The first New School undergraduate program began in 1944, the second shift beyond continuing education students after the Graduate Faculty began granting graduate degrees in 1935. On May 19, 1944, the Board of Regents granted the New School the ability to give bachelor’s degrees and the school aimed to attract adult students starting or finishing their degrees. The school was poised to take advantage of the recently passed G.I. Bill that gave government subsidy for education for soldiers returning from World War II. It was not until 1951 when the New School started to officially advertise its Bachelors Program from the other programs offered at the New School. According to the 1951 bulletin, the dean of the New School was the person who defined and worked out the area of study for each student. The number of undergraduate degree students remained small.
In 1962, the New School established proper majors and requirements for the Bachelors Program. The areas that the New School offered a number of courses were history, economics, political science, sociology, and literature. In addition to these majors, the undergraduate students could do a combined major, similar to what would be considered a double major today. For the combined major, students could combine their first majors with art, music, and other courses or areas of study that they found appealing. This combined major program could be seen as an earlier indication of the New School’s ability to create different majors among the existing courses within the New School. As of today at the New School, students can still create their own majors by combining different areas of studies and different courses to form one area of concentration.
In 1962, the New School restructured its administration. No longer would the New School focus only on people who wanted to take one or two classes for personal interest; the university wanted to continue to foster new areas of studies and learning and also wanted to establish direction where people would take classes and earn degrees within a specific area of study. The Senior College was a more structured version of the Bachelors Program with a more specific purpose: the students would finish only their third and fourth years here. This was designed for students who were ready to immerse themselves in a more mature atmosphere and not just learn in a typical undergraduate classroom setting. In order to apply, students were required to have earned a minimum of 50 credits, and completed both an application and the aptitude section of the graduate exam. A tuition scholarship was available based on students’ merits and needs and fellowships were also awarded to foreign students from developing countries.
The year 1964 marked the next crucial year for the New School’s Bachelors Program when the honors program and the colloquium program were introduced. The honors program was not mandatory for students, but the colloquium was. In the colloquium, all seniors took courses in areas outside of their major and one interdisciplinary course, a precursor to the explosion of interdisciplinary interests in the decades to come.
These experiments in undergraduate education eventually resulted in the formation to Eugene Lang College in 1985. As part of a number of new programs at the school, including Jazz and the merger of the Mannes College of Music in 1989, the New School grew to include a health center, a library, and several academic home divisions by 1990. President Jonathan Fanton, who oversaw the expansion, believed that students in smaller programs could enjoy the benefits of a large institution while offering many varied fields of studies.
The Senior College program, the honors program, and the colloquium program were the foundation of the undergraduate programs today. One aspect of the Senior College program is found in today’s BA/MA programs, which allow for fourth year students to take graduate courses.