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Reconstruction Era Education
The concept of universal public education had been accepted since the beginning of the century, but had not yet spread throughout the country. During this period there was a rapid expansion of universal education. In 1876 8,869,000 were enrolled in public elementary schools, by the end of the century there were 14,984,000. In 1876 there were only 20,000 high school graduates a year, by 1900 the number increased to 95,000. Despite these increases, the average number of years that Americans spent in school rose only from four to five during the period. The rate of illiteracy during the period dropped rapidly from 20% of the population at the beginning of the period, to 10% at the end of period. During this period the number of students studying in colleges tripled but that number of students enrolled in 1900- 235,000 represented only 2.3 percent of the college age population.