This section is from the "The Subvention In The State Finances Of Pennsylvania" book, by Frederic B. Garver.
(a) In 1805 the academy was granted certain property formerly granted to the trustees of Center County.
It is noticeable that the policy of granting lands to academies when they were chartered was practically discontinued after 1789. Thereafter, such subventions only amounted, as rule, to sites for buildings. Cash grants were substituted for land after about 1798. The reasons for this change of policy were two. In the first place it was quickly discovered that a grant of wild, uninhabited land was not the kind of assistance needed by a college or academy during the initial period of its existence. What was needed, was immediate financial aid.
The history of Dickinson College is illustrative of this point. The grant of 10,000 acres of land and £500, which had been made in 1786, together with such support of private individuals as the college was able to command, soon proved inadequate, and the institution became heavily involved in debt. Five years after the date of incorporation, the General Assembly was again appealed to, and a grant in cash of £1,500 was made from the state treasury. *20 But four years later, the college was again financially embarrassed and another appeal to the legislature secured a further grant of $5,000 to pay the debts of the institution and to provide a small endowment. *21 In 1803, the building of the college having been destroyed by fire, the legislature loaned it $6,000 for rebuilding, the state taking a mortgage on the lands granted in 1786. In 1806 this loan was increased to $10,000, the lands again being mortgaged as security for repayment, but in 1819 the legislature authorized the governor to cancel the existing mortgage and the college was forever discharged from payment of the loans. *22 In 1821 the legislature provided for the transfer of the remainder of the original land grant held by the college, as well as all investments of funds derived from the sale of such lands, to the state. In consideration the state agreed to pay the college $6,000. This act also gave the college an annual subvention of $2,000 to continue for five years. *23
(b) Also rents accruing from certain lands. See Act of 1807, P. L. pp. 91-93.
(c) See Act of 1808, P. L. p. 179.
(d) Also a tract of land of indefinite amount. See Act of 1814 P. L. p. 24.
(e) Also a tract of land in 1813.
(f) In 1811 the academy was granted 15 town lots in Waterford; in 1816, 8 more lots were granted.
(g) The academy was given 15 town lots in 1811. (h) In 1823 the academy was granted 2 town lots.
20 Act 20 Sept., 1791, XIV Stat. at Large, pp. 123-124.
21 Act 11 April 1795, XV Stat. At Large, p. 282. For a short account of the grants to Dickinson College see Report of The Senate Committee on Education (1822), pp. 7 ff.
22 Report of The Senate Committee on Education (1822), pp. 7 ff.
The history of Dickinson College shows in detail for one institution the futility of the land grant policy. It also illustrates the tendency for occasional grants to become permanent. When once the state had committed itself to the support of the college by the original grant, a precedent for aiding that particular institution was established which made it easier for the college to secure assistance in later years. Also, when the state had once contributed to the endowment of the college, further contributions were necessary to prevent the loss of the original endowment. The working of this tendency is more fully illustrated in the grants to charitable institutions in recent years. The question whether cash grants to colleges and academies during this period were really effective in establishing centers of education must be deferred to the next chapter, when the policy reaches its culmination.
Assistance to elementary education by the state did not develop during the period under consideration in this chapter. In fact, nothing like a state system of common schools made its appearance till the fourth decade of the nineteenth century. An attempt was, however, made to provide for the education of pauper children at public (local) expense but even this was only partially successful. Chief among the reasons for the failure of the pauper schools was the fact that all the children who were enrolled in them were classed as recipients of poor relief and the stigma of pauperism immediately attached to them and their parents. *24 These schools were, therefore, poorly attended and badly conducted.
The failure of the pauper school law to provide education for the children of poor parents and the example of neighboring states that had provided for free schools very naturally caused many persons to agitate for a free common school law in Pennsylvania. In 1792 a committee of the House of Representatives considered the advisability of enacting a law to provide for free common schools. The desirability of a more adequate system of elementary education was conceded without argument. But the adoption of any plan for such a system would have required either a direct state tax or heavy local levies for its support. In the opinion of the committee neither of these expedients was advisable because of the hostility of the people toward heavier taxation. *25
23 Act 20 Feb., 1821, P.L. pp. 47-48.
24 Wickersham, p. 274.
Thus the earliest movement for free common schools failed to receive the support of the state and no grant in aid was made to counties or townships for the support of education during this period.
In conclusion, the principal characteristics of the grants to educational institutions during this period may be summed up briefly. (1) Grants in aid to counties and townships did not develop, in part, because of the fear of the legislature to levy the direct taxes necessary for the support of a state-wide system of education, and in part, no doubt, because the people of the state were not ready for a free common school system. (2) Occasional grants were made to promote private educational institutions when it was believed that these institutions could command the support of individual benefactors. After individual support failed, however, as in the case of Dickinson, the state was appealed to from time to time for assistance to pay debts and to rebuild buildings. (3) There was a tendency for these grants of lands for endowment to establish a claim upon the legislature for further assistance. (4) The grants were practically uncontrolled in the beginning, but as time went on, and they became more numerous, the state usually required the college or academy to admit a certain number of students, tuition free. But no audit of the accounts of these institutions nor inspection by a state officer for the purpose of ascertaining whether they lived up to the provisions of their charters and of the grants were, as a rule, provided. (5) The number and amount of the grants seem to have been affected, to a slight extent, by the financial prosperity of the state treasury. (6) Finally, there is no evidence to show what effect state support had upon the tendency of individuals to contribute to the endowment and maintenance of educational institutions.