From modest beginnings at the turn of the century, when classwork consisted of lectures by faculty from Columbia or other universities and field excursions, and tuition was $10, the Columbia University School of Social Work has evolved into one of the nations most innovative schools of its kind.
Within several years of offering the first class in practical philanthropic work in 1898, the Charity Organization Society recognized the need for more extensive training and in 1904, gave the expanded program a new name: the New York School of Philanthropy. Over the course of subsequent decades, the program of study was extended to two years, practical experience was solidly linked to lectures and discussion, and the informal, early connections between the School and Columbiawhereby students enjoyed reciprocal enrollment privileges and satisfied requirements at the two institutions simultaneouslywere strengthened. The school was renamed the New York School of Social Work in 1919 and the Columbia University School of Social Work in 1963. It became formally affiliated with Columbia University in 1940, and a member of the Columbia University Corporation in 1959.
Since the Schools founding, its curriculum has responded to and impacted social policy and practice. The faculty work to address both the causes and symptoms of pressing social problems, from dedicating their efforts to tenement house legislation and labor conditions in the Schools earliest years, to providing psychiatric and psychological services for broken families during and since the war, and advocating on behalf of underserved populations at the close of the century. Students today enhance their rigorous coursework with field instruction at any one of over 400 agencies, from hospitals and psychiatric facilities to immigrant and refugee organizations, in the unmatched laboratory of New York City.
As the School and the profession move into their second centuries, social workers and educators will confront increasingly complex issues. The current environment of major social policy changes has serious implications for social workers. But regardless of the particular issues facing social work practitioners and scholars, the School will continue to be guided by a tradition of responding to social change, new social problems, family change, and evolving societal commitments.