The School of Engineering increases its technical curriculum, removing requirements such as foreign language in the process. In 1929, the school boasts an enrollment of 305, equal in size to programs in other private universities such as Harvard, Johns Hopkins and Stanford.
Enrollments decline during the Depression and are further threatened in 1937 when the Engineering Council for Professional Development removes Northwestern’s accreditation. At issue is continued predominance of non-professional courses, to which the University responds with new offerings in aeronautics and sanitation. The School continues liberal arts requirements, however, and vows to produce engineers “of judgment as well as knowledge.”
By 1937, the University begins its courtship of inventor/industrialist Walter Patton Murphy. Murphy will donate nearly $7 million to found the new Technological Institute and a total of $28 million to the school with bequests upon his death.
A cooperative education program is designed for the Institute by Charles Kettering, former research boss of General Motors, and Herman Schneider, dean of the engineering school at the University of Cincinnati. The program requires undergraduates to work outside the classroom in technical positions for several terms over the course of their college years.