I know in the early 20th century the liberal arts curriculum was focused much more on the classics, but am interested in knowing specifically what courses were required to graduate during the Great Depression.

Of course that would have varied from college to college. Ideally I'd love to see a comparison of curricula from a large number of colleges around the country, but if that's not available I will accept the most complete answer after a couple of weeks.

  • Why are you interested in the 1930s as a dividing line? Are you trying to pinpoint when liberal arts education became specialized?
    – ihtkwot
    Feb 1, 2012 at 3:31
  • 3
    That's an interesting question too; but I'm interested in WWII, and what kind of education a typical young college graduate of that time (ie, someone who graduated in the decade or so before the war started) would have received.
    – Rose Ames
    Feb 1, 2012 at 15:20
  • 4
    It is exactly this kind of question that will show if there are really experts involved in this site or it is just amateurs... GL!
    – o0'.
    Feb 5, 2012 at 19:10

1 Answer 1


This question has had me curious for the longest time. It seems I have finally dug something up.

I site this document which is a UCLA 1935-1936 Student Catalog

From Page 59

The College of Letters and Science , with a curriculum leading to the degree of Bachelor of Arts

It seems the curriculum for a BA was divided into three parts (quoted from page 59)

The curriculum of the College of Letters and Science is divided into three essential parts:

  1. Requirements to secure breadth of culture. The student is asked to select courses within certain groups representing the fundamental types of intellectual endeavor . Although these requirements are limited to the lower division, the student may continue liberal studies of his own choice during the last two years.
  2. Requirements to provide for intensive study. The student normally carries work in his major subject throughout the entire four -year course.
  3. Elective courses. Freedom of election gives the student an opportunity to develop initiative and power . The College seeks to encourage a wise selection of courses by requirements assuring distribution and concentration. Each student is assigned a faculty adviser to assist him in the choice of course

There seemed to be a lower division and an upper division. The lower division being the curriculum a freshman and sophomore student would follow. The upper division would be the curriculum for the last two years of study.

Page 60 and 61 go into further detail but to complete the lower division track a student would need to take

Referencing pages 60, 61 and 62

  1. General University Requirements (Physical Education, Military Science(if a male), etc.)
  2. Foreign Language (At least 15 units in not more than 2 languages
  3. Matriculation Mathematics (Elementary Algebra and plane geometry)
  4. Natural Science (At least 12 units chosen from a list including Geology, Physics, chemistry, etc.) Complete list is on page 60 and 61
  5. Year Courses (A year course in each of 3 of 5 groups)(English, Foreign Language, Math, Social Sciences, Philosophy)

When a student completed 60 or more units of study they could advance to the upper division. Due to the extreme details on pages 62 and 63 I will summarize.

Summary from pages 62 and 63 The degree of Bachelor of Arts will be granted upon the following conditions:

  1. Student has obtained at least 120 credits
  2. The student must attain a C average
  3. 50 Units of College work must be completed after the Junior Certificate(lower division)
  4. At least 36 units of work completed in upper division courses from the Letters and Science list of courses
  5. A major of 24 upper division units in one of the listed subjects (List is on page 63)
  6. American Institutions 101 (or equivalent) must be completed by the student
  7. All candidates for the degree are required to have been enrolled during the senior or final year of residence in the College of Letters and Science.
  8. No student is permitted to transfer from one major department to another after the opening of the last semester of the senior year.
  9. Student may be required to take a general final examination in the department
  10. Transfer students who transfer with senior status must complete at least 18 units in the upper division, including 12 units in their major department.

Finally if there is interest in the list of courses pages 64 and 65 show the catalog of classes. The end of the document also goes into greater detail about the lower and upper divisions courses.

New information:

For comparative purposes I also found this catalog that was published by Alabama College in 1933. This should give some in depth analysis on how the curriculum differed from geographic location. From the cover Alabama College was a State College for Women, so this should also offer some insight into the difference between co-ed and all girls curriculum.

  • Anytime, thanks for the question it got me really curious as well.
    – sealz
    Feb 8, 2012 at 16:17
  • @harper89 bravo, that is impressive
    – ihtkwot
    Feb 8, 2012 at 21:51

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