Extension Commission Gives College Education To Boston Adults For Four Bushels of Wheat

The lights that burn long after dark in Sever and Emerson are not left on by careless janitors, instead they light the earnest faces of adult students who are enrolled in the courses offered by the Commission of Extension. "Audit education is a growing, healthy enterprise, and nowhere is there a better opportunity for it than in Boston," says Reginald H. Phelps '30, Dean of Harvard. Extension, and Chairman of the Commission.

Since the Extension program was expanded in 1913 by President Lowell, it has included eleven educational institutions, which provide classrooms and instructures for the groups. Originally, only Harvard offered the courses under the auspices of the Lowell Institute, new Boston College, Boston University, Harvard, the Lowell Institute, the Massachusetts Board of Education, M.I.T., the Muscum of Fine Arts, the School Committee of the City of Boston, Simmons, Tufts, and Wellesley cooperate in the program for education of Boston's intellectually hungry adults.

The history of extension of University education to audits began when John Lowell, a wealthy Boston merchant, willed one half of his estate to a Trust Fund for the establishment of public lectures in Boston. In his will he first stressed the importance of natural religion: "I wish a course of lectures to be given on natural religion showing its conformity to that of our Savior."

Then remembering New England industry, he insisted that lectures consist also of the practical sciences, physics, chemistry, botany, zoology, geology, and mineralogy. His thought has been perfectly followed in a course given at M.I.T. designed "for young men in industrial pursuits who desire to fit themselves for higher positions."

Wide Range of Courses


But by far the most interesting part of his will was the phase which asked his successors to set up courses "More erudite and particular corresponding to the age and wants of the age." By not limiting strictly the type of course, Lowell made it possible for the present Commission to give such courses as Economics. English Composition, French, and Fine Arts. Only for these courses the student could be asked to pay. "Each lecturer may be allowed by the Trustee to receive a small sun from each scholar, who can afford it, not exceeding the value of two bushels of wheat for the course of six months." The value was determined by the Trustee to be five dollars, and that remains the tuition fee down to the present day.

Two interesting stipulations accompany the will. The first is that the Trustee shall descend from John Lowell's, grand father and always bear the name Lowell. The second demands that ten percent of the income from the Trust be turned back into the capital every year, so the original grant of a quarter of a million has multiplied many times since 1836.

Coordinated Commission

In 1913, President Lowell, who was also the director of the Lowell Institute, formed the Commission on Extension Courses, and coordinated the ten forementioned institutions with the Harvard program, offering a wider range of subjects, and both men and women to teach the coeducational courses.

Members of the Commission on Extension Courses must either be the presidents of their respective cooperating colleges, or executives of the institution, as G. H. Edgell, Director of the Boston Museum of Fine Arts. Raiph Lowell, the descendant of the founder, is the present. Trustee of the Lowell Institute. And as has been the case since 1913, the Dean in charge of Harvard Extension, now Reginald H. Phelps, is the Chairman of the Commission.

Despite the piddling tuition fee of five dollars per full course, the teaching staff for the Extension courses draws excellent pay due to the ever increasing Trust Fund. As Chairman, Dean Phelps invites competent instructors from each of the cooperating institutions to give a course in their particular field. These appointments are in no way connected with the man's college teaching; it is extra work for extra pay. Usually the Commission hires an lecturer for only one year, but in the case of language speaking courses, the same man may teach for many years.

A total of twenty-eight lecturers make up the teaching staff, and it includes well known Harvard Professors L. B. Clohen '37, Charles R. Cherington, and J. D. Wild, among others. This year the Commission offers thirty-two courses, all given at a time when full time employees can attend.

Students range from housewives to factory workers, and they must attend three quarters of their classes; there are no correspondence courses. The format of the classes is exactualy the same as classes at Harvard and the cooperating institutions; there are lectures, discussions, written and laboratory work. A grade of C is required to pass a course which is customarily divided into two fifteen week terms with a mid year and final exam.

From 1913 to 1933, a student taking seventeen full extension courses with a grade of C or higher in twelve of them, qualified for an Associate in Arts degree. His choice of subjects was and still is restricted by generally the same General Education requirements as a Harvard undergraduate.

New Degree

But because several Junior colleges were awarding an Associate of Arts degree for only two years work. President Lowell and the faculty thought that degree was being cheapened, so they invented a new term, Adjunct in Arts, which the Commission gives new. The faculty will not award a Bachelor of Arts to an Extension student, for he does not take General examinations or participate in Tutorial work.

However, most students in the Extension program do not attempt to get the Adjunct in Arts degree, only slightly over two hundred have fulfilled the necessary requirements. This is way under one percent of the enrollment since 1910. Explaining this unwillingness to follow the courses through, Dean Phelps says, "The average time for a person with a full time job to complete the prescribed course is about six years," and anything can happen in that long a time. Most enrolless study for only one year, and take courses that they missed in college, or if they did not go to college, courses that they would have liked to take. The only prerequisite for admission is a high school diploma and a valid reason to study under the Extension program. And there is practically no limit to the number of students, except in a few language courses where individual instruction is paramount.

Extension Popular

Steadily increasing enrollment attests to the popularity of the Extension Courses. Last year a record 2142 registered, and Dean Phelps expects a new record this year; students still paying the price of two bushels of wheat for a half term's instruction.

So far holders of the Adjunct of Arts degree have been awarded sixteen Master of Arts degrees, eleven Masters of Education, one Bachelor of Sacred Theology, and five Doctors of Philosophy. Looking over this impressive list of what were once part time scholars. Dean Pheips modestly states, "it would seem, there fore, that the Extension courses and the degree for which they count are each year fulfilling the educational purpose for which they were originally established."