Higher education scholars are familiar with the close relationship between American higher education and the federal government after World War II. The G.I. Bill and Cold War concerns for maintaining the nation’s technological advantage made the federal government the major benefactor of postsecondary growth. The seismic shifts of that era, though, tend to overshadow earlier developing ties between the federal government and the colleges and, more specifically, the roots of direct federal aid to college students. This article seeks to redress that problem by exploring the subtle ways that federal aid became integrated into the visions and plans of the leaders of American higher education in the years prior to World War II. By examining New Deal Era college aid at a variety of institutions of higher education in the state of Ohio, we can uncover how the earlier courtship between the federal government and the colleges helped clear the way for later, more profound changes.
On June 26, 1935, President Franklin D. Roosevelt issued Executive Order 7086, creating the National Youth Administration (NYA). According to the President’s own statement, the agency was created to “do something for the Nation’s unemployed youth.” That “something” became a series of actions designed to keep America’s youth in school and to train young people out of school for productive vocations. The student aid program, one of the major facets of the NYA, paid students for part-time work performed at their schools and was administered by high school and college officials. From 1935 until 1943 the NYA provided these part-time jobs to over 2.1 million students, including 620,000 college students, at a cost of more than $93 million. At its peak, the National Youth Administration aided about one of eight students in American colleges.
Providing aid for a college education has become a recognized role of the federal government, stemming largely from the 1944 G.I. Bill. When Franklin D. Roosevelt took office, however, the NYA had few precedents. The major, pre-Great Depression federal effort to keep large numbers of individual students in college had been the World War I era Student Army Training Corps (SATC). The SATC was no relief measure for students, though; instead it provided a means to keep young men in school while also training them for future military service. The federal government began offering direct relief for individual students when the Federal Emergency Relief Administration (FERA) initiated an experimental work-study program at the University of Minnesota in 1933; the program was then expanded nationwide to about 75,000 students for the spring semester 1934. The success of the FERA program led to the continuance of college student aid as part of the National Youth Administration, a division of the Works Progress Administration (WPA), when the WPA replaced FERA in 1935.
The National Youth Administration was the second and smaller New Deal agency geared toward youth and has not figured as prominently in historical or popular memory as the first, the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC). The total cost of the NYA during the eight years of its existence was just over $662 million, while the CCC spent almost $3 billion between 1933–1942. Historian John Salmond has noted that the CCC quickly became the “‘glamour agency’ of the New Deal” because within months of Roosevelt’s inauguration it had already put thousands of young people to work on conservation jobs of obvious public benefit. The NYA college and high school student programs were not as directly beneficial to the public good and received less attention then and now. Historians of the New Deal often notice the NYA only in passing, as one of the “other” relief agencies notable mainly for its admirable racial policies, while historians of American education often ignore the NYA or discuss it as part of some larger pattern in federal relations with education rather than on its own terms. On one level this is entirely appropriate. The NYA was indeed a much smaller agency than the CCC and was subsumed under the WPA as a relief agency until 1939, when its increased training and educational activities dictated it become part of the Federal Security Agency. However, the NYA was a more important aspect of the history of the New Deal and American education than previous historiography recognizes.
As historian Richard Reiman points out, many scholars have misread the NYA by trying “to locate its central thrust in some solitary commitment, whether it be racial equality, relief or compassion politics.” In short, historians have failed to look at what the NYA actually did and how its activities influenced the larger picture of American education. Reiman makes the point that the NYA was a useful political tool for FDR, since it appealed to such diverse groups as “social scientists…, school superintendents, college presidents, and radical students.” Furthermore, the progressive nature of the NYA program, including “reformist ventures in the area of race, refugee assistance, education, and relief,” helped FDR search “for liberal allies” during the backlash from his court-packing plan in the latter 1930s. But Reiman and other historians say little about the important influence the NYA college student aid program has had on how college administrators and students have seen the role of the federal government in higher education.
This study of Ohio colleges and universities shows that the college-aid program was generally popular on campus. More importantly, using Ohio colleges as a case study we can see how and why college administrators, along with their faculties and students, came to support and accept the NYA’s college-student aid program and what that support means to the story of American higher education. Specifically, it becomes clear that the NYA college-aid program marked an important turning point in the burgeoning ties between the federal government and postsecondary education by opening the eyes of college administrators to the role federal student aid could play in bringing greater equality of opportunity to college campuses in an era in which the correlation between economic stability and a college education was growing ever more apparent.
Even Ohio State University, one of the biggest schools in the nation, experienced salary cuts, a sizable reduction in faculty, and other problems related to the Depression. Ohio State University (OSU) President George W. Rightmire referred to the Depression as a “disabling experience” in 1935 and openly lobbied Ohio Governor Martin L. Davey to allocate more funds to the university after Davey vetoed $1.2 million in appropriations for OSU, which had been voted by the state legislature. Rightmire was certainly correct in complaining “that in these times the university has not been a favored child of the state.” The campus newspaper put the crisis in more specific terms, reporting that the school could not even “supply gasoline for tractors to harvest the alfalfa and soy beans on its farms.”
The budgetary crisis facing many Ohio colleges in the 1930s was, of course, not only the fault of state lawmakers. Enrollment at American colleges had boomed during the generally prosperous 1920s but fell rapidly in the early years of the Depression. Between 1920 and 1930 the number of Americans in college degree programs nearly doubled, from 598,000 to 1.1 million. Between 1932 and 1934, however, enrollment in colleges fell by nearly 100,000 students, a decline of more than 8.5 percent. Ohio colleges were not exempt. State-run Ohio University in Athens saw its student population plummet from 7215 in 1930–1931 to 5218 three years later. Private institutions were sometimes less affected, owing presumably to the wealthier clientele they served, but still sometimes felt the sting of a dwindling student base. Western Reserve University in Cleveland saw a relatively small decline in its full-time student population, but enrollment in its part-time day college was cut by more than half, from a high of 7116 in 1929–1930 to 3006 in 1933–1934.
With such circumstances facing Ohio colleges it is likely that federal assistance of virtually any sort would have been welcome on most campuses, but the type of aid they received was especially easy to swallow. The FERA student-aid program instituted in 1934 was perhaps as decentralized as any program initiated during the New Deal, with the possible exception of the NYA program that replaced it in 1935. The FERA college-aid program allowed college officials to select which of their students would receive aid and what type of work they would perform in return. Thus, not only would students receive the means to stay in school, but colleges would also receive a labor force. The program addressed the needs of both students and colleges, some of whom were already clamoring for some sort of relief.
The FERA college-aid program for 1934–1935, the first full year of the nationwide program, required only that colleges receiving aid be nonprofit in nature, pay no more than $20 per month to any student, provide at least 50 percent of the allotted funds to students who had not been enrolled in college during the previous semester, supervise the work, not use FERA workers to replace existing workers, and to divide jobs between male and female students according to their proportion at the individual colleges. The exact origin of the latter provision (which was exceptional for its time) is a mystery, but it likely resulted from the presence of many of the Roosevelt administration’s most liberal figures, including Harry Hopkins, Aubrey Williams, and Hilda W. Smith, in the planning of the FERA and NYA student-aid programs. Students were required to be enrolled full time, maintain good academic standing, and to state that they needed aid to stay in school. Projects at the colleges could include “clerical, library, and research work” and were to be “socially desirable.” Colleges were allotted funds based on 12 per cent of their student enrollment in October 1933.
The student-aid program was intended to provide students with money for books, housing, and other general living expenses they incurred; the NYA stipend was not necessarily expected to cover the full cost of tuition. Still, it is likely that some students were able to use NYA money to help with tuition. For instance, a student earning the maximum NYA stipend of $20 per month at Ohio State University in 1935 could expect to make a total of $180 over the approximately nine months of the academic year. Since total yearly tuition and fees at Ohio State University were $123 for Ohio residents (not including housing), a thrifty student could have used his or her allotment to cover both living expenses and at least some portion of tuition. As such, federal aid probably tended to be most helpful to those young people for whom college was a financial strain, not a financial impossibility. Those who absolutely could not have afforded college tuition prior to the creation of the student-aid program probably did not see the gates of higher education opened by either FERA or NYA aid.
These relatively loose standards enabled each college to shape the FERA program on its campus, thus providing indirect institutional relief while directly aiding students. This general pattern continued as NYA replaced FERA. The NYA student-aid program gave even more control to the colleges by removing the gender equity clause for the 1935-1936 school year, a move encouraged by some Ohio academic administrators who argued that the need for aid was “more acute” among male students. Beginning in the 1937–1938 academic year the NYA required colleges to investigate more stringently whether applicants did indeed need NYA funds to stay in school, but this was not a problem for most colleges. By and large the NYA, like FERA before it, allowed colleges to administer their own programs, as long as work projects were legitimate and the student need was real.
The creation of a decentralized college-aid program not only fit the needs of colleges, it was perfectly in tune with the goals of the Roosevelt administration. The FERA and NYA college programs were primarily designed to keep young people in school and out of the already flooded job market, while also offering hope to a generation that many feared would turn to radical solutions in the face of the seemingly hopeless economic conditions of the Great Depression. Examples of young people mobilized behind radicalism were, of course, not difficult to find in a decade that saw the rise of fascism in Europe. As Ohio NYA Director S. Burns Weston put it in 1941, with some hyperbole, Hitler, “as other dictators have done, built up his strength through the support of youth.” The college-aid program, then, fit political, economic, and social needs without overturning the traditional local control of America’s educational institutions.
Accordingly, the FERA college-aid program was an almost instant success: A total of 1,482 colleges participated in the FERA program, 94 percent of the four-year colleges and universities in the country. “At least half of the non-participating institutions” were ineligible for FERA funds, usually because they were for profit or did not have what the regulations considered “full-time” students (most were evening colleges). A few elite universities, such as Harvard and Yale, refused to participate “either because they have facilities for taking care of all deserving needy students or because they could not find ‘socially desirable’ jobs under the FERA specification, or because they disapprove of a public tax for student aid,” but such schools remained a tiny minority.
According to statistics compiled in November 1934, fifty-seven Ohio colleges and universities participated in the FERA college-aid program, and the total number of students aided made Ohio’s program the fifth largest in the country. Similarly, Ohio State University had the fifth largest allotment of any school in America. The most common type of work performed by FERA students in Ohio was “clerical and office,” although large numbers also worked as lab assistants, research assistants, and in libraries or museums.
The ways in which colleges actually administered their student-aid programs varied according to the size of the student population and nature of the university’s administration. Larger universities like Ohio State and the University of Cincinnati set up committees to oversee the various aspects of their programs. Miami University and other smaller schools placed an individual in general charge of FERA or NYA on their campus, with committees helping as needed. Student applications were also processed differently at different colleges. A 1935 survey answered by fifty-five Ohio colleges showed that 69 percent of participating institutions required a formal application, while the remainder relied upon their officials’ personal knowledge of the financial situations of their students.
It is not surprising that a program so beneficial to colleges and their students became popular on campuses throughout Ohio and the nation. Student newspapers throughout the state generally supported student aid and often kept their readers abreast of the amount of funding their schools were receiving and what projects were enabled by federal money. An editorialist in the Ohio State University student newspaper urged students to lobby congress for the continuance of the NYA toward the end of the first year of the program, stating that the NYA was too valuable “to be discarded into the political ash heap” by opponents of the Roosevelt administration. He was not the only Ohio student to actively support the NYA. Students at Miami University sent a petition to their congressional representative calling for the renewal of funding for the NYA and received United States Representative Byron B. Harlan’s promise of full support. Similarly, NYA students at the University of Cincinnati proudly organized a NYA Worker’s Union (which actually acted as more of a club) and lobbied Senator David I. Walsh of Massachusetts, chair of the Senate Committee on Education and Labor and an original supporter of federal aid to youth, and Representative Thomas Amile, chair of the House Committee on Education, to support a student-led movement to make the NYA college-aid program permanent.
Similarly, during the 1934–1935 academic year the National Student Federation Congress, representing 148 American colleges and universities, went “on record as endorsing extension of the FERA program” into the next year and emphasized that work projects could be made even more educationally and socially significant, a hope continually sounded by proponents of the NYA program in subsequent years. Organizations like the American Youth Congress, a left-leaning student organization that supported the antiwar movement and the expansion of aid to students, joined in clamoring for the NYA to such an extent that, in the words of historian George Rawick, it “became a conscious lobby for the NYA.”
College administrators also generally supported the college-aid program. The National Association of State Universities (NASU) “heartily” endorsed FERA aid in November 1934. A conference of Ohio colleges and universities followed suit in March 1935, unanimously passing a resolution in favor of renewing the student-aid program and increasing “the percentage of students aided.” Support for student aid continued as the program shifted from FERA to NYA for the 1935–1936 academic year and beyond. For instance, a committee of Ohio college administrators, that included University of Akron President H.E. Simmons, complained forcefully in June 1937 when they were informed of a proposed (but never enacted) plan to cut student-aid quotas by more than half, from 12 percent of total full-time enrollment to 5 percent. It should be noted that the shift from FERA to NYA meant very little so far as college administrators were concerned.
The fact that broad support for the NYA existed at Ohio colleges is vital for an understanding of the federal student-aid programs, but it tells only a fraction of the story. A closer look at the student-aid programs at the various colleges sheds light on the important long-term impacts the FERA and NYA programs had on institutions of higher education. By creating federal student-aid programs that benefited colleges along with their students, FERA and NYA administrators brought New Deal-style liberalism to colleges and universities in a manner that silenced the wary and even won converts to the idea of federal involvement in postsecondary education. Thus, the New Deal college student-aid programs played an important and lasting role in American higher education by making federal involvement in colleges and universities seem desirable or, in some cases, at least palatable to college administrations. In short, they turned the federal government from an occasional supporter of higher education into an important ally for both colleges and those young people who wanted to go to college.
Perhaps the best documented example comes from Ohio State University, whose bureaucracy frequently discussed federal student aid. The Ohio office of the NYA forged close ties with Ohio State and eventually gained the support of even those in the OSU adminstration who had initially doubted the wisdom of the program. The case of Ohio State University Vice President J. L. Morrill, who was also a member of OSU’s NYA Executive Committee, offers the best evidence of just how successful FERA and NYA planners were in creating an appealing federal student-aid program. At various times Morrill had serious personal reservations about the “paternalism” of the “so-called New Deal” and feared the “grave danger” of “creating among young people a government-dole, life expectancy attitude.” Still, he regularly rallied to the support of the student aid program, which he saw as “both intelligent and sound.” Another member of the Ohio State University’s NYA Executive Committee, University Examiner Bland L. Stradley, was also skeptical of the program because he believed that the federal government should not meddle in matters of education. He too became an advocate of the program and even supported it in early 1937 when it appeared that the end of the Depression was imminent.
The ability of the student-aid program to convince even skeptics like Morrill and Stradley speaks volumes about its successful design. We learn even more about the attitudes of educators, though, when we understand the type of aid they could not stomach. On several occasions the idea of federal loans to students, not dissimilar from those that would become common after World War II, was proposed to the administration at Ohio State. On each occasion the OSU administration rejected the notion. The first instance was during the FERA-aid program in 1935, when the National Association of State Universities conducted a survey of state college presidents regarding federal aid. In answer to a question asking “Would you favor government loans to students?,” OSU President Rightmire answered an unqualified “No,” as did twenty-two other college presidents. Most of the fourteen who voted affirmatively did so with some qualification or restriction. In 1936 a group of educators and consultants from North Dakota brought the federal loan idea to the attention of the OSU administration, but Vice President Morrill once again rejected the idea (Rightmire was vacationing) out of hand.
In neither case did the OSU administration give a reason for opposing federal loan schemes, but other evidence sheds light on how they envisioned the role of federal aid. In short, they favored aid that would benefit both the universities and their students (for whom they regularly showed genuine concern) while maintaining local control. Loan programs, which would presumably be administered by federal officials (rather than campus administrators) without any on-campus work requirements, simply did not fill the bill.
Evidence that the OSU administration saw the utility of federal aid, at least partly because it helped the university itself, is found in how they portrayed the NYA in the campus press. A May 19, 1936 article in the student newspaper, The Ohio State Lantern, addressed the ramifications that would follow if NYA aid were withdrawn. Rather than concentrating on the effect on students, William H. Cowley, a prominent educational researcher and chairman of OSU’s NYA Projects Committee, described a disaster for the university as a whole. He argued that discontinuance of NYA aid would cost Ohio State $193,000 in student labor for the next year. Bland L. Stradley, who also served as chair of the NYA Selections Committee at Ohio State, similarly stressed the enrollment decline that would probably accompany the loss of NYA funding.
The internal conversations of OSU administrators further reflect the expectation of local control and university benefit from NYA aid. On separate occasions in 1936 and 1937 university administrators formally discussed the NYA. In the first round of discussions, Student Employment Director William S. Guthrie, a former member of the Ohio NYA staff, provided the most cogent summary of what was a central theme in these conversations. He remained “quite certain” that the universities would resist “any system of supervision” placing “any NYA official in authority over the operation of a college program.” He likewise hoped that the entire program could be simplified by having the government give each university a “lump sum” to distribute (between graduates and undergraduates) as it saw fit.
The 1937 discussions centered on the future of federal student aid. It is especially interesting because, in soliciting opinions from the other members of the NYA Executive Committee, J. L. Morrill asked whether Ohio State should even consider supporting NYA aid now that the Depression was apparently over. Morrill, like the Roosevelt administration, falsely assumed that the Depression was all but over. Still, the OSU administration supported continued NYA aid, as long as it remained to its benefit and under its basic control. The four NYA Executive Committee members who responded to Morrill’s inquiry (President Rightmire apparently stayed out of the discussion) were all in favor of continuing NYA aid. William H. Cowley argued that there were still many students in need of financial aid and that the removal of federal funds would be a “calamity” for the university. The other members concurred, with Guthrie and Stradley each stressing the need to democratize education by allowing more students the opportunity to attend state universities. Stradley suggested the federal government “might well consider [direct] aid to the institution as well as to the students.”
The committee also addressed what modifications might be made to the government program, including the well-worn idea of federal loans and/or scholarships. Again, the loan/scholarship idea met with resistance. W. H. Cowley argued that work by students was “immeasurably better” than scholarships or loans, partly because it created no administrative expense for the government. Others were less concerned with helping the federal government defray costs, but William Guthrie echoed the opinion that the “same decentralization” must exist in any future program so as to allocate “full authority to local officials….” The University Comptroller likewise opposed loans or grants. Bland L. Stradley was the only OSU administrator to go on record in favor of a loan program, which he apparently saw as a means to bring about greater “equalization of economic opportunity” for students.
The conclusions reached by the Ohio State committee members indicated that they saw federal aid to students as something that could continue beyond the Great Depression. Despite its general resistance to a loan program, the OSU administrators now saw the federal government as an ally in their attempts to provide an education to all deserving youth while also improving the university. Guthrie even suggested that perhaps the lack of adequate educational opportunities was a problem that had been “creeping upon us” for years and was “merely accentuated by the depression.” Others indicated that perhaps the federal government might grant more money to state universities because it was they, not private colleges, who were charged with providing equal opportunity in education. The OSU administration now saw a definite need for the federal government in higher education. It seems that when President Rightmire complained to the governor in 1935 that his institution was not “a favored child of the state” he was not yet fully aware of the possibilities that might come from a surrogate parent in Washington.
Other Ohio colleges did not produce as copious a set of administrative communiqués as Ohio State, but a similar process might have occurred at other state schools. Miami University President A.H. Upham reminded members of his faculty in 1939 that theirs was “a publicly-supported university” with “certain obligations which endowed colleges do not face,” to educate “the rank and file.” Although Upham referred to the intellectually marginal student by using the term “rank and file,” elsewhere he remarked that NYA funding enabled Miami to serve financially “marginal” students. Thus, there is evidence that Upham was also concerned with expanding the student base at Miami and that he may have seen federal student aid as a means of doing it. Similarly, Miami University NYA Director Charles T. Jenkins drafted an angry letter to NYA Director Aubrey Williams (which may never have been sent) complaining that money spent on the NYA’s out-of-school work program should go to colleges, reinforcing the idea that local control remained important for college administrators. At least one official at the municipal University of Cincinnati also expressed support for the long-term possibilities of NYA aid. James A. Quinn, professor of sociology and member of the university’s NYA committee, offered qualified support for the idea of making NYA aid a permanent program as early as 1936, so long as it avoided the “taint of relief.”
It should also be noted that the NYA’s much remarked on special fund for African American students remained noncontroversial at the few Ohio colleges that had a large enough African-American enrollment to participate. The “Special Negro Fund” provided colleges with the opportunity to apply for extra money outside of their normal allotment to aid African- American students who, NYA officials feared, would face discrimination from the colleges if they applied for aid from their institution’s normal allotment. This early form of affirmative action, the result of NYA Director Aubrey Williams’ commitment to racial equality and his inclusion of African-American leaders like Mary McLeod Bethune in NYA policymaking, certainly did not enable Ohio’s African-American population to gain equitable representation at colleges, but neither did it create much of a stir at participating institutions. NYA estimates from 1940–1941 show twenty African-American students in Ohio receiving aid from the “Special Negro Fund,” while about sixty-five African Americans were aided by general funds. The “Special Negro Fund” was symbolic of the beginnings of federal interest in educational civil rights, even if it did very little to change the racial disparity in American higher education.
State and municipal universities came to see the federal government as a possible ally in attempts to serve more students and improve their own facilities, but that was not always the case at private institutions. Apparently all eligible private colleges in Ohio participated in the programs, including Oberlin College, Xavier University, Wittenberg College, and Western Reserve University (now Case Western Reserve University). While some had serious reservations about federal-aid programs, a variety of factors explain their acceptance of federal support.
Oberlin College, an elite institution west of Cleveland with between 1,500 and 2,000 students during the 1930s, participated in both the FERA and NYA student-aid programs, but with distinct reservations. In October 1935, with the NYA program still only months old, Oberlin President Ernest H. Wilkins asked a number of his fellow presidents, mostly in similar institutions in the Northeast, for their opinions of the program, stating that Oberlin was “beginning to question seriously the advisability” of continuing with the program. Wilkins received a variety of responses, many of which indicated that they did not receive aid either because their students did not need it or because they questioned the wisdom of a federal program, which could only have added to Wilkins’ uneasiness.
Almost two years later Wilkins decided that Oberlin would no longer accept NYA aid. New NYA regulations for 1937–1938, that required colleges to do more to verify the actual needs of students receiving federal funds, triggered his decision. Wilkins initially informed the Ohio NYA office of his intention to withdraw from the program on September 7, 1937, because Oberlin would need to hire “a large number of credit agencies” and meddle in “private affairs” of the families to verify properly whether students actually needed NYA funds. Ohio NYA Director S. Burns Weston responded by explaining that while some institutions had indeed employed credit agencies in confirming information, it did not represent a requirement. The NYA regulations only stated that colleges and universities must verify student need “so far as possible to ascertain” (original emphasis), providing Oberlin with some wriggle room in certifying students. Weston also assured Wilkins that any information gathered would be confidential and that student applications would require no more personal information than “usually required by any college or university to which a student applies for a scholarship.”
The correspondence between Wilkins and Weston over the course of the next several weeks was a bureaucratic tennis match. Each of Weston’s returns, designed to convince the Oberlin president that his institution could indeed administer aid efficiently, cheaply, and within the letter of the law, met with a volley from Wilkins, who seemed caught in a moral dilemma between wanting to administer aid with little effort but also to stay within both the spirit and the letter of student certification regulations. Wilkins’s central point was that Oberlin could not possibly meet the standard of certification outlined in NYA regulations without invading the privacy of its students and creating an unacceptable amount of administrative work for his staff or, on the other hand, simply reducing the whole matter to a formality in which fraud could and would take place. The debate finally ended in late October when Weston finally convinced Wilkins and the college’s Prudential Committee that Oberlin could indeed meet the proper standard through a combination of simple measures, including getting a statement from the student and requiring references from persons such as high school principals or church pastors without asking the reference-givers whether the students’ estimate of their family income was accurate. The NYA continued to function at Oberlin College, aiding about sixty students for the 1937–1938 academic year.
Although President Wilkins had displayed sincere concerns over Oberlin College’s ability to administer NYA aid within regulations throughout his correspondence with that organization’s state office, his decision to continue the program might also have been influenced by the potential controversy brewing on his own campus. By Wilkins’ own admission, the need for aid among Oberlin students appeared much greater than he realized when Oberlin first announced its intention to withdraw from NYA aid in early September. The Oberlin administration had been careful to announce its “intention to replace the revised NYA program this year with a ‘work program’ of our own,” rather than simply withdrawing from the NYA without an alternative for needy students. Still, the potential for bad publicity proved real. Although the student newspaper had come out in favor of the new, university-sponsored aid plan and an attempt to organize a campus-wide student meeting about the problem had failed, the Oberlin Branch of the American Student Union still believed, according to its campus secretary, that “the decision of the Trustees of Oberlin College to refuse NYA funds and set up its own work program requires investigation.” Thus, Wilkins had good reason to explore every avenue before turning down NYA aid for the 1937–1938 school year lest he appear indifferent to the needs of his students or raise their ire. If the NYA had failed to make federal student aid attractive to Oberlin’s president, it had at least made it not easily dispensable.
A similar situation also existed at another Ohio private institution, Cleveland’s Western Reserve University. Its President Winfred G. Leutner, who oversaw a student population averaging around 4,000 full-time students and a slightly larger number of part-time students, supported and participated in the student-aid program, but had serious qualms about the position private universities would find themselves in if the program continued indefinitely. In a January 1940 letter to NYA Director Aubrey Williams he complained that he and his cohorts at other universities feared that, among other things, the student-aid program was unfair to students at private institutions because it paid them at the same rate as students at public institutions, who paid less tuition and already benefited from tax money spent on their colleges. Leutner’s statements closely echoed those of Western Reserve Comptroller S.F. Agnew. In 1939, Agnew worried that it was “penny wise and pound foolish” to support the indefinite continuance of the NYA because the short-term benefit the NYA program brought to the university by providing a labor force and keeping enrollment steady would be offset in the long run by making it tougher for WRU to compete with state institutions and because government “interference with business has taken away from the endowed institutions many times what it has returned” through the student-aid program. Clearly private institutions tended to be more wary of federal-aid programs than their public counterparts even if the flexible and decentralized nature of the FERA and NYA programs made them difficult to refuse.
The FERA and NYA college-aid programs convinced some college administrators of the utility of federal student aid while managing to quiet the dissent of others as the Depression continued. In that regard federal reformers forged a successful program which met their desire to keep young people in school and out of unemployment lines. The NYA also helped initiate a new relationship between the federal government and higher education by opening the eyes of college administrators to the potential benefits of a federal presence at colleges and universities. This is an important legacy that should not be overlooked. Still, the question remains as to why such a popular program, which is here credited with bringing to light the possibilities of a partnership between the federal government and higher education, did not survive World War II and become a permanent feature of American governance. On one level the answer is simple: anti-New Deal conservative legislators, emboldened by Republican gains in the midterm elections of 1942, combined with powerful lobbies, like the National Education Association and the American Vocational Association who opposed the NYA training programs for out-of-school youth but had little to do with the college-aid program, to stop funding of the NYA. However, this does not explain why the NYA college-aid program died a relatively quiet death, with little objection from college officials or students. The reasons for this becomes clearer when we examine certain weaknesses that kept the NYA from becoming fully integrated into the functioning of American colleges.
Many of the more ambitious proponents of the NYA college student-aid program, both on and off college campuses, hoped to create an educational role for the program equal to its value as a relief agency. The fact that such hopes were even conceivable reinforces the broadly popular idea of college student aid, but the program’s limited success in trying to further educational goals speaks volumes about the reasons the program would leave an indirect legacy rather than take permanent root.
The desire to make the student-aid program both an educational and relief program represented a consistent theme for NYA officials and their supporters at the colleges from an early point. Initial FERA regulations stipulated that students be put to work in tasks other than standard manual labor, and the goal of making student work as professionally oriented as possible only grew from there. In fact, the entire 1939 transfer of the NYA from a part of the WPA to the Federal Security Agency was justified by the fact that “[t]he NYA was no longer a purely relief organization” but engaged in training and educational functions. There is no doubt that many in Ohio also applied this to the college-aid programs. The University of Cincinnati’s James A. Quinn argued in 1936 that if a future existed for federal student aid the work would have to be “educational in nature.” Ohio NYA Director S. Burns Weston saw the entire NYA program as only “ostensibly” a relief program and relished the NYA’s ability to meet youth needs “in the fields of education, employment, and leisure time.” In accord with these ideas, the Ohio NYA commissioned a 1939 study of the Ohio University student-aid program with an eye toward its educational value, and Ohio State University’s own 1936 and 1937 reports on its program stressed the educational potential of student aid.
Both the Ohio University study and the Ohio State reports show that, despite the hopes of NYA proponents, the student-aid program had a limited impact on the educational experience of students. The two Ohio State reports, headed by University NYA Projects Committee chair William H. Cowley, reviewed the OSU program thoroughly—from the selection of students to the value of actual projects—and were almost entirely optimistic about the value of the NYA program itself. However, the reports make it evident that the NYA program had not been integrated into the educational curriculum. At the time of the first study almost 41 percent of undergraduate NYA recipients at Ohio State performed either clerical and office work or worked in a library or museum (which were unlikely to be related to particular curricula) and only 32 percent were employed at tasks most likely to have high educational value for particular academic majors (research assistants, laboratory assistants, readers and markers of papers, and community project participants). The remaining students (just under 27 percent) worked on unidentified, miscellaneous projects. Even if we assume that research assistants, graders, and community projects were always employed on a project directly applicable to their field of study (an unlikely assumption), the largest percentage of students still worked on projects not likely to be directly related to individual program curriculums. The 1936 Ohio State report conceded that most student workers probably did not attain a high degree of direct educational value from their NYA experience; however they contended that even students working at general clerical work learned skills, like stenography and typing, “that might have considerable economic value to them and which certainly are important personal assets.” The report added that the NYA program helped teach a professional work ethic and gave actual work experience even to those students engaged in projects with no direct educational value.
The second Ohio State report proved more positive about the value of NYA jobs, but it also revealed certain difficulties in trying to combine education with relief. Ohio State took great pains to make its projects educationally valuable and, in fact, 89 percent of student respondents to a survey said their NYA work was educational. However, more direct questions made it clear that the education received from these jobs would be likely to be indirect and not specific to particular courses of study. A majority of NYA students (63 percent) could relate their work to their courses in some manner, but just 42 percent thought NYA work helped them with their academic studies. While these numbers show a significant educational role for the NYA at Ohio State, the program still remained outside the basic curriculum. In fact, the report concluded that “the number of maintenance and routine clerical projects should be reduced.”
The fact that Ohio State had the resources and desire to make such an effort to combine relief and education made OSU a model NYA program, not the norm. The Ohio University study released in July 1939, commissioned and carried out by the Ohio NYA, found that the greatest problem with the NYA on campus was, in the words of Ohio University Dean of Women Irma E. Voigt, the lack of “greater coordination between campus project and student preparation or interest.” Voigt considered this a serious obstacle if NYA aid shifted from “an emergency relief measure to that of a permanent aid measure.”
The main feature of the survey itself was a questionnaire administered to “practically one hundred percent” of NYA students at Ohio University. The 274 students responded to 45 statements regarding the value of the NYA program and 10 more items regarding the supervision they received. The students had an overwhelmingly positive impression of the NYA program but found more value in the basic work experience provided them as opposed to the educational value of their NYA jobs. For instance, 87 percent of respondents agreed that their NYA job had helped them become “more conscious of the need to be careful and accurate” in their work and 81 percent said the program helped them learn “what it means to assume responsibilities.” On the other hand, a significantly lower 62 percent said their NYA job helped them “learn more about the important phases of a field of knowledge,” while 47 percent said “NYA work has made my class work more meaningful and interesting.”
The Ohio University survey, like the Ohio State reports, indicates positive feelings toward the NYA among students but limited educational value. One student’s suggestion that NYA work could be used for college credit intrigued the authors of the study, but no framework appeared in place to make such an idea a reality. In fact, the number of students who did work worthy of college credits was certainly limited. Ohio University’s own proposed work plan for the 1938–1939 year shows 21 projects listed as “clerical” work and only 21 listed as “research and survey” work. The number of undergraduates required for research and survey work was only 27, while 99 would be required for clerical projects. A few other types of projects required work that could be considered directly applicable to a student’s academic work, such as service for a particular department or laboratory assistance, but most could just as easily have been filled by a student with no particular experience or interest in the given field. Judging by the number of students engaged in general clerical work at Ohio University, it is likely that many of the 62 percent of students who said their NYA job helped them “learn more” about an “important … field of knowledge” were being generous toward the program. The sheer numbers of students employed in clerical positions indicates that it is unlikely that the majority of students actually gained experience they could apply directly to their future career.
The Ohio University survey concluded that “officials and professors at each University” needed to provide a “clearer definition of the specific objectives toward which program activities and supervision should be directed” to make the student-aid program more valuable as an educational tool. They were only half right. It seems that many Ohio college administrators, along with state NYA officials, wanted to make the college-aid program a tool of both relief and education, but their aim exceeded their grasp. The national headquarters of the NYA had no mandate to create a program which would radically alter the educational program at colleges and universities. In fact, any move toward requiring student-aid work to be educational or even part of the curriculum at colleges would have raised a whole new set of issues for the federal government and probably would have been a political misstep for the NYA. Administrations at both public and private institutions had come to either support or, at least, tolerate the federal student-aid program precisely because the decentralized nature of that program provided them with a chance to serve their own labor needs while also keeping their students in school. Any attempt to require NYA projects to be directly tied to a particular course of study could easily have been viewed as undue federal interference and likely would have raised serious questions as to whether students in a relief program deserved educational advantages over those not on relief. Thus, proponents of the NYA college-aid program as an educational tool, in both the NYA and at the colleges, had to work within the existing structure trying to maximize the educational and social utility of the actual work students performed. The authors of the Ohio University survey acknowledged that the idea that “schools and colleges should derive benefit from the assistance of students is accepted without question” even as they argued the idea that “the youth concerned should likewise benefit, not only financially but in other ways, is a view that is new to too many.” The NYA college student-aid program had become acceptable to some colleges and attractive to others, but its lack of a concrete educational function had prevented it from becoming indispensable to any.
This is not surprising that the NYA college student-aid program, like the NYA itself, did not survive World War II. As the prospect of war grew near and America shifted to defense preparation, the NYA began to move its resources away from colleges and towards training youth to work in defense industries. Although the NYA’s overall largest budget came in 1941, the colleges were not the beneficiaries. An estimated 188,000 college students received this aid at some point during the 1939–1940 academic year, but the college-aid problem was scaled back in the years to follow until only 45,000 received aid in 1942–1943.
Despite the best attempts of NYA Director Aubrey Williams and other supporters, the termination of the NYA came in 1943 when, as mentioned, the House of Representatives (but not the Senate) failed to appropriate its budget for the coming year. The New Deal era college student-aid program had ended. The federal presence would not, however, disappear from college campuses. During World War II the federal government continued to boost the population on campuses by using institutions of higher education to house and train draftees through programs like the Army Specialized Training Program, which counted some 140,000 student-soldiers by 1943. Likewise, it would not be long before debate began on the next major federal initiative in postsecondary education, the Servicesmen’s Readjustment Act of 1944—commonly called the G.I. Bill. The FERA and NYA college student-aid programs had marked a successful courtship period between two partners, the federal government and the colleges, that would now settle into a permanent marriage. The NYA itself had not become so integrated into college life and college curriculums to survive, but it had opened the door for a wartime and postwar federal presence on campuses.
The New Deal era, college student-aid programs did not radically alter the student population at American colleges. To be sure, they did help to democratize American higher education to a limited extent by, at their height, aiding nearly one in eight American full-time college students, some of whom went on to prominence that would not have been possible without NYA aid. One former University of Cincinnati NYA student even went on to become that university’s president, leading the school from the same building where he had once held an NYA job in alumni relations. However, the scope of the programs pale in comparison to the rapid expansion of American higher education in the second half of the twentieth century. The case of Ohio colleges and universities shows us that important, if subtle, changes were taking place in the relationship between institutions of higher education and the federal government during the Depression and early years of World War II.
Historian Richard Reiman argues that scholars have failed to fully appreciate the centrality of the National Youth Administration in the history of the New Deal. Reiman sees the NYA as “symptomatic of the success of the New Deal’s political style” but indicative of “the poverty of its long-term vision.” The story of the college student-aid program in Ohio confirms the first part of Reiman’s assertion but calls into question the second. The college student-aid program in Ohio proved to be politically successful, as evidenced by the broad support it drew from college students and administrators at public colleges as well as the sometimes grudging acceptance at private institutions. Despite the eventual demise of the program, however, it did have a notable, long-term influence on American colleges. The college student-aid programs instituted under FERA and the NYA convinced college administrations that the federal government could be an ally in meeting their needs and those of their students. Although the New Deal student-aid programs failed to make a permanent place for themselves in America’s colleges and universities, the experience of them had paved the way for the greatly expanded role the federal government would play in American higher learning after World War II.
Kevin P. Bower is an Assistant Professor in the Department of History at James Madison University. He would like to thank the Charles Phelps Taft Memorial Fund at the University of Cincinnati for financial assistance in researching this article. Thanks also to Roger Daniels for his criticism and suggestions as well as the editors and anonymous reviewers of the History of Education Quarterly.
1 President Franklin D. Roosevelt, “Presidential Statement on the Establishment of the National Youth Administration,” June 26, 1935, in The Public Papers and Addresses of Franklin D. Roosevelt, volume 4, The Court Disapproves, 1935 ed. Samuel I. Rosenman (New York: Random House, 1938), 281–282.
2 Anthony J. Badger, The New Deal: The Depression Years, 1933–1940 (New York: Hill and Wang, 1989), 207. David O. Levine, The American College and the Culture of Aspiration, 1915–1940 (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1986), 197–198, 201. The NYA aided about 1.5 million high school students between 1935 and 1943. Federal Security Agency, War Manpower Commission, Final Report of the National Youth Administration, Fiscal Years 1936–1943 (Washington, D.C.: United States Government Printing Office, 1944), 54,
3 Levine, American College and the Culture of Aspiration, 26–32.
4 Final Report of the National Youth Administration, 47–48. Levine, American College and the Culture of Aspiration, 196.
5 Levine, American College and the Culture of Aspiration, 196–197.
6 Final Report of the National Youth Administration, 240. Perry H. Merrill, Roosevelt’s Forest Army: A History of the Civilian Conservation Corps, 1933–1942 (Montpelier, VT: Perry H. Merrill, 1981), 196.
7 John A. Salmond, A Southern Rebel: The Life and Times of Aubrey Willis Williams, 1890–1965 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1983), 74.
8 Olag Steiglitz offers a similar analysis of how New Deal historians treat the NYA in his “New Deal Programmes for Youth: Recent Historiography and Future Research” in The Roosevelt Years: New Perspectives on American History, 1933–1945 eds. Robert A. Garson and Stuart Kidd (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 1999), 42–55. For general works on the New Deal that fit this pattern see: Badger, The New Deal: The Depression Years, 207–208. Robert S. McElvaine, The Great Depression: America, 1929–1941 (New York: Times Books, 1993), 190–191, 265. For works on American education see: Herbert M. Kliebard, Schooled to Work: Vocationalism and the American Curriculum, 1876–1946 (New York: Teachers College Press, 1999), 175–209. Dominic W. Moreo, Schools in the Great Depression (New York: Garland Publishing, Inc., 1996), 136, 144. An exception is: Richard A. Reiman, The New Deal and American Youth: Ideas and Ideals in a Depression Decade (Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1992).
9 Final Report of the National Youth Administration, 27.
10 Reiman, The New Deal and American Youth, 183, 184, 187.
11 James E. Pollard, History of the Ohio State University: The Story of its First Seventy-Five Years, 1873–1948 (Columbus: Ohio State University Press, 1952), 311–313. W.H. Cowley, “NYA Student Aid Program at the Ohio State University, Columbus,” March 5, 1936, 29. NA, RG 119, #330, box 123. Sixty-Fifth Annual Report of the Board of Trustees of the Ohio State University to the Governor of Ohio for the year ending June 30, 1935 (Columbus: Ohio State University, 1935), 14–17, 167. “University Facing Serious Crisis if State Legislature Fails to Act, “Ohio State Lantern, September 25, 1935.
12 U.S. Department of Commerce, Bureau of the Census, Historical Statistics of the United States: Colonial Times to 1970, Part 1, Chapters A-M (White Plains, NY: Kraus International Publications, reprint 1989), 383, Series H, 700–715.
13 Ohio University Annual Reports for 1930–1931 and 1933–1934. Ohio University Archives [hereafter OUA], Athens, Ohio. Western Reserve University Bulletin, Reports of the President and Officers, 1930–1931 and 1933–1934. Case Western Reserve University Archives, classification #10A, Box 3, 4.
14 Reiman, New Deal and American Youth, 63, 68.
15 Letter from Harry L. Hopkins, FERA Administrator, to state emergency relief administrations, July 3, 1934. Ohio State University Archives [hereafter OSU Archives], George Washington Rightmire Papers (RG 3/8/23/3), folder titled “Federal Emergency Relief Administration, 1934.” The requirement for gender equity was not normally seen in the 1930s. Its derivation remains a mystery and it is rarely, if ever, noted in histories of the period. The original FERA program at the national level was to have included a clause requiring colleges to waive tuition for students receiving federal aid. Some colleges, however, refused to go along with the idea and FERA regulations were changed to simply ask that colleges lower tuition for FERA students. Reiman, New Deal and American Youth, 71.
16 Information on tuition costs at Ohio State University from 1935 comes from compilations of the Ohio State University Archives staff. The cost includes incidental fee, matriculation fee, Ohio Union fee, physical education fee, medical services fee, and library fee. A $50 nonresident fee was added for students who were not residents of Ohio. The OSU Archives, Information Files, “Fees (tuition) 1874–1975.”
17 Reiman convincingly argues that government officials were fully aware that the program would benefit both students and universities. Reiman, New Deal and American Youth, 68.
18 Resolution to FERA from Ohio Colleges, dated 8/31/34. Ernest H. Wilkins Papers, Oberlin College Archives hereafter OC Archives, Group 2/7, Special Matters Related to FERA, Box 88. The examples cited in the letter mentioned Oberlin College, Ohio State University, Ohio Wesleyan University, and Wooster College as institutions where men needed more aid than women.
19 Oberlin College did object to the changes, see pages 19–22. Ernest H. Wilkins Papers, OC Archives, Special Matters: Oberlin (2/7), Box 90.
20 Reiman, New Deal and American Youth, 32. Weston quote from: S. Burns Weston, “Youth in the Balance,” June 12, 1941, 5. NA, RG 119, # 8, box 2.
21 Walter J. Greenleaf, U.S. Office of Education, quoted in: “The Federal Student Aid Plan at Work in Ohio Colleges and Universities,” March 1936, No. 2, Issued by the Student Aid Office of the State Relief Commission of Ohio, W.A. Walls, Executive Director, 1. E.H. Wilkins Papers, OC Archives, Special Matters: FERA (2/7), Box 88.
22 “The Federal Student Aid Plan at Work in Ohio Colleges and Universities,” 2, 3.
23 W.H. Cowley, “FERA Student Aid Program at Ohio State University,” October 23, 1934, 1–2. George Washington Rightmire Papers, OSU Archives, (RG 3/f/23/2). “University of Cincinnati, Report of the President, 1934–1935,” “Business Administration of the University,” submitted by Vice President Daniel Laurence, 168. Letter from A.H. Upham to C.T. Jenkins, July 12, 1934. MU Archives, folder marked “Charles T. Jenkins, NYA Coordinator.” Letter from AH Upham to Jenkins, July 23, 1934. Miami University Archives, folder marked Charles T. Jenkins, NYA Coordinator.
24 “The Federal Student Aid Plan at Work in Ohio Colleges and Universities,” 16.
25 Reports about the FERA and NYA on campus were common in a number of the student newspapers surveyed. A few examples of coverage of the NYA on campus include: “NYA Grant Aids Many U. Students,” The Campus Collegian, University of Toledo, September 27, 1935, 1. “295 Receive NYA Service Grants Here,” The Campus Collegian, University of Toledo, September 25, 1936, 1. “Roosevelt to Continue NYA Program If He Is Reelected,” The Campus Collegian, University of Toledo, October 23, 1936, 2. “480 Get NYA Jobs as Readjustment Increases Funds,” Ohio State Lantern, January 7, 1936, 1. “NYA Replaces FERA; Student Aid Continued,” Miami Student, September 17, 1935, 1. “C.T. Jenkins Distributes 321 NYA Positions,” Miami Student, September 25, 1936, 1. For positive editorials on the NYA see: “NYA Must Continue,” Ohio State Lantern, May 19, 1936, 2 (quoted in text). “Continue the NYA,” Miami Student, May 18, 1937, 2. “NYA on Trial?,” Cincinnati News Record, October 26, 1938, 2.
26 “NYA Workers Approve Proposal of Youth Act,” Cincinnati Bearcat, March 25, 1936. U.S. Representative Byron B. Harlan quoted in: “Congressman’s Help Promised For NYA Work,” Miami Student, May 29, 1936, 1.
27 “NYA Workers Approve Proposal of Youth Act,” Cincinnati Bearcat, March 25, 1936, 1. “NYA Finances 500 Students in University,” Cincinnati News Record (formerly Cincinnati Bearcat), October 10, 1936. “Workers Meet to Reorganize NYA Program,” Cincinnati News Record, December 9, 1936.
28 “The Federal Student Aid Plan at Work in Ohio Colleges and Universities,” 2. For information on the National Student Federation of America see: George Rawick, “The New Deal and Youth: The Civilian Conservation Corps, The National Youth Administration, and the American Youth Congress,” (Ph.D. diss., University of Wisconsin, 1957), 279.
29 Rawick, “The New Deal and Youth,” 350. For background on the American Youth Act see Rawick, 325–329. Background on the American Youth Congress from Reiman, New Deal and American Youth, 42–43.
30 Letter from A.H. Upham to Harry Hopkins, November 28, 1934. Upham was secretary of NASU and had been asked to send a supportive resolution to Hopkins. Letter from A.H. Upham to Hopkins, March 26, 1935 with accompanying resolution from Ohio colleges dated March 1, 1935. MU Archives, A.H. Upham Papers, box 18.
31 Letter from H.E. Simmons et. al. to Richard Brown, Deputy Executive Director of the NYA, June 29, 1937. Other examples of Ohio colleges lobbying in favor of the NYA exist. For instance, the administrations at both Miami University and Ohio State University at different times lobbied for the continuation of NYA aid. Telegram from George W. Rightmire to Congressmen Jedd Johnson and Clifton Woodrum, May 27, 1937. George W. Rightmire Papers, RG 3/f/35/15. Letter from U.S. Senator Robert J. Bulkley to Upham, May 28, 1937. Letter from Congressmen Byron B. Harlan to Upham, May 28, 1937. A.H. Upham Papers, Miami University Archives, box 18.
32 Letter from J.L. Morrill to George W. Rightmire, December 4, 1935. Letter from J.L. Morrill to J.A. Meckstroth, December 13, 1934. George Washington Rightmire Papers, OSU Archives (RG 3/f/23/2). Although Vice President Morrill shares a last name and set of initials with Justin L. Morrill of the Morrill Land Grant Act of 1862, which provided for the creation of land grant colleges like Ohio State, the two apparently were not related.
33 Letter from B.L. Stradley to J.L. Morrill, January 7, 1937. James Lewis Morrill Papers, OSU Archives (RG 3/f-2/8).
34 “Replies of Presidents of National Association of State Universities to Questionnaire on Continuation of Federal Student Job Program,” April 1935. James Lewis Morrill Paper, Ohio State University Archives (RG 3/f-2/8). Note: Nine of the forty-five presidents did not give a definitive yes or no answer. Two other Ohio college presidents voted. Miami University President A.H. Upham agreed with Rightmire in both voting for the continuation of the program and against federal loans. Ohio University Acting President E.W. Chubb voted for both continuing the program and for a loan program.
35 Letter from Spencer A. Larsen to George Rightmire, August 4, 1936. Letter from J.L. Morrill to Larsen, August 12, 1936. George W. Rightmire Papers, OSU Archives (RG 3/f/35/15).
36 “University Will Be Hurt If NYA Dropped,” The Ohio State Lantern, May 19, 1936.
37 Letter from B.L. Stradley to J.L. Morrill, December 2, 1936. Letter from William S. Guthrie to Morrill, December 3, 1936. Letter from W.H. Cowley to Morrill, December 3, 1936. James Lewis Morrill Papers, OSU Archives (RG 3/f-2/8).
38 Guthrie to Morrill, December 3, 1936. J.L. Morrill Papers, OSU Archives (RG 3/f-2/8).
39 Letter from J.L. Morrill to members of the Ohio State University NYA Executive Committee. James Lewis Morrill Papers, OSU Archives (RG 3/f-2/8), December 31, 1936.
40 W.H. Cowley to to J.L. Morrill, January 11, 1937. William S. Guthrie to Morrill, January 11, 1937. B.L. Stradley to Morrill, January 7, 1937. University Comptroller Chas. A. Kuntz to Morrill, undated. The text of Kuntz’ letter makes it clear he was responding to the same letter as Cowley, Guthrie, and Stradley. James Lewis Morrill Papers, OSU Archives (RG 3/f-2/8).
41 Cowley to Morrill, January 11, 1937. Guthrie to Morrill, January 11, 1937. Kuntz to Morrill, undated. Stradley to Morrill. January 7, 1937. James Lewis Morrill Papers, OSU Archives (RG 3/f-2/8).
42 Cowley to Morrill, January 11, 1937. Cowley suggested that a plan could be devised to determine the financial need of students on a university-by-university basis because he believed students in state universities needed more aid than those in private institutions. Guthrie to Morrill, January 11, 1937. James Lewis Morrill Papers, OSU Archives (RG 3/f-2/8).
43 Rightmire from Sixty-Fifth Annual Report … of the Ohio State University, 1935, 15.
44 A.H. Upham’s speech as reported in Miami University, Report to the Board of Trustees, 1939–1940, Report of the Dean of the College of Liberal Arts, 2. A.H. Upham to Harry E. Rabe, December 1, 1936. A.H. Upham Papers, MU Archives, box 18.
45 Charles T. Jenkins to Aubrey Williams, November 18, 194?. The date on the handwritten letter is obscured, but the text mentions Jenkins serving as Miami’s federal student aid administrator for seven years, so the year was probably 1940 or 1941. The letter is sloppily hand-written and no typed version is in the file. AH Upham Papers, MU Archives, box 18. James A. Quinn quoted in The University of Cincinnati News Record, March 25, 1936.
46 It appears that Ohio State, Cincinnati, Wilberforce, and Western Reserve universities participated in the program at various times. It is important to note that all but Wilberforce were in urban areas. Wilberforce is a historically African- American college and did receive general funds from the NYA. Wilberforce also had an NYA resident training center attached to the college. NA, RG 119, #116, box 4. “Approximate Number Negro Youth Employed on College and Graduate and Special Negro Fund for Fiscal Year, 1940–1941. NA, RG 119, #115, box 3. Letter from Dillard B. Lasseter to Leo B. Jacobs, October 7, 1941. NA, RG 119, #44, box 2. For general information on the Special Negro Fund see: Salmond, A Southern Rebel, 126–127, 135 and Carol A. Weisenberger, Dollars and Dreams: The National Youth Administration in Texas (New York: Peter Lang, 1994), 131.
47 Information on Ohio colleges from 1939–1940 academic year. NA, RG 119, #195, box 2.
48 Ernest H. Wilkins wrote to the presidents of: Wheaton, Haverford, Wells, Bennington, Sarah Lawrence, Harvard, Yale, Swarthmore, and Bryn Mawr. Specific letter quoted is Wilkins to Robert D. Leigh of Bennington College, October 23, 1935. E.H. Wilkins Papers, OC Archives, Group 2/7, Special Matters: Oberlin, Box 90.
49 The responses Wilkins received can be found in: E.H. Wilkins Papers, OC Archives, Group 2/7, Box 90.
50 Ernest H. Wilkins to Harry E. Rabe, Ohio Supervisor of Student Aid, September 7, 1937. S. Burns Weston to Ernest H. Wilkins, September 24, 1937. Ernest H. Wilkins Papers, OC Archives, Group 2/7. Special Matters: Oberlin, Box 90. The delay in Weston’s response resulted from his absence while on vacation.
51 Weston to Wilkins, September 27, 1937. Wilkins to Weston, October 7, 1937. Wilkins to Weston, October 13, 1937. Weston to Wilkins, October 22, 1937. Memo “Oberlin College and the NYA in September and October, 1937.” Dated November 1, 1937, written by Wilkins. Ernest H. Wilkins Papers, OC Archives, Group 2/7, Special Matters: Oberlin, Box 90. “Prudential Committee Alters NYA Stand After Receiving Information From Board,” Oberlin Review, October 30, 1937, 1.
52 “T.E.C Begins College Work Program to Replace NYA,” Oberlin Review, September 28, 1937, 1. “O.C. Rejects NYA Meet on Campus,” Oberlin Review, October 12, 1937, 1. “Squelched Squawk,” (editorial) Oberlin Review, October 12, 1937, 2. “ASU Asks Explanation of Petition,” Oberlin Review, October 15, 1937, 1. Letter to the editor, from Lew Wechsler, Oberlin Review, October 15, 1937, 2.
53 Winfred G. Leutner to Aubrey Williams, January 16, 1940. S. F. Agnew to Winfred G. Leutner, May 6, 1939. Papers of Winfred G. Leutner, Case Western Reserve University Archives (16B8, 21:1).
54 NEA head Willard E. Givens to State Education Association presidents, May 27, 1943. Aubrey Williams to Givens, June 17, 1943. Givens to Williams, June 22, 1943. Aubrey Williams Papers, Franklin D. Roosevelt Library, General File folder, Folder titles “Williams, Aubrey. General Files, 1943, Schools- Attacks on NYA program by NEA, AVA, American Association of School Administrators, and Chambers of Commerce. Educational Policies Commission of the National Education Association, The Civilian Conservation Corps, The National Youth Administration, and the Public Schools (Washington: National Education Association of the United States and the American Association of School Administrators, 1941), 5–6, 8–25. Kliebard, Schooled to Work, 203, 207–208.
55 Weisenberger, Dollars and Dreams, 29, 38–39.
56 Final Report of the National Youth Administration 50. FERA Administrator Harry Hopkins to State Emergency Relief Administrations, July 3, 1934. George Washington Rightmire Papers, OSU Archives, RG 3/8/23/3. Reiman discusses this stipulation with more depth. Reiman, New Deal and American Youth, 72–73.
57 Final Report of the National Youth Administration, 27. James A. Quinn as quoted in: “NYA Workers Approve Proposal of Youth Act,” Cincinnati Bearcat, March 25, 1936, 1. S. Burns Weston to Richard R. Brown, March 12, 1936, 6. NA, RG 119, #51, box 25. National Youth Administration in Ohio, “An Evaluation of the NYA Student Aid Program at Ohio University, Athens, Ohio,” Written under the supervision of Joseph H. Pataky, Adviser on Program in Research Evaluation, July 1, 1939. NA, RG 119, #330, box 120. W.H. Cowley, “NYA Student Aid Program at the Ohio State University, Columbus,” March 5, 1936. NA, RG 119, #330, box 123.
58 W.H. Cowley, “NYA Student Aid Program at Ohio State University, Columbus,” March 5, 1936, 19, 27. NA, RG 119, #330, box 123.
59 W.H. Cowley, “A Study of NYA Projects at the Ohio State University,” (Washington: The National Youth Administration, 1937), 56–57, 95.
60 Irma E. Voigt in preface to: “An Evaluation of the NYA Student Aid Program at Ohio University, Athens, Ohio.” NA, RG 119, #330, box 120.
61 “An Evaluation of the NYA Student Aid Program at Ohio University, Athens, Ohio,” 2–3, 10–11. NA, RG 119, #330, box 120.
62 “An Evaluation of the NYA Student Aid Program at Ohio University, Athens, Ohio,” 44. NA, RG 119, #330, box 120. “National Youth Administration, Proposed Work Plan College, and Graduate Aid,” Dated September 12, 1938. Herman James Papers. Ohio University Archives, Box 9, folder 4.
63 “An Evaluation of the NYA Student Aid Program at Ohio University, Athens, Ohio,” 40–41. NA, RG 119, #330, box 120.
64 Reiman provides statistics on the overall NYA budget, The New Deal and American Youth, 180. College program stats from Final Report of the National Youth Administration, 54.
65 Salmond, A Southern Rebel, 159–160.
66 John Morton Blum, V Was for Victory: Politics and American Culture During World War II (San Diego: Harvest/Harcourt Brace Jovanovich Publishers, 1976), 142–143.
67 Keith W. Olson tells us that planning for the re-settlement of veterans began almost as soon as the United States entered World War II. President Roosevelt signed it into law on June 22, 1944. Keith W. Olson, The G.I. Bill, The Veterans, and the Colleges (Lexington: University of Kentucky Press, 1974), 3–17. The idea of rewarding veterans by providing them an education was not a new one, similar proposals followed World War I. Roger Daniels, The Bonus March: An Episode of the Great Depression (Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Publishing Corporation, 1971), 25–26.
68 Interview with former University of Cincinnati President Henry Winkler, conducted by the author, December 2, 2002 and in author’s possession. Professor Winkler is currently President Emeritus of the University of Cincinnati as well as Emeritus Professor of History at the University of Cincinnati and Rutgers University. He was president at the University of Cincinnati from 1977–1984.
69 Reiman, The New Deal and American Youth, 183.
By: Kevin P. Bower