The first ever scholarship in the history of American collegiate education was established by Lady Anne Moulson (born Anne Radcliffe,1576-1661) at the then newly formed Harvard University. In those days, the sum she offered was significant indeed a 100 pounds! Till today, her name lives on, for the much acclaimed Radcliffe College, founded as the women’s annex to Harvard, is named after her.
Going down the years, the very first student loan program was also instituted at Harvard University, in 1840.
In 1862, the passing of the Morrill Act under which federally owned land was offered for the establishment of institutes of learning was another milestone in the history of American academia and was further supported by the Hatch Act of 1887. The Hatch Act diverted governmental funding to educational institutions for the purpose of establishing agricultural research stations.
Another turning point in the history of scholarships offered in America was the passing of the GI Bill of Rights by President Roosevelt in 1944. Among other things, this Bill created an awareness of the widespread benefits to individuals and the society as a whole when a large number of people received exposure to higher education.
In 1954, a collective of 95 colleges who were actively involved in evolving a system of assessment of students’ needs for the dispersal of scholarship funds, refined prior need assessment models and developed the College Scholarship Services Need Analysis (CSS) which contributed significantly to the idea that a uniform system for assessment of a student’s need for scholarships was essential in keeping alive the altruistic notions of offering scholarships in the first place.
Post World-War II, there appeared a slight decline in the demand for government funding of education. However, the Soviet launch of the Sputnik completely altered the situation, for as is to be expected, there was an outcry about the inadequacies of the American education system. This is turn led to the passing of the National Defense Education Act in 1958, which gave a remarkable boost to the provision of subsidized education in all areas of higher education. The sixties saw the passing of the Economic Opportunities Act and the Higher Education Act, both of which further led to the widespread establishment of scholarship programs.
Gradually the next few decades saw the emergence of several amendments to the Higher Education Act with the result that by the dawn of the millennium, students of diverse social, economic and demographic backgrounds, were able to benefit from quality college education. Many went on to become very highly recognized in their chosen fields.