The Northern Almanac Ep. 24 - 'College of Continuing Education'

Jul 16, 2020


Welcome to The Northern Almanac, a WNIJ living history project coinciding with NIU's 125th anniversary. 

Thousands of NIU alumni have earned their degrees through off-campus courses or extension programs, but did you know that Northern offered such programs as early as 1939? That year, the school held evening classes at area high schools so working teachers could earn advanced degrees.

After nearly two decades, these classes become formalized under the name “Evening College.” In 1966, the program was reorganized as the College of Continuing Education.

NIU's Altgeld Hall

As Northern evolved from a teachers college to a university, the College of Continuing Education reflected that growth. Most off-campus programming was at the graduate level, but undergraduate work in nursing and the Bachelor of General Studies degree also found a large off-campus audience.

The College of Continuing Education created the “student at large” designation, allowing students who had not yet committed to an academic major to enroll in credit courses. The program also increased campus recognition of the importance of the “adult student.”

One of NIU’s most interesting extension programs began in the 1960s: the education of Illinois prison inmates. NIU sent faculty into prisons at Stateville, Sheridan, Dwight and Pontiac. Many professors reported that that some of their best students were inmates. The program ended in 1988 when the state began requiring drug testing for anyone entering the prisons, and NIU refused to subject its faculty to such scrutiny.