National Defense Education Act (NDEA)
The National Defense Education Act (NDEA) was the first comprehensive federal education legislation, and was passed by the United States Congress in 1958 in response to the Soviet launch of Sputnik on October 4, 1957. The act linked education to defense, with the following goal: "to help ensure that highly trained individuals would be available to help America compete with the Soviet Union in scientific and technical fields" with "financial support for loans to college students, the improvement of science, mathematics, and foreign language instruction in elementary and secondary schools, graduate fellowships, foreign language and area studies, and vocational-technical training." The act changed the relationship of the federal government to education by providing aid at all levels, and to public and private institutions. Previously, the federal government had provided land grants for schools and aid to vocational education, but not funding for general education. This act, however, provided institutions of higher education with capital funds for low-interest loans to students and also gave federal support for improving elementary and secondary education. Because the federal government is limited constitutionally from controlling education, the act also contains statutory prohibitions of federal control over the curriculum, programs of instruction, administration, or personnel of any educational institution.