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MIT to close Lowell Institute School

As part of MIT's review of its higher education priorities, Provost Mark Wrighton has announced that as of June 1996, MIT will no longer operate the Lowell Institute School, which offers non-degree evening technical subjects on the campus.

The cooperative program between the Lowell Institute and MIT began in 1903 and was one of the few sources of non-degree technical courses, which today are provided by technical institutes, community colleges and other educational organizations.

"We regret this decision, but in our efforts to keep down costs and avoid future deficits, we have to focus on our core mission of teaching and research," Professor Wrighton said.

"Computer availability has become tight at the Institute and it became apparent that without a significant infusion of new funds and space, it would become difficult for the Lowell Institute School to continue to offer some of its most popular computer courses. Also, as we considered some new opportunities such as biotechnology training, we concluded that MIT would not be able to provide the needed facilities."

MIT provides funding, classroom space and access to the Institute's Athena computer system for the School.

The Lowell Institute School was established to provide technical education to Boston area residents, many of whom worked in the textile mills. When the school first opened as the Lowell Institute School for Industrial Foremen, people paid the equivalent of two bushels of wheat to take a course. The program developed and changed over the years and now provides evening technical courses to about 1,000 students per year in subjects such as electronics, computer applications and engineering drawing and computer-aided drafting. Some 100 MIT employees are usually enrolled in LIS programs each year.

"The Lowell Institute School has a long history of service to MIT employees and others in the local community," Professor Wrighton said. "Nonetheless, at a time when budgets of academic departments and essential services are being permanently reduced, it is appropriate that MIT reexamine the allocation of funds and space to activities such as LIS.

"I would like to note the superb job that has been performed by LIS's director, Dr. Bruce D. Wedlock, and his colleagues in providing a technical training program of the highest quality," Professor Wrighton continued. "The subsequent careers of many of the School's alumni and alumnae testify to the excellence of these efforts over the past two decades."

"I'm disappointed that MIT is no longer able to provide this level of technical education, but I understand the need to make choices," Dr. Wedlock said. Dr. Wedlock, the school's first full-time director, has headed the school since 1972.

A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on January 11, 1995.

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