Federal Aid: The Head of the Class

(See Cover) When the school bells rang this fall, they called more than 54 million young people — better than one-fourth of the U.S. population — to the pursuit of learning. This volcanic eruption of pupils —from the post-diaper toddlers and the blue-jeaned teen-agers to the bearded or button-down collegians — dramatizes a remarkable phenomenon in U.S. life.

Sixty-five years ago, when the U.S. population stood at 76 million, a thin 6% of the nation's 17-year-olds graduated from high school, and only 4% of the college-age youths were in college. To day, with...

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