In the early days of Bethel, post-colonial Harvard educated clergymen and gentlemen. They could engage in medicine or law, business or politics, but they learned them on the job. Other colleges were similar, and more distant; there was little to no interest on the Maine border.
As Bethel ceased to be a frontier town, higher education moved closer (Bowdoin, 1802; Colby, 1813). More and more young people were considering new roles in life. The university could ward off Maine’s looming agricultural sector. Commerce and politics demanded more education. During the 19th century, doctors and lawyers increasingly attended university (often briefly) and eventually attended professional schools (Bowdoin Medical School, 1820-1920). Engineering and agriculture began to demand more science, offered to some extent in private colleges, increasingly in the developing state university which had federal support under the Land Grant Acts. Normal schools, located throughout the state, eventually became colleges of teachers; they were among the limited number of institutions that actually encouraged women to register.
The idea of a “selective” university or college did not really emerge until after World War II. Until then, if you could afford to go and had enough previous education, you were at Harvard. will not be rejected if you applied (unless you were female). Bowdoin, Bates, Colby and the growing public system of universities and teacher training colleges / colleges were equally welcoming and closer.
Then came “modern times”. The 20th century BA denoted middle class status; in the 1960s it was a fetish and the prerequisite for most good jobs. As private liberal arts colleges have become more selective and less locally oriented, the public university has become a statewide system of institutions; the colleges of teachers have become branches; USM has become the greatest institution of the 21st century. Specialized schools (Maine Maritime Academy, 1941) and private universities (UNE, fruit of mergers; Husson) appear and flourish. Community colleges have developed, responding to local and regional needs for easily accessible technical and general education.
Unfortunately, the cost of college has more than kept pace with income – the free community college will only begin to solve this problem.
David R Jones studied and worked at some public colleges and universities in Maine.