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HomeGeneralHere Are Some of The Oldest Universities in the US

Here Are Some of The Oldest Universities in the US

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The number of degree-awarding institutions in the United States changes almost every year. However, its widely available data suggests that the United States is home to approximately 4,000 universities.

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Now, it may surprise you to know that there was a time when the geographical location presently called the United States of America did not have a single university. This assertion is only true of the early 17th century.

So, we shall look at the 10 oldest universities in the United States. The list will proceed from the latest to the oldest.

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What we today know as Columbia University was called King’s College. Thanks to the American Revolution, the first name was exchanged for what it was presently called in 1784.

Columbia University was started in 1754 by a royal charter issued by King George II of Great Britain. Like many higher education institutions of the time, Columbia University was established mainly to train clergy members.

Washington and Lee University was founded in 1749, six years before Columbia University. At inception, the school was called Augusta Academy in honour of its host community, Augusta County, Virginia.

In 1776, the name was again changed to Liberty Hall Academy. The academy would later move to its present location in 1782. Washington and Lee University was a male-only school until 1985, when it matriculated the first female student.

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Princeton University started in 1746 and was called the College of New Jersey at the time. The name changed in 1756 after the University moved to Princeton, New Jersey. At the onset, Princeton trained clergy members, but today is a member of the Ivy League.

The University of Delaware ironically started in New London in 1743. The inception of the University was the product of a petition by the then Presbytery of Lewes for the need of learned clergy. In response, the Rev. Dr. Francis Alison started the school in Pennsylvania.

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Moravian College was the first women-only boarding school in the then-American colonies. It may surprise you to know that this University was founded by a 16-year-old in 1742 in Pennsylvania. Countess Beningna would later establish a men-only equivalent the same year. The two schools merged in 1954 to form what we today know as the Moravian College.

The University of Pennsylvania has always been located in Philadelphia since its 1740 inception. The renowned American Evangelist George Whitefield started the institution as a charity school. It was a project to educate the converts from Whitefield’s revivals. The school suffered many financial woes until 1749, when Benjamin Franklin intervened.

Yale University was teaching clergy members informally as early as 1640. However, the charter licencing the school as a certificate-awarding institution was granted in 1701. So, Yale University claims its rightful place as the fourth oldest University in America.

St. John’s College started as a prep school in 1696, as King William’s School. Almost 100 years after its inception, a royal charter elevated the grammar school to a College. 

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The establishment of the College of William & Mary has been in the pipeline since 1618. Unfortunately, the school did not start until 1693 because of uprisings by native Indians. The second oldest school in America was founded after King William III and Queen Mary II signed its charter.

Top of the list is Harvard University, by far the oldest degree-awarding institution in the US. Harvard was established in 1636 and was the first licensed University in the American colony. For clarity, some people were getting informal instructions before this time. We have Havard University today thanks to the massive financial donation of John Harvard. He equally bestowed an enormous library of books on the institution.

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