Permanent Record: Student Aid

A trove of 1920s report cards and the stories they tell.
Sept. 18 2011 3:41 PM

Permanent Record

Student aid.

Enrollment at Manhattan Trade was free of charge, but a small weekly stipend was available for cases of extreme need.

One student in my card collection, Helen Farkas, appears to have been a representative case. The oldest of four children, Helen entered Manhattan Trade at age 14, in February of 1926. She received consistently excellent grades and commentary from her instructors, but by early 1927 her mother—a widow living on a pension—felt Helen should leave school and begin working to help support the family.

After a social worker from the Board of Child Welfare investigated Helen's case and recommended that she be eligible for a scholarship, she was referred to the school's student aid department on April 25, 1927. A new card was filled out, breaking down the family's finances. The school's principal, Florence M. Marshall, then determined that Helen should receive $2 per week plus $1 for lunch. Helen's mother agreed to these terms, and Helen was able to finish her studies.

By the time the school placed Helen in her first job in February of 1928, she had received a total of $88.41 in aid. She went to work in various positions arranged through the school's placement office for the next decade, none of which would have been possible if she'd been forced to leave school before completing her vocational training.

Paul Lukas writes about food, travel, and consumer culture for a variety of publications.