Rocky Mountain PBS will televise the Colorado State University-produced documentary "A Degree of Democracy – How the Morrill Act Changed Higher Education in America" on Tuesday, Nov. 13, at 8:30 p.m.
The documentary is part of a year-long celebration of the 150th anniversary of the Morrill Act, a groundbreaking piece of legislation signed in 1862 by President Abraham Lincoln that created the nation’s land-grant university system. CSU, founded in 1870, is the only land-grant institution in Colorado. Using the voices of higher education leaders and experts from across the nation, "A Degree of Democracy" chronicles the forces of history and culture that led to the creation of the Morrill Act – and the enormous impact of the universities that grew out of that act.
Lincoln signed the act during one of the Civil War’s darkest hours, a time when Union troops were on the retreat and Confederate forces were surging toward Washington, D.C. Despite the immediate outlook for the war, President Lincoln knew that broad access to higher education was imperative if the nation was to grow and prosper in the future.
This documentary offers a look back 150 years at the people that made it happen, including Lincoln and Justin Smith Morrill, the visionary senator from Vermont who championed the notion that access to higher education should not be limited to the elite. Rather, the legislation that bears Morrill’s name opened the door of opportunity for every woman and man with the talent and motivation to attend an institution of higher education.
Ultimately, the Morrill Act democratized higher education for the masses and led to the creation of some of the nation’s finest research universities. The Morrill Act has had a far reaching impact on and the nation’s economic prosperity and "A Degree of Democracy" explores the act’s prospects for the future.
The film was produced by CSU’s Department of External Relations with support from: University of California-Berkeley, The Ohio State, Iowa State, Cornell, University of Vermont and Alcorn State.