The UMass Amherst University Without Walls was founded in 1971 as part of a national movement to increase access to higher education for non-traditional students.


a true original 

UWW staff member Jackie Stanton- Black woman with an afro and large sunglasses smiling and looking away from the camera

The UMass Amherst University Without Walls was founded in 1971 as part of a national movement to increase access to higher education for non-traditional students. With funding from the U.S. Department of Education, UMass Amherst was one of 17 colleges and universities across the nation to start University Without Walls programs with the "radical" goal of helping non-traditional students get a college education. These original seventeen schools were pioneers. At the time, the idea that traditional four year universities like UMass Amherst should open their doors to non-traditional students was nothing short of revolutionary.  

we built it and they came 

The front door of UWW's early headquarters in an old, white farmhouse on the UMass Amherst campus

In the fall of 1971, the UMass Amherst University Without Walls opened up shop in an old farm house on the edge of campus. Led by a small, dedicated team of UMass Amherst professors and graduate students, UWW was immediately deluged by phone inquiries and visitors grateful for the opportunity to finish what they started or dreamed of starting years earlier. 

Students took classes on campus and gathered in the old farm house. And when students could not come to campus, UMass UWW professors went to them, teaching classes in workplaces, prisons and in the community. In the 1990's UMass UWW professors were even known to haul their own office computers to community sites week after week so those without computer access could complete assignments. 

From the beginning, the student body was diverse. Similar to today, there were business owners, politicians, managers and administrators, health care and human service workers, and educators. Perhaps a sign of the times, UMass UWW's first students included accomplished Jazz musicians, artists and writers, as well as Vietnam veterans. In the beginning, most students were women and many were housewives for whom returning to school was a great act of courage.

changing with the times

For over 45 years, UMass UWW has continued to be a pioneer in the field of adult education, implementing community-based programming, introducing the part-time student experience as well as blended courses to the UMass Amherst campus, and- now- offering degrees 100% online. And although faces have changed over the years and we're not in the old farm house any more, our mission remains the same- to help adult students just like you finish your first bachelor's degree at a world-class university.

with age comes experience

At UMass UWW, we are time-tested experts in serving adult students. It's what we do. It's what we've always done. It's what we will continue to do. And you deserve nothing less than a degree program that was custom-built from the beginning for adults like you.