers of President Spooner and President Thomas in the University Archives.

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