This post reviews Robert Hampel, “The Business of Education: Home Study at Columbia University and the University of Wisconsin in the 1920s and 1930s.” in Teachers College Record 112, no. 9 (September 2010): 2496-2517.
Hampel, a professor at the University of Delaware and respected colleague, here provides a fascinating look at a once popular but now largely forgotten form of education that was based in the home. In the early 20th century millions of Americans enrolled in all sorts of programs by correspondence. Most of them enrolled in classes with for-profit companies who often promised the moon, used aggressive recruitment strategies, and played hardball if you failed to make payments. But several thousands of Americans also took study-at-home courses from the nation’s universities. In earlier work Hampel has given us fine history of the for-profit companies. Here he looks at the universities.