THE term "adult education" has within the past few years become extremely popular with educators and others, and as a result it is used in widely different senses. What is adult education? This question was settled officially by the American Association for Adult Education a few years ago, when it decided to apply the term to that education which is given to adults who are studying but are not in residence in colleges and universities, and especially to those who, at the same time, are engaged in their regular life occupations. In other words, most of the people who are taking part in adult education programs are giving a very appreciable part of their leisure time to study.
Adult education, as the term is now understood, began in England in 1867, with the extension movement in Cambridge University (see Part II: University Extension Service). Today such instruction is carried on in the United States by practically every university and by many of the colleges. Enrollment in these off-campus courses, including correspondence courses, is equal to about Page 335one-fifth of the entire resident enrollment in these institutions.
Meanwhile, adult education as exemplified by university extension courses has been taken up and modified by other agencies. The work has a wide range in content and character. It includes instruction given to alumni groups, instruction groups classified as conferences and institutes, the public-night-school courses now conducted in most of our cities, and the more or less informal educational programs of the radio.
The present University Extension Service of the University of Michigan was established in 1911, and its extension credit courses were begun two years later in Detroit (p. 344). More recently, noncredit courses also have been given, and upon a rather large scale. Cities in the Upper Peninsula are among the larger centers in Michigan in which credit and noncredit courses are conducted.
A study has been made of the vocational and academic status of those who took University of Michigan extension courses in the first twenty-five years. Teachers comprised 45 per cent; business and profession persons, 35 per cent; and technical workers, 8 per cent. The remaining 12 per cent was miscellaneous or unclassified. Nearly one-third of the students (31 per cent) held college or university degrees, of which 85 per cent were bachelor of arts or bachelor of science degrees; 8 per cent, master of arts; 6 per cent, professional degrees; and 1 per cent, doctor of philosophy degrees.
The informal types of adult education, i.e., short courses, institutes, and lectures on topics of special interest, have also been utilized by the University. The Library Extension Service has distributed books, pamphlets, and bibliographies for such programs, both University-sponsored and otherwise, and the University radio programs on literary, professional, and vocational subjects disseminate useful information to the people of the state. The entire radio audience is estimated as six hundred thousand, on the average, and the number reached directly or indirectly by the University through its other agencies for adult education as five hundred thousand annually — more than one million persons each year, in all.
More specific descriptions of the University's program of adult education, in its various phases, are given in this Encyclopedic Survey under the headings of University Lectures, the Division of Extramural Services, the Department of Postgraduate Medicine, the School of Dentistry (section on postgraduate instruction), the Alumni University, the Bureau of Alumni Relations, the University News Service, the University Broadcasting Service, the Library Extension Service, and the University Extension Service. All these articles are in Part II, except that on the Department of Postgraduate Medicine (Part V) and that on the School of Dentistry (Part VII).
Through the medium of adult education programs of the extension type, people in practically every county of the state are enabled to meet members of the faculty. So far as the benefits accruing to the University from this type of work are concerned, these personal contacts are most important. That this service has been appreciated by the people of the state is attested by the constantly increasing number of requests related to adult educational problems.