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General Studies School 'for Adults' Poses Some Problems


For the past few years, while Harvard has been placing more and more emphasis on General Education within the framework of the College curriculum, Columbia has been expanding its School of General Studies which it calls a "university education for adults."

The school was established in 1947, under the direction of Harvard men Harry Morgan Ayres '02, a sort of outgrowth of Extension Teaching a system of correspondence courses inaugurated by Teachers College way back in 1904.

In the three years since its founding, G. S., as it is popularly known, has grown prodigiously, and its growth has created some large problems for the University.

Other Than College Kids

Originally, G. S. was intended to cater to an older clientele than Columbia College. It offers a B.S. degree which has shifted off its scientific base and become a looser type of B.A. to people who have either matriculated or can show evidence that they will be able to carry on the G. S. course.

The first term a student spends at G. S. is a probationary period, during which he must maintain a B average in order to remain a candidate for the degree. After that, he must stay at the school for at least two more years, and long enough to collect the 124 points which are required for graduation.

But the rapid growth of G. S. to a point where it is now, the largest department in the entire university, has been worrying the college considerably. Editorials in "spectator," the college daily, show the trend of feeling toward the precocious department.

Then Younger Students

In April of 1948, still feeling that G. S. was a "program to meet the needs of mature students, adults of 20 years or more," "Spectator" was unstinted in its praise of Columbia's prodigy.

But a year later, the college paper, in "Taking Stock of G. S." was worried that the new school was slipping away from its original and expressed function of adult education. Two important aspects of the "conflict" between G. S. and the college became the focus of criticism.

Competes with College

For one thing, G. S. was found to be competing directly with both the college and Barnard in obtaining employment and admission to graduate school, although its admission standards were quite different and in most cases lower.

A second complaint, on a purely physical level, was that G. S. was crowding the college not only out of its classrooms and administrative buildings, but also out of its dormitories and social centers.

Meanwhile, G. S. had gained stature as an educational institution. The Middle States Association of Colleges classed it among the top ten percent of the nation's colleges, and it was offering courses in a wide range of practical and theoretical subjects.

Admissions standards for matriculated students were raised to accord with those in effect in the college. And the acting director of G. S., John A. Krout, who succeeded Ayres upon the latter's death, asserted in March, 1949, that the level of teaching was equal in the two depart- ments. The only difference, he said, was in the age of students, which averaged 18 in the college and 21 in G. S.

Another College?

In the months that followed, G. S. began to collect the extra curricular appendages that characterized the college itself. A newspaper, yearbook, alumni association, athletic program made their appearance, and one professor commented that G. S. was building up an "esprit do corps."

All of this set the college to wondering what the eventual outcome of the G. S. experiment will be. It can no longer masquerade as adult education, and is on its way to becoming another college, or part of the original one. Earlier this year, director Louis M. Hacker announced the first course to be given jointly by the college, G. S., and Barnard, which he hoped was "only the beginning in a program of cooperation between the three schools.

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