Spring on the York College campus

Turning Points: The York County Academy And York Collegiate Institute Merge, 1929

By Karen Rice-Young ’92
The front page of a yellowed copy of the old York Collegiate Institute Chronicle

The York County Academy (YCA), the oldest school in York College’s lineage, had been instructing students for more than 50 years by the time the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania established the free public school system in 1834. It served as a high school, a normal (teacher’s) school, a classical, and college preparatory school throughout the 19th century. However, the competition from the establishment of York High in 1870 and the passing of the compulsory attendance law in 1895 greatly reduced the number of students whose families were willing to pay tuition for a private school; there was little revenue and its 1799 building on North Beaver Street had fallen into disrepair. 

Across town from the Academy, the York Collegiate Institute (YCI) on College Avenue and Duke Street opened in 1873; it offered a Christian-based curriculum, an alternative to what was being taught in the public, coed schools. By the early 20th century, however, YCI was also coping with low enrollment. 

At the end of the term in the spring of 1929, the Trustees of the Academy decided to close down the school on Beaver Street. YCA President, Dr. George Washington Gross, contacted the Board of YCI to propose the schools enter into a “Reciprocal Teaching Agreement:” i.e., the Academy and the Institute would maintain separate Boards and identities, but classes for both would be held in the Duke Street building. The offer was accepted. The “Reciprocal Teaching Agreement” was a solution to the difficulties of a smaller enrollment pool and the changing role of private schools in York. The arrangement proved to be successful and eventually led to the creation of York Junior College (YJC) in 1941. 

In 1948, all YCA and YCI classes were discontinued, allowing YJC to meet the demands of its growing enrollment. A newspaper article from that year celebrates the last class of YCI, and refers to the arrangement between the two schools as an “association” honoring alumni of both York County Academy and York Collegiate Institute jointly.