During Oklahoma's Territorial Era and early statehood, two coeducational preparatory schools, similar to today's high schools, prepared students for freshman-level college course work. Through the efforts of James Wilkin, a legislator from Tonkawa, the Territorial Legislature appropriated funds in 1901 to establish the University Preparatory School (UPS) at Tonkawa in north-central Oklahoma. UPS opened on September 8, 1902, with an enrollment of 217. The tuition-free school offered a three-year program that included subpreparatory, preparatory, and business courses. The faculty taught English, classic and modern languages, mathematics, science, geography, and history. Business students could select stenography, typewriting, bookkeeping, commercial law, and business correspondence. The U.S. War Department detailed an army officer to teach military science and tactics, and the federal government supplied ordnance to the school. After being closed during World War I, the institution reopened in 1919 and became known as the University Preparatory and Vocational Junior College (now Northern Oklahoma College) in 1921. With enrollment declining to thirty preparatory students by 1939, the institution phased out its high school courses in 1951.
In 1909 the Second Oklahoma Legislature approved the establishment of Eastern University Preparatory School, to serve the same purpose as UPS, at Claremore in northeastern Oklahoma. The legislature appropriated thirty thousand dollars to construct the main building. The school opened on September 14, 1909, with Edmund D. Murdaugh as the first president. Individuals with an eighth-grade diploma could enroll in the tuition-free school. Students without an eighth-grade education could enroll in the subfreshman department. In addition to a curriculum similar to that of UPS, the Claremore school offered telegraphy and railroad accounting. By 1910-11 enrollment totaled 375. Closed during World War I, the facility reopened in 1919 as the Oklahoma Military Academy.
The need for preparatory courses offered at the preparatory schools as well as at state colleges declined as high schools were built throughout Oklahoma in the early twentieth century.
BIBLIOGRAPHY: Mac Hefton Bradley, From UPS to NOC, 1901-1976 (Tonkawa: Northern Oklahoma College, 1976). Claremore (Oklahoma) Messenger, 20 August 1909 and 26 August 1910. Seth K. Corden and William B. Richards, comps., Oklahoma Red Book, Vol. 2 (Oklahoma City: n.p., 1912). Stanley W. Hoig, "A History of the Development of Institutions of Higher Education in Oklahoma" (Ph.D. diss., University of Oklahoma, 1971).
Linda D. Wilson
© Oklahoma Historical Society