The National Youth Administration
by Palmer O. Johnson and Oswald L. Harvey
With an introduction by Doak S. Campbell
Staff Study number 13
Prepared for the Advisory Committee on Education
US Government Printing Office, Washington: 1938
Forward By the Committee:
The Committee on Education was appointed by the FDR in 1936 to make recommendations concerning education broadly for him and Congress.
In a letter dated April 19th 1937, the President stated that he had been giving much thought to the general relationship of the Federal Government to education and he wanted a more comprehensive consideration of the Federal relationship to State and Local conduct of education.
The committee didn’t do original research. Rather it summarized data it collected from others. Palmer was commissioned after he did field work to write this for the Committee. It is his more than theirs.
This study is limited to a description of its organization and programs with some evaluation. It would have been easier if the documents were centralized in Washington. [It is a good sign that they weren’t].
The Youth Problem
The close of the frontier has been a big factor in creating this new youth problem. Life was rural and not much education was needed. The census of 1920 was the first to show an excess of urban over rural folk. These circumstances made necessary a period of conscious orientation and guidance which might “serve to adjust the individual to the conditions and demands of the group as a whole.” (pg 2) By virtue of necessity relief was the primary purpose, it soon became obvious that constructive planning was also needed to help resolve the fundamental problems of social and individual maladjustment that would yield results of permanent social value.
Youth refers to those between 16 and 24. That is approximately one sixth of the population. With declining birth rates they are expected to make up less and less of the population. But as they are the “immediate group to assume active participation in political, social, and economic life, their preparation is vitally important to society as a whole.” Pg 2.
More jobs require skills, so older employees have the advantage. Therefore, youth may have to remain in school longer. 37.1 percent of those applying for public employment were youths.
Many youth are out of school for several years before they obtain their first full-time job. And many have jobs that have no relationship to their aptitude or training. They leave school with no training or plan. They therefore, find inappropriate jobs or become misfits. Industry isn’t prepared to training and orienting them. And the schools they come from aren’t interested in developing guidance programs, or due to lack of funds haven’t established them.
Many would like to return to school, but the schools don’t have stuff that applies to them or they don’t have money to. Most that drop out come from the lower income brackets. And those in college have more money. Colleges have adjusted to help poor, but not high schools. The compulsory attendance laws do no good if the programs offered don’t meet the needs of the youth attending.
“Upon them is the curse of not being wanted, with all its concomitants of apathy or resentment and of personality disintegration. The possibilities of their engaging in antisocial behavior under such circumstances are obvious.” (pg 6)
The government has intervened by creating the CCC (April 1936) and the NYA. Educational interests and the economic and social rehabilitation of youth are main goals, along with relief. “turning the talents of youth to constructive ends, they sought to employ them on projects of economic value as well as of educational significance.
In May 1934 a program of resident camps and schools for unemployed women was established under the Federal Emergency Relief Administration and they became a part of the NYA. June 26th 1935, FDR created the NYA as an autonomous division of the WPA.
Chapter Two – Nature and Scope of the NYA
Originally the NYA was set up as an agency within the Works Progress Administration. This would mean it was a relief agency. They share the same building, but are administratively separate. The statisticians of the WPA are available to the NYA. And the NYA projects are subject to WPA safety regulations; and accidents occurring on NYA projects, and the compensation claims resulting there from, are handled by the WPA.
The funds come from the Congress emergency relief funds. The WPA does the payroll. The national office consists of an executive director, who is also deputy administrator of the WPA; a deputy executive director; an executive committee of 6 members from various Federal agencies; and a national advisory committee of 35 members, representative of labor, business, agriculture, education and youth.
Youth administrations have been established in every State, DC and New York. Each State has a liaison to the Feds. And he has a staff that parallels the Federal staff, there, for example, is usually ahead for the division of guidance and placement and one for the division of work projects. The major part of the administration of the student aid program is placed in the hands of the State and college officials concerned.
Every state is divided into districts which have a supervisor responsible to the State director.
Local advisory committees constitute an integral part of the administrative organization. Organized variously on a district, county, rural, urban, or other community basis, they assist the local officials by sponsoring projects, obtaining contributions, planning projects, interpreting the needs of youth, and promoting the NYA generally.
The national administrative office has 23 persons in it, including 12 assistants. All are men. Three staff members have Ph. D. degrees, 4 have master’s degrees, 12 have bachelor’s degrees and four have less than a bachelor’s degree. Two are Negroes.
The vocational activities and interests of the group are principally educational; but sociology, law, accounting, architecture, journalism and business and labor administration are also reported.
There are 50 State youth directors. Seven of them are women. The majority of the full-timers salaries fall within the limits of $3,600 to $4,800. The majority have bachelor’s or master’s degrees, but not all.
The personnel records of 111 administrative and supervisory personnel show that 3/4ths are men and one-sixth are Negro. The Negroes in this group receive salaries definitely lower than those paid to the whites. 3/4ths have a bachelor’s degree or more. The majority have had experience in educational work or in administration and supervision of various kinds.
There are 600 work project supervisors in six states that are as likely to be male as female. They get a monthly salary from about $80 to $120.
Two thirds of the 32 state directors have bachelor’s degrees. Work experience lies principally in the areas of education, journalism, and business.
Appointment is not off of government lists, but through individual judgment, expediency and considerable trial and rror. The turn – over rate has been considerable. Survival depends on many factors, among the most important are native intelligence; adaptability to local social, political economic, and racial conditions; flexibility of ideas sufficient to facilitate adjustment to changing social concepts, a continuously changing program and urgently pressing new administrative problems; and above all the enthusiasm that persists even in the face of the uncertainties resultant upon an annual budget for an emergency program.
Due to its experimentalism it is good that the selecting of personnel doesn’t have a standardized procedure.
The Youth Aided by the Programs:::::::::::::::::::::::
The number of youth receiving aid on the major programs rose from 470,000 a month during the first 6 months of 1936 to a median of more than 580,000 during the first six months of 1937. Since then the monies allocated has dropped and so has the amount serviced. The peak was 630,000 on its two major programs alone. Seventy percent on the student aid program. Total median has been 406,000.
The total from 35 to 37 was $102,500,000; for the current year 37 – 38, it is 50 million dollars.
Three fifths of the 35-36 $39 million went to student aid, (24 million) and two fifths to work projects (15 million).
The administrative expenses are included with the WPAs. Between 35 and 37 they constituted a sum equal to slightly less than five percent of the total allotments. For 35 – 36, they totaled 2.5 million of which 11 percent (down to 9 percent in 37-38) went to the national office. This includes salaries, supplies and materials, communication service, travel expense, freight and express; printing and binding; heat, light, and power, rent of buildings, rent of equipment, miscellaneous items; guidance and placement program; apprentice training program, advertisement and publication of notices.
Work projects cost $235 per youth and student aid $72.
But remember, in student aid a lot of the cost is borne by participating institutions and work projects use cosponsors equipment. And, the NYA uses other’s bureaucrats.
There were five major areas, Work training; student aid; apprenticeships (recently transferred to the Department of Labor); guidance and placement services; and the women’s camps (terminated because too expensive).
Despite the fact that the supply of competent personnel is limited, appointments are only temporary, and that the budget is restrictive, the supervisory personnel of the NYA at all levels is comparable with civil service standards.
As with other emergency measures, there has been high turn-over and lots of policy changes. Though some have been made arbitrarily, it is the opinion of the national staff that most have been introduced only after careful scrutiny and consideration of the past experience, and after consultation with leading authorities in the fields of education, employment and youth problems.
After several years of experimentation, the NYA is perhaps now at the stage of development in which some permanent long-time policy and stable administration is justified.
Chapter Three – The Student Aid Program
:::::::Nature and Scope of the program::::::::::::::::::::::::::::
The recipients of such aid are divided into three classes: (1) Pupils in elementary and high schools; (2) undergraduate students in college; and (3) graduate students. All program recipients must be between 16 and 24 years of age.
The school aid program:
All institutions taking part in this program must be non-profit and tax exempt. They must be a bona fide educational institution and certified as such by the State school officer. The head of these institutions must write an affidavit saying the foregoing is true and submit it to the public school superintendent of the district and to the chief State school officer.
The student must produce satisfactory evidence, verified that they could not enter or remain in school without employment on the student aid program; that he is a citizen of the United States or has filed declaration of intention to become a citizen; and that he is of good character and possesses such ability as to give assurance of performing good scholastic work. Aid is discontinued for pupils who fail to pass in at least three-fourths of their scholastic work. Only pupils who carry at least three-fourths the normal school load may receive aid.
Determination of eligibility is done by responsible officials at the schools at which they attend and must be approved by the principal. They must select only the most needy applicants.
School aid employment quotas were originally set at 7 percent of the number of persons 16 to 24 reported to be on relief during May 1935. No school, without approval of the State youth director, can have more than 10 percent of its regular enrollment. The ratio of youth in a racial minority group to the total youth aided on the program may not be less than the ratio which the minority group has generally.
The most a pupil may earn is $6 per month. Maximum hours are 7 per day on non school days and 3 per school day and 20 per week.
The work must be practical and useful. It should be based on the students interest and may not displace workers paid from other funds.
The work plan submitted by the school to the State youth director must be classified and described under the following major categories: Clerical, construction, departmental service, library work, duplication, grounds and building maintenance, research and surveys, home economics, art laboratory assistance, recreation and miscellaneous.
The college and graduate aid program:
Again, all institutions involved must be nonprofit, tax exempt and bona fide educational institutions. Again, the student must provide the same proof of eligibility. The maximum hours are 8 per day and 30 a week. During vacation it is 40. The same reporting must be made from the school to the State youth director.
There is a special graduate Negro program that allows a higher quota of persons per institution to be helped. Applications can go from the School to state to Fed for additional funds from the Negro graduate aid fund set apart.
Of the 24 million allocated in 35 -36, 40% went to school aid and 56 to college aid and 4% to graduate aid. The average cost was $78 per student per year.
It should be recognized however, that the NYA is not the only agency providing funds to needy students. Especially at the college level, the institutions themselves are subsidizing the students. More than half the aid comes from the institutions in the form of scholarships, fellowships, grants-in-aid and loans.
Recipients of NYA money must work. Usually the aid from the institution does not call for this type of return.
::::::::::::::The Recipients of Student Aid:::::::::::::::::::::::
In 35-36 306,490 got aid and in 36-37, 418,721. 67% went to student aid, 32% undergrad and only one percent graduate. High school kids got an average of $4.89 a month, college 12.65 and graduate $23.32. Four fifths of those in high schools that applied got it. Two thirds of college applicants got help. Those who get aid at the high school do just as well (based on limited information) and at college slightly higher is likely.
Rural areas are getting more money. They have more youth. Of every 20 college students, 3 are out of state. In November of 1937, in 12 southern states and DC, 23.4 % of all pupils receiving school aid and 14% of college and graduate aid recipients were Negroes. In the states concerned, 25 % are Negroes. They are proportionately represented at the schools but under-represented at colleges.
Of school aid recipients, slightly less than half were males. Large families predominated. One in seven contained 9 persons or more. 2/3rds had more than 4 persons.
3/5ths of the college aid recipients were male. “The college youth came from families that were somewhat better off economically than those of the school aid youth, and probably on the average superior culturally.” (Pg. 36).
:::::::Higher Institutions Attended by Recipients of Student Aid:::::
College aid projects:
-Community service projects (one in Atlanta involved setting up an school to help blind Negroes. This was done with the help of the principal of the white school for the blind.)
-Ground and building maintenance: Especially landscaping and remodeling of buildings.
-Departmental service. This means academic department. Creating guides and bibliographies, making exhibits etc.
-Library services and clerical projects.
-Laboratory assistance and home economic assistance.
-Recreation and education:
Student aid programs:
These are nine tenths of all participating institutions and get four tenths of all funds expended. And it involves seven tenths of the recipients.
In comparison to the college recipients he guesses that they are less carefully selected, less well supervised, and less consistently followed up on.
He says that schools are the state’s responsibility, but so necessary to democracy that they may consider providing food, clothing, medical services and school supplies t o the kids. But many States don’t have the money to do so. So the Feds should maybe do it.
The college and Grad aid programs:
A provision of free educational facilities at the college level for all who can profit therefrom has not been accepted as a working practice by the American people. This means the money, not merit controls who gets into colleges.
Scholarships and financial aid has been practiced for centuries. But one and a half times as many youth applied for college aid on the NYA program of 36 – 37 than got it. And not much money is needed.
Work is required. “Thus, even the quid pro quo becomes a part of the entire educational service, and the student retains his self-respect.” (pg 45).
Being distributed on need and ability, not on a relief basis, the graduate program has helped America to see that education at the higher levels is warranted not as charity but as a profitable social investment. It has also kept folks out of the labor force.
It has been good to keep the selection at the college level. It has shown that the Government can work well with institutions of higher learning and that the institutions can distribute the funds responsibly an efficiently.
The work requirement has helped the students and the institutions.
We should consider extending the college program to non-publicly controlled institutions. And should the states be allowed to restrict the list of approved institutions.
The Federal government’s response has been that the aid goes to individuals, not institutions. As to quality control, the Feds cannot set themselves up as an accrediting institution “is obvious”. The state must do that.
Chapter Four – THE WORKS PROJECTS PROGRAM
::::::::::::::::Nature and scope of the program:::::::::::::
Due to compulsory school laws and child labor laws of state’s the entry age was raised to 18 (24 is still the high end cut-off).
90 % are ones that have been pre-qualified by the WPA to receive some aid. Ten percent are of non-relief status. Until recently they have been required to maintain active registration with the employment agency to encourage them to find private work.
There is a limit of 8 hours per day, 40 per week and 70 hours per month. No relief youth employee may earn more than $25 a month [I like the verb earn, as opposed to receive].
Most projects are sponsored by some public, quasi-public, or non-profit agency in cooperation with the Youth Administration. The contributions of these cosponsors are generally in the form of supervision, services, funds, or the provision of equipment and materials.
Application to establish a youth work project is made jointly by the sponsoring agencies. The application asks for the following information: The location of the project; a description of the project and the character of the work involved; the expected dates of commencement and completion of the project; an estimate of the number of workers to be employed, analyzed by occupation and degree of skill; and estimate of expected costs in terms of labor, supervision, travel, materials, etc.; and the qualifications of the project supervisor.
The state approves all but, building construction projects in which the materials required exceeds $500; resident agriculture training projects; and statistical survey and research projects.
In judging the applicant the criteria are: the number of youth to be employed, the expected duration, the duration, the types of work and the benefits that may be expected to accrue to the youth and the local community as a result of the establishment of the project.
Supervision is the responsibility of the project supervisor. He is under the district guy who is under the State director. A project may be terminated at any time the State director sees fit.
Since 1937, the following have been considered:
One: Construction work:
1. Highway, road, and street projects.
2. Public building projects
3. Recreational facilities.
4. Conservations work.
Two: Non-construction work:
1. Nursery schools.
2. Clerical and stenographic work
3. Resident agriculture training programs.
4. Agricultural demonstration projects.
5. School lunches.
6. Library services and book repairing.
8. Museum work.
9. Statistical and non-statistical research and survey projects.
10. Recreational leadership projects.
11. Fine Arts.
Three: Miscellaneous work:
1. Educational camps for unemployed women.
3. Youth center activities not elsewhere classified.
4. Other NYA work not elsewhere classified.
In 1935, 15,000,000 million was spent for an average of $134 per youth. For 36-37 it is 31,000,000 for an average of $225.
:::::::::::The Youth Employed:::::::::::
The average number of youth served was 161,306 in 36 and 171,207 in 37.
The average hourly wage was $0.35. The monthly average earnings were $14.71.
The average Federal expenditure per year was $225 ($15 a month).
The proportion of males declined from 61% to 46% between 36 and 37. That is because it started as a program to get jobs for boys.
The characteristics info is sketchy and only an indication as no effort was made to collect and compile such data.
But 89 percent were white. In Louisiana and Kentucky it was 87. Project youth come from large families. Only 9 percent came from families of only one or two persons. 34 percent came from families of 7 or more.
One half had no more than 8 years of schooling. One half had 9-12 and less than 3 percent had more than 12 years of schooling. In a survey of 13,547, financial difficulties was the biggest (47%) reason for leaving school; discouragement and lack of interest was 24% and graduation from high school accounted for 13 %.
33% had no prior work experience.
It is hard to tell if the work has increased their employability. They do now have experience. It may have also added to their character. Of those leaving during a specific time period, almost one-third entered private employment and 7% Government employment. One tenth lost eligibility. Six percent for marriage. Less than 3% were thrown out due to inefficiency. And only 3% left to go back to school. But many of the one third going into private employment are going into temporary / seasonal work.
One survey found that of those in the program 2o percent were intermittently employed and 24% were continuously employed for a year or more. The median was 4.6 months. The more skilled they were, the more work they got through the NYA. The highest skilled folk worked 7.6 months.
The rural / urban percentages reflect those in America generally. Three tenths were employed in labor on building and road projects. Two tenths were in home economics (mostly sewing); one tenth were in arts; another tenth in recreational leadership and the last tenth were miscellaneous.
::::::::The Work Projects::::::::::::::::
Out of the 126 projects evaluated, only 2 had no cosponsor. Only one was cosponsored by the Feds; 17 by the State; 16 by country and 24 different city or township agencies.
The bureaucrats want an educational component, but the kids like manual. The supervisors on construction stuffs have pointed out that academics have nothing to do with the manual labor.
:::::::::The Education Provision:::::::::::
The NYA encourages educational programs. It stimulates and even initiates and coordinates, but it does not provide funds, teachers or equipment. Facilitation is properly the role of existing educational agencies.
Although it cannot compel employees to attend classes, it can inform them of available classes; advise which will be most useful; and even exert negative pressures by indicating that the NYA may not help those that won’t improve themselves educationally.
But the policy is local. Where provision is made for the continued education of youth employed on work projects, the principal kinds are as follows: Special courses established at trade schools; courses in opportunity schools; class work under the auspices of State education departments; emergency ed classes under the WPA; and general and vocational class work in schools, colleges and universities.
The Ohio State youth director pointed out how much a large percentage “…has a dislike of anything which is not of a practical, routing nature. They are the type of boys who can go into any factory and spend the rest of their lives doing a highly repetitive operation, hour after hour, day after day, and be happy on the job. They do practically no reading, except that which is limited to certain sections of newspapers and cheap magazines.” There is resentment toward an education program as a part of the work program from them. (pg. 74).
One program required the boys to study a subject related to their work, and they switched jobs every six weeks and they went home with a certificate of completion.
::::::::::: Concluding statement:::::::::::::
These programs have given work experience to thousands who might have otherwise been idle or gotten into trouble.
They program has contributed to the improvement of local communities.
The policy of having a local sponsor has made the local governments more aware of the problem of youth. Those that involve training are especially promising and we should experiment more with Federal local cooperation on this.
The student aid program has been widely approved by educators and the public at large. The Works projects haven’t received their proportionate share of recognition. They should get more and it is too bad that the information available on them is so much sketchier.
The work projects program employs only two-fifths as many youth as does the student aid program. The allotment is one and one-half times as large and in terms of the Fed dollar, three times as expensive. But this is based on 12 months not 9 months. Also these youth are on average older. The student aid money is maintenance; the work project is more of a relief program. These funds are necessary for survival.
Getting work experience really helps them get work in industry.
The supervision has been okay, but where weak the projects are less beneficial. Having the youth work on something that benefits the community has social and psychological value. And this program has demonstrated a work / education program should be made for those to whom traditional curriculum is distasteful.
CHAPTER FIVE – OTHER PROGRAMS
These are the Vocational and guidance programs (still going) the women education camps (discontinued) and the apprenticeship training programs (transferred to the Department of Labor.
::::::::Vocational Guidance and Placement:::::::::::::::
The vocational guidance and placement program is usually referred to as the Junior Placement Service. It is not just limited to those outh aided by the NYA in its major programs.
It was started in June of 1936, in cooperation with the United States Employment Service. The NYA got involved in the hopes that it could learn more about the needs of youth. But the State is taking over more and more of this function, as hoped.
It is also local in order to accommodate regional differences. So the number, type and quality are variable and not well documented. The main benefit so far is its being of help to the youth employed on work projects.
They have most commonly:
1. Conducted occupational classes.
2. Prepared occupational pamphlets.
3. Given radio programs.
4. Rendered individual counseling.
5. Compiled youth personnel records.
6. Prepared directories of opportunities for training and recreation;
7. issued guidance manuals.
8. Stimulated interest in guidance by providing supervisors of guidance on State administrative staffs.
Their staff interviews young people and refers them to jobs in the private sector. If appropriate they refer them to work relief projects and CCC recruiting bureaus. They tell kids to go back to school and how. They inform folks of the NYA monies. They tell folks about training resources. They suggest leisure-time activities. And cooperate with all agencies that help youth.
From 36 to 37 the expense on this was nearly $300,000. By the end of this period 77 junior placement offices had been established. In February of 1938 65 were operational.
Of the customers, 19% have had no high school, 46 % have graduated. 12 % are under 18 and 65% have had some prior work experience. In 18 months ending in December 1937, 190,000 youths registered with the junior placement offices and almost 100,000 placements were made, of which more than nine0tenths were in private employment. Referrals to emergency projects has, therefore, been minimal.
This program was established in 1934 to comply with National Recovery Administration codes.
::::::::::::Educational Camps for Unemployed Women:::::::::::
These were established in 34 for women who had lost their jobs and needed personal and occupational rehabilitation. Among the chief features of the camp life were recreational activities, self-government, cooperative living, personal guidance, and the study of problems of interest to women workers in industry. The training period lasted from one to four months.
During 1934-5 enrollments totaled 1,840 in 28 camps in 27 states. In 36 enrollment went up to 3,112 in 47 camps in 27 states. They were always supervised by the Division of Education Projects of the Federal Emergency Relief Administration.
When NYA got it in 36 the complexion changed. Now it was no longer for older women. They made it youth oriented for those who had never been employed. Training in self-expression, health education and home economics happened. Group recreation and counseling too. They also did simple jobs like book repairing and hospital supply preparation. From 36 to 37 enrollments got up to 3,500.
The costs were $30 to $45 per girl. This was less for boys in the CCC with which, by a misleading analogy, the women’s camps were often compared. But the women weren’t given the cost of transportation or relief wages, so it was hard to get them to enroll. They were never a good match for a Youth Agency.
CHAPTER SIX – EVALUATION OF THE CONTRIBUTIONS OF THE NYA
::::::::::The Relief Problem:::::::::::::::::::::
Of all registered in the unemployment census of 37 approximately 1,100,000 persons between 16 and 19 years of age and 1,300,000 persons between 20 and 24 were reported as either “totally unemployed” or employed as “emergency workers” (on relief). So the NYA employed one twentieth of all youths 18 to 24 who were totally unemployed or on emergency (relief) work. And it did one of four who were in the latter camp.
We can’t tell how many of the proceeding got student aid. By putting kids in public project, it has gotten them out of the general labor pool and thus lessened competition among adult workers.
:::::::::Educational Concepts and Policies:::::::::::::::::::
As an experiment with money, they have been able to try educational policies that wouldn’t fly with educators or government institutions.
They have given access to underprivileged youth which would have received little consideration by regular agencies of government.
It has found a way to help youth and institutions at a low cost. It has thereby increased school and college enrollments by 300,000 to 400,000 without sacrificing quality to quantity.
Their success at combining work and education provides a challenge to traditional institutions. School must be more relative to those who aren’t academic.
::::::::Urgent Problems of Youth::::::::::::::::::::
If there is today a “lost generation” of youth, lacking work experience, lacking guidance, abandoned by the school and disowned by industry, then the NYA has contributed mightily to the invention of solutions.
The depression adversely affected the morale of youth. It has been good for them to have a national advocate. The morale of those that participated was lifted.
Via experimentation, the NYA found that vocational guidance is really important. Some have also proven themselves to be capable of more than expected when given the right environment, an encouraging and skillful supervisor or foreman, and the chance to do constructive work.
:::::::::Benefits to Local Communities:::::::::::::
The NYA has been really good at pulling together disparate agencies in the communities it has worked in. Public and private have also learned how to cooperate for the benefit of the local community.
The locals have also seen that investment in their youth can improve their communities.
In several instances, at their own expense, communities have continued programs begun under the NYA.
:::::::::::Federal Administrative Policy::::::::
The NYA has led the way in conducting Nation-wide enterprises through a system of decentralized control. By giving aid to individuals rather than agencies, it has avoided the implications of interference with the authority of local units.
It has shown, though, that local and Federal and State can cooperate at huge savings.