Off-campus or extension programs at NIU date back to the presidency of Karl Adams in 1939 when the first university classes were offered in the evening at area high schools.
These early programs were exclusively offered to in-service teachers seeking advanced degrees and/or certifications.
By 1957, this collection of programs in a variety of locations became formalized under the name “Evening College, and became part of the university’s collegiate structure in 1961. Five years later, off-campus courses were further formalized through a reorganization that created the College of Continuing Education.
Initially, most degrees and course offerings were for teachers, but as the institution evolved from teachers college to university, the scope of external programming also reflected that growth. Most off-campus academic 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.
One of NIU’s most interesting extension programs began in the 1960s and continued on for more than two decades: the education of Illinois prison inmates. NIU sent faculty into prisons at Stateville, Sheridan, Dwight and Pontiac, and 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 all who entered the prisons, and NIU refused to subject its faculty to such scrutiny.
The first dean of CCE was Virgil Alexander, followed by Clive Veri in 1972. Veri was a creative and aggressive proponent of off-campus programs who vehemently argued that “a student was a student,” and that the university should modernize its thinking about extension offerings. Among his accomplishments was the adoption of the “student at large” designation that allowed students who were not yet committed to an academic major to enroll in credit courses.
The Veri decade was characterized by increasing campus recognition of the importance of the so-called “adult student,” by the development of graduate programs in adult education, and by the establishment of college-specific external program offices staffed by employees with related academic disciplines.
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