Columbia University Archives

Home Study records, 1919-1951

Summary Information

At a Glance

Call No.: UA#0280
Bib ID 6944693 View CLIO record
Creator(s) Columbia University. University Extension
Title Home Study records, 1919-1951
Physical Description 7.5 Linear Feet (6 record cartons)
Language(s) English .

This collection is located off-site. You will need to request this material at least three business days in advance to use the collection in the Rare Book and Manuscript Library reading room.

This collection has no restrictions.



This collection is arranged in one series.



This collection consists of the correspondence and administrative records of the University Extension's Home Study Division, which offered not-for-credit courses by mail. The records include communication with faculty members, students, and University administration (Buildings and Grounds, Office of the President, Office of the Secretary, Office of the Registrar, etc.). They document the Home Study division's outreach or promotional efforts (advertising, partnerships with other institutions), operational records (course fees, registrations, mailing services, office supplies), policy matters (academic credit, prison students, high school classes and the New York State Regents exams) and many requests for information from potential students, nationwide and from abroad. In addition to the short-lived Home Study program, there are records of other adult education experiments and initiatives at the University Extension such as courses by radio, extramural courses (held off-campus, across the East Coast), and Guidance Study (a replacement to Home Study). These are the administrative records held in the Office of the Director, mostly from the end of the Home Study experiment and organized alphabetically. The records do not include much about the origins of the Home Study at Columbia. They are more closely related to the evolution of the program and the continued interest in correspondence education after the program was discontinued. There is also an extensive collection of materials documenting other home study and adult education efforts around the country, from correspondence with individual programs to materials from national associations.

Using the Collection

Rare Book and Manuscript Library

Restrictions on Access

This collection is located off-site. You will need to request this material at least three business days in advance to use the collection in the Rare Book and Manuscript Library reading room.

This collection has no restrictions.

Terms Governing Use and Reproduction

Single photocopies may be made for research purposes. The RBML maintains ownership of the physical material only. Copyright remains with the creator and his/her heirs. The responsibility to secure copyright permission rests with the patron.

Preferred Citation

Identification of specific item; Date (if known); Home Study records; Box and Folder; University Archives, Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Columbia University Libraries.

Related Materials

For a history of adult education programs at Columbia, including Home Study, see the volume on Adult Education (Call number CE1954 G286), edited by Angus Burrell in the Bicentennial History of Columbia University (1954). You can find additional Home Study materials in the Historical Subject Files (UA#0002). University Extension faculty minutes can be found in the Faculty Meeting Minutes (UA#0005). Finally, there are two other collections related to University Extension programs: Summer Session records (UA#0310) and Seth Low Junior College records (UA#0227).


No additions are expected.

About the Finding Aid / Processing Information

Columbia University Libraries, Rare Book and Manuscript Library

Processing Information

This collection was processed by Joanna Rios. Finding aid was written by Joanna Rios in December 2019.

Subject Headings

The subject headings listed below are found in this collection. Links below allow searches at Columbia University through the Archival Collections Portal and through CLIO, the catalog for Columbia University Libraries, as well as ArchiveGRID, a catalog that allows users to search the holdings of multiple research libraries and archives.

All links open new windows.


Heading "CUL Archives:"
"CUL Collections:"
"Nat'l / Int'l Archives:"
Adult education Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Columbia University. School of General Studies Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Columbia University. University Extension Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID

History / Biographical Note

Historical Note

While Columbia University had offered lecture courses and extension training in the 1890s, Summer Session and Extension Teaching gained permanent status starting in 1904. The goal was to offer instruction to students not regularly matriculated or enrolled in the University. The courses were offered in the evening (after four in the afternoon and on Saturdays), some were non-credit courses and others led to certificate programs. For the most part, the courses focused on technical instruction, and the average age of the students was just over 23. During its first six years (1904-1910), Extension Teaching was fostered and housed at Teachers College. In 1910, the Trustees took over the program so that it was known as the University's Extension Teaching.

In 1919 Columbia started an experiment in adult education by offering non-credit courses for home study or correspondence instruction. In order to convince the Trustees that the University could offer reputable academic teaching in this manner, Director of Extension Teaching James C. Egbert argued that Columbia had a duty to care for the education of servicemen stationed here and abroad (those who could only reach the University via the mail). Columbia University, Egbert contended, was a national, not just a local, institution. The Trustees agreed as long as none of the courses were offered for academic credit. Levering Tyson was appointed Director in charge of Home Study.

Home Study aimed for high standards: each class had a limited number of students to ensure personal contact with and appropriate level of supervision by the instructor; University faculty had to approve the materials before a course was offered; prospective students faced an elaborate admission process and had to work closely with field advisers. To provide these educational experiences to a new audience, Home Study made contacts with the Boy Scouts, the Merchant Marines, educational officers in prison service, and other non-profit organizations. They offered high school subjects to prepare students to enter college and the New York State Department of Education allowed Home Study students to take the Regents examinations. There were advertisements on the radio and in journals. From 156 students in 1920, by 1930 there were 8,000 to 10,000 students enrolled annually for non-credit courses.

In order to maintain its high standards, Home Study needed high enrollment numbers. Attracting more students meant more advertising, which many in the University felt was too commercial, inappropriate for an educational institution and harmful to the University's reputation. On January 1, 1937 Home Study was discontinued and all registration closed on December 31, 1937. Home Study distributed about 100,000 courses to about 65,000 individuals and it ran at a loss for every year it operated. Other adult education experiments sponsored by the University Extension were created to meet the demand such as extramural courses and Guidance Study.