Setting a Standard for Career Education: Part Three
Founded on principle and strong ethical standards, career colleges in America began to form a strong representative organization in 1912 with the National Association of Accredited Commercial Schools (NAACS). Twenty-three private career school leaders entered into an alliance that developed into the Association of Independent Colleges and Schools.
Representing only a fraction of the 155,000 men and women studying in private business colleges at the time, these school leaders established an association that would eventually have a tremendous impact on the private career sector. Colleges sought protection in the NAACS’ benefits, particularly being part of a group that emphasized its members’ adherence to a strict code of ethical practices in both educational management and instructional services delivery.
The organization eventually established a good relationship with the federal government. After World War I ended, many veterans chose to be trained for office work or other business-related activity in NAACS member schools as part of this joint rehabilitation effort.
War and its aftermath brought thousands of students to America’s career colleges. And yet following the conclusion of World War I and the Great Depression, still more traumatic times were ahead for America and its colleges.
Optimism and prosperity that began after World War II continued as NAACS approached its half-century birthday. Many Americans utilized their educational opportunity and began climbing the socioeconomic ladder. With the aid of the GI Bill and guaranteed government loans, many veterans were able to further their educations, buy homes and start businesses. The demand for quality education increased and so did the private career sector’s role in providing educational options. The job market also began to swell, creating greater demand for new study programs, up-to-date equipment and facilities.
One issue vital to the survival and growth of private career colleges was increased competition from the public — or traditional — college and university sector. To remain competitive, private career colleges updated their curricula and introduced night classes. At the Pace Institute in New York City, administrators decided to offer quality programs at convenient times and instituted summer day and evening sessions. Convenient course times became a Pace specialty, and the response was significant. Pace Institute continued to expand despite tremendous competition from public colleges in New York City.
A Greek system
Along with ideas to continue competing with public sector institutions came plans for a fraternity and sorority system under the Association’s guidance. In July 1940, the fraternity and sorority program was finalized. Twenty chapters were to be installed by the conclusion of September 1940 and 50 by the conclusion of June 1941. The first fraternities were named Delta Nu Omega, and the first sororities were named Theta Alpha Chi.
Each chapter had the authority to develop its own program, but the board established a common activity program to serve as a guideline. These guidelines included monthly meeting procedures, educational activities, a social events calendar and an annual chapter banquet agenda. Community service activities were emphasized as a key function of the organizations, as chapters were slated to assist local projects such as hosting food sales for the homeless, volunteering to help the poor at Christmas and raising funds for charities.
In February 1941, 37 chapters were installed in schools across the country. Several of the new chapters developed exciting plans for future social and community activities. Unfortunately, the United States’ entry into World War II required a dedication to more serious endeavors.
Dissension had begun to grow within the NAACS as early as the 1930s. A stiff but friendly competition began in 1931 with the establishment of the American Association of Business Schools (AABS), a formidable alliance whose membership was vibrant and aggressive. Eventually, the AABS changed its name to the American Association of Commercial Colleges (AACC), though its structure stayed the same. Like NAACS, its objective was to create high academic standards for its members and private sector colleges as a whole.
Growing in strength and numbers, the American Association of Commercial Colleges was on solid ground as1940 approached. The AACC did not stress accreditation as an activity and even questioned the authority of any organization to say that it was the accreditor of member schools. For more than 30 years, the AACC was a vehicle for communication and fellowship for its members until an event in the early 1960s ended its independence.
Entering into World War II brought Americans together under one purpose: Securing freedom for the Allies.
Private career college leaders wanted to help in the war effort as much as possible and ensure that their schools survived. But with two major professional organizations, NAACS and AACC, the private sector was fragmented. A spokesman for education — Dr. J.S. Noffsinger, director of the National Home Study Council in Washington, D.C. — was requested to help. He initiated the War Emergency Council of private business schools and invited representatives from NAACS, AACC and other nonaffiliated schools to a meeting in Chicago on Dec. 30, 1942.
The Council’s purpose was to make federal and state government officials aware of the private business school facilities that could be utilized in a national emergency. Serving as the voice in Washington for all private career business schools on the war effort, the Council extended its focus to include programs of study, educational policies and personnel directed at the war effort.
A 15-member board governed the War Emergency Council, which later became known as the Council of 15. Five board members were elected by members of the National Association of Accredited Commercial Schools, five by members of the American Association of Commercial Colleges, and five representatives came from nonaffiliated private business schools. At the time of the Council’s first meeting, about 1,800 private business schools were located in all 48 states and the District of Columbia.
The Council developed several new insights into private career education. Among them was a broader understanding of the private career education sector’s influence. Before the Council, private career educators had traveled to Washington infrequently; once the Council was established, Washington became the center of activity for the private career sector.
Look for the final installment of the Heritage series in the next edition of Career College Central.