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Paying tuition with farm produce: Westminster College in the Great Depression

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In 1932, one of the worst years of the Great Depression, the national unemployment rate rose to 23.6% and 10,000 banks had failed nationwide; additionally, over 13 million Americans lost their jobs since 1920.

This is the setting in which the President of Westminster College, Dr. Herbert W. Reherd, announced that Westminster College in Salt Lake City would accept farm produce as payment for tuition to include vegetables, meat, potatoes, eggs, and honey. The produce was to be used by the college and served to students in the dormitories. Westminster decided to accept produce as payment after a similar program at Wasatch Academy in Mount Pleasant successfully implemented the program the previous year.

At the time, Westminster College offered both High School and Junior College education as well as dormitories for boarding students. Both male and female students were encouraged to attend the two-year college. In addition to academics, Westminster College offered extensive curriculum in arts and athletics including voice, piano, violin, glee club, drama, and public speaking.

Tuition was $80 ($1,380 in 2014 dollars) a year for college and $60 (1,035 in 2014 dollars) a year for high school, with room and board $260 ($4,483 in 2014 dollars) annually.

One student, Clarence Dean from Myton, Utah, was able to pay for his tuition and boarding costs by delivering one ton of honey from his father’s farm.

Sources:

  • Salt Lake Tribune 1932-09-04
  • Salt Lake Tribune 1932-09-07
  • Salt Lake Tribune 1932-09-08
  • Vernal Express 1932-09-22
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