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his age is added to the freshman table of that class as though he had entered three years earlier as a freshman.

"As 73 men were admitted to advanced standing this year, you can readily see that the chance of change in the average is very strong.




From what I

have said you will see that the present figures for 1888, 1989, and 1890 will change slightly until the classes of '92, 93, and '94 have been graduated."

Prior to 1873 the catalogues of Harvard do not show the presence in the undergraduate department of students who had already taken the A. B. degree at some other college. In 1873 three such students were enrolled in the senior class, but the year when such degrees were received is not given until the year 1887. In order to show the number of such students in the different classes a rigid examination of the catalogues has been made, with the following results:

1873. Senior class. 3.

1874. Senior, 2; junior, 2.

1875. Senior, 5; junior, 1.

1876. Senior, 7.

1877. Senior, 5; junior, 1.

1878. Senior, 1; sophomore, 1. 1879. Not noted.

1880. Senior, 2.

1881. Senior, 6; junior 6.

1882. Senior, 9; junior, 6; sophomore, 1. 1883. Senior, 8; junior, 4; sophomore, 1. 1884. Senior 15; junior, 4.

1885. Senior, 8; junior, 6.

1886. Senior, 8; junior, 1; sophomore, 1.

1887. Senior, 1 (1883); 4 (185); 3 (1886); 1 (1887). 1888. Senior, 2 (1887); 6 (1888); junior, 2 (1887); 4 (1888); sophomore. 1 (1885); 1 (1886). 1889. Senior, 1 (1880); 1 (1886); 2 (1887); 5 (1888); 4 (1889): junior, 1 (1887); 3 (1889); sophomore, 1 (1889).

1890. Senior, 2 (1887); 4 (1888); 7 (1889); 14 (1890); junior, 1 (1883); 1 (1887); 1 (1890); sophomore, 1 (1889).

The figures from 1873 to 1886, inclusive, have not much significance beyond giving the number of such students, inasmuch as the years when the students had received the A. B. degree are not given. In order to show to what an extent the aggregate age of the Harvard freshman classes are raised by the methods of computation employed by that institution, let us examine into the probable ages of students who had received the A. B. degree and were members of the senior class in 1889-90. By looking at the table above given we find that a member of that class had received his A. B. degree in 1880. Supposing that he was 22 years of age when he received his degree he would have been 31 years old when he entered the senior class of Harvard. According to the method of computation there, as given by the secretary, his age as a freshman at Harvard is used as 28 years, when really he was a freshman at some other institution ten years before and had never been in the Harvard freshman class. By means of such methods thirty-four years were ad led to the total of the ages of members of this freshman class by taking the ages of students who had already received the degree of A. B. elsewhere. In our investigations no note was made of students who had received a degree other than A. B. Of these there are quite a number; there are also students who had not taken a degree, but were admitted to advanced standing. Some idea of the number of such students in the different classes may be formed from the fact that in 1890 seventy-three students were admitted to advanced standing, while the catalogue shows the presence of but thirty-one students in the college who had already received the degree of A. B. at some other institution. The number of such students entering the undergraduate department of Harvard is constantly increasing, and this fact will of course have the tendency to continually increase the average age of the freshman classes as this is now being computed. Nor is it likely that a large number of the graduates who thus raise the age will ever pursue the study of either law or medicine, but are merely pursuing liberal studies and very likely fitting themselves to teach. Speaking of these students, the dean of the graduate school of Harvard says: “Â large proportion of these students should properly be classed in the graduate school; but many of them have elected to enter the undergraduate department in order to avail themselves of Price Greenleaf aid and of scholarships which can be given only to students of the college."

From the above statement of the dean it would appear that these students are not actuated so much by the desire to obtain the Harvard A. B. as by the desire to receive Harvard aid for the purpose of pursuing post-graduate studies, and it seems that such students should not be included in the computations. The real average age of a freshman class is the average obtained from the ages while they are freshmen, and the average age of a senior c ass should be obtained by adding the ages of the members of the class and dividing it by the number of members in the class, and not by adding four years to the average age of the freshman class, for a sufficient number of students might have been dropped to change

materially the average age. From these statements and explanations it will be seen that in comparing the age of the Harvard freshman class with that of other institutions it must be borne in mind that the methods of computation employed by Harvard are different from those generally used, and the result does not represent the age of the freshman class as such.

Having shown that the increase in the average age of freshmen during at least the last decade is not general, as proved by the facts collected from the colleges throughout the country, we will now proceed to set forth the views of the most prominent educators upon the length of the college course and the propriety of reducing it. In collecting these expressions of opinion, an effort has been made to present it from every point of view. It is a matter of great regret that the opinions from the smaller institutions are so few. This is owing to the very small number of such institutions that publish the annual reports of their presidents. It is in these reports, and not in the general reports or catalogues, that remarks and recommendations upon subjects pertaining to general college matters are as a rule found.


The first remarks of President Eliot of Harvard on this subject appear in his annual report for 1885-86, where he calls attention to the comparatively advanced age at which graduates of colleges and scientific schools begin the study of medicine. In connection with this subject he says: "The average age at which Harvard graduates get the degree of A. B. is about 22 years and 7 months. If such bachelors of arts then spend four years in the study of medicine, they are 26 years and 7 months old when they are ready to begin the practice of their profession. The faculty consider this unreasonable postponement of entrance into practice a serious evil, which it is their duty to combat, since more than half of their students-and that much the best half-are graduates of colleges or scientific schools. They therefore laid before the aca lemic council in June last a plan for the abridgment of the college course by those students who go from college directly into one of the professional schools of the university."

The medical faculty proposed that the first-year studies of the medical school be counted, under certain conditions, for the degree of A. B., which proposal was concurred in by the law faculty. This would have resulted in shortening the college course by one year for students who should pursue their professional studies to the full limit in the Harvard schools. The general subject of shortening the college course was then (December, 1887) submitted to a committee of nine professors, appointed by the president, who were to consider the subject in all its relations. No report seems to have been made by the board when President Eliot made his annual report for 1888-89, in which he again says: "Wherever the fault and whatever the remedy, it is clear that the degree of bachelor of arts is taken in the United States later than in any other country in which the degree is used, and too late for the best interests of the individuals who aspire to it and of the institutions which confer it."

On account of the pressure of other matters the college faculty was unable to give this subject full consideration until the year 1889-90, when eighteen meetings of the faculty, from November to March, were spent in its discussion. At last, March 25, 1890, the following was communicated to the president and fellows by vote (not unanimous) of the faculty:


The faculty desires to modify its present regulations in accordance with the following propositions:

"1. That the requirements for the degree of bachelor of arts be expressed under suitable regulations with regard to length of residence and distribution of work, in terms of courses of study satisfactorily accomplished.

2. That the number of courses required for the degree be sixteen.

"3. That when a student enters college there shall be placed to his credit, towards satisfying the foregoing requirements of sixteen courses, (1) any advanced studies on which he has passed in his admission examination beyond the number required for admission and (2) any other college studies which he has anticipated.

"4. That a student may be recommended for the degree of bachelor of arts in the middle as well as at the end of the academic year.

"In case the measures here proposed shall be adopted, it is the purpose of the faculty to encourage the anticipation of college studies by students at the time of their admission and to facilitate the attainment of the degree of bachelor of arts in less than four years.

"The faculty further proposes to advise parents and teachers that eighteen years is a suitable age for entering Harvard College."

A comparison of these propositions with the present requirements for the degree of bachelor of arts shows that, though the faculty does not, in so many words, advocate the reduction of the course from four to three years, it proposes by a slight reduction in the requirements to make it possible for close or diligent students to attain the degree in three years. The requirements for the degree at present are 18.2 courses and in three years the student completes at least 14.2 courses; so that, if the proposition to reduce the requirements to sixteen courses should be adopted and the conditions should remain the same, the student will complete the course in about three and one-half years, though, by anticipating some studies or by taking extra courses, as is frequently done even now, hard-working students would be enabled to complete the course in three years. It is to be remarked, however, that, although under the present conditions it is possible for students to complete the course in three years, very few have thus far accomplished it. According to the report of the dean of Harvard College for the year 1889-90 the number so completing the course during the last ten years was twenty-seven,' ten of whom graduated in 1890.

In the same report the dean says: "Among the great mass of the present students there is unquestionably a sentiment in favor of the traditional four years' course. If it should be made possible by moderate exertion to graduate in three years, there is nothing in the present attitude of the students to indicate that the majority would restrict their liberal training to this three years' minimum, any more than they are disposed to confine themselves to the minimum requirement of courses in any year. And these facts may well reassure those who fear that a general lowering of the standard of education would result from the adoption of the faculty's proposals." Another point that the dean emphasizes is that even if the course be reduced as proposed the standard of the degree will still be considerably higher than it was twenty years ago.

At the meeting of the Board of Overseers, October 8, 1890, the committee, to whom these propositions had been referred, submitted its report-only a qualified approval of the suggested changes-which was laid over for future action. The following are the principal recommendations made by the committee:

"Voted, That the Board of Overseers concurs with the corporation in the approval of the fourth proposal of the college faculty that a student may be recommended for the degree of bachelor of arts in the middle as well as at the end of the academic year.

"Voted, That the Board of Overseers concurs with the corporation in its approval of the third proposal of the college faculty, provided it be amended by striking out the words 'the foregoing requirement of sixteen courses' and substituting therefor the words 'the requirements for the degree of bachelor of arts;' so that it shall read as follows: 'That when a student enters college there shall be placed to his credit towards satisfying the requirements for the degree "of bachelor of arts any advanced studies on which he has passed in his admission examination beyond the number required for admission and any other college studies which he has anticipated.'

Voted, That the Board of Overseers does not concur with the corporation in its approval of the first and second proposals of the college faculty: that the requirements for the degree of A. B. be expressed under suitable regulations with regard to length of residence and distribution of work in terms of courses of study satisfactorily accomplished; that the number of courses required for the degree be sixteen.

Voted, That the Board of Overseers recommends the modification of the present regulations of the college faculty in accordance with the following proposition: That a senior intending to enter the medical school and to take the full four years' course therein may, under proper supervision, include in the requirements for the degree of bachelor of arts the courses on physiology and anatomy required in the first year of the medical school, each of said courses to count as one full elective course."

The committee thinks that if any time is lost it is in the preparatory schools, where considerable attention is given to athletics, etc.

The Board of Overseers, at a meeting in April, 1891, finally decided to reject all the proposals of the faculty.

1 This includes, of course, only those students who entered as freshmen and completed the course in three years.


Andrew D. White, LL. D., in an article entitled "The future of American universities." published in the North American Review for October, 1890, urges the reorganization of our college and university system. He calls attention to the very large number of colleges and universities in this country, especially to the number of small colleges with still smaller endowments, which possess all the powers of universities'. Although Dr. White does not expressly recommend the shortening of the college course, his plan for the reorganization of cur university system would nevertheless accomplish that purpose, as well as reduce the age of college graduates. His plan is as follows:

"Let institutions of small endowment, whether called colleges or universities, frankly take their rightful positions: let them stop claiming to do work which their authorities know well that they can not accomplish in competition with the largely endowed universities. Let them accept the situation and begin their freshman year two years earlier than the present freshman year at most of the better colleges; that is, let them put their roots down into the great publicschool system of the country and draw copiously from it. A course of instruction thus formed would begin with the beginning of the higher arithmetic, algebra, geometry, the principal modern languages, the elements of the natural sciences, and, for those who wish to study them, one or more of the ancient languages.

"Next, let this course in the intermediate college be continued up to the point which is at present reached. as a rule, in our colleges and universities of a good grade at the beginning of the junior year. After its four years' work, let the college bestow its diplomas or certificates upon its graduating classes and then let those who desire it be admitted into the universities upon the presentation of these certificates and diplomas.

"Next, as to the universities. In these let there be courses of advanced study, general, professional, or technical, covering, we will say, three years, and graduating men into the various professions."

According to this plan the degree of bachelor would be received two years earlier than it is at the present time. But let us see what effect this would have upon the significance of the degrees. At the present time some of the large institutions that confer the degree of doctor of philosophy demand three years of study after receiving the bachelor's degree and none demand less than two years; while, according to Dr. White's plan, but one year's study in addition to the time now required for the bachelor's degree would suffice for the attainment of the PH. D. degree.


Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, Md., has for some time been maintaining courses of study leading to the degree of bachelor of arts and which were designed to be completed in three years. In view of this fact, it might easily be expected that President Gilman would be an enthusiastic advocate of the shorttening of the college curriculum, but, as will be seen, he is very conservative on this subject. In an article entitled "Shortening the college curriculum," published in the Educational Review for January, 1831, he says:

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No general conclusion can be quickly reached on such a question. It must be settled in each institution according to its own circumstare s. It must be tried in the local court before it is submitted to the court of appeals; that is, to the public. It does not follow that if one institution, even the strongest and most influential, decides to shorten its course, others will likewise do so.

* * *

"The curtailment of the curriculum is chiely urged for this reason: The number of persons who proceed to professional schools after taking a college course is much smaller than it should be; it is diminishing; and those who pursue a collegiate and then a professional course postpone till too late a period the actual business of life. For all such persons a year of preparatory work can well be spared."

Farther on he says: "As remedial agencies for this acknowledged difficulty I make the following suggestions:

(a) The authorities in our educational system should really, as well as nominally, distinguish between the requirements of three scholastic periods, namely:

1 The chief blame for this condition in our country rests with the legislatures of the several States which grant these powers to institutions without defining the qualifications to be demanded for the attainment of degrees.

The school, the college, and the university; or, in other words, between what is essential, what is liberal, and what is special in a prolonged education.

(b) The period of college life, which of late years has been carried forward so that it extends on the average from 18.5 years to 22.5 years (in many, perhaps, most of the older colleges), may be brought back to an earlier age, say, from sixteen to twenty years.

(c) The significance of the baccalaureate degree should be restored, so that it may be, at least, a trustworthy certificate, an approximate measure, both of the capacity and of the acquisitions of the possessor. In one way or another a consensus should be reached as to the dignities, rights, and privileges to that degree appertaining.

(d) The rigidity of the class system should be relaxed, so that those who are exceptionally favored or exceptionally strong may, if they choose, run the course in less than the average time, and likewise so that any who are embarrassed by ill health, the necessity of earning a support, or the inadequacy of their early opportunities may spend more than the usual time without any implied discredit, indeed without attracting any attention.

(e) The enormous waste of time and energy at the school period, the time of preparation for college, must be stopped.

Dr. Gilman says that the result of the adoption of these remedies would be that school life would usually end at sixteen years of age, college life at twenty, and the young man would receive his professional certificate or his diploma of doctor of philosophy at the age of twenty-thre years or thereabouts.

He also says: "If then the stronger universities would take the ground that, as a rule, none should be admitted to the professional courses or to the freedom of university instruction until they had attained a bachelor's degree, or in some other way acquired a corresponding preparation for advanced work, the reproaches of which we are conscious would soon disappear, and higher edu cation would be more generally diffused, more wisely ordered, and more serviceable to the public."


Although Harvard may have been the first to call attention to the excessive age of those students who, after completing a college course, enter professional schools, Columbia College, New York, was the first to make provisions by which students can complete both courses at an earlier age. In order to accomplish this end an entire reorganization of the institution was rendered necessary. As a result of this reorganization,' seniors in the School of Arts may select as optional courses such courses under any university faculty as may be designated by said faculty as being open to seniors. The senior year is thus made the point of contact between the college and the university. President Low, in speaking on this subject, says: "This arrangement, while it has the advantage of maintaining the dignity of the faculty of the college proper as a degree-granting faculty, has the other undoubted advantage of making the bachelor's degree seem not so much the end of a student's course as, what it ought to be, merely an incident on the way to the true goal, the professional degree, or the degree of doctor of philosophy. While it in no way cheapens the bachelor's degree, it does shorten by one year the time required for the college and professional

course combined."


In his annual report for 1889-90, President Adams of Cornell University says there ought to be some means by which the work done in the last one or two years of the undergraduate course could be made to apply directly in the interests of those professional studies which students might desire to take up after completing their undergraduate work. After discussing the plan put in operation by Columbia College and that proposed by the faculty of Harvard University, he


It is not my object in this connection to express an opinion in regard to either of these methods, but simply to point out that, whatever the weakness of either system may be, the substantially simultaneous efforts of two institutions as prominent as Harvard and Columbia to reduce the number of years necessary to complete the requirements for an advanced degree is one of unmistakable significance. The movement will unquestionably have not a little importance in influencing the development of higher education within the next few years."

1 See p. 789.

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