What is the history of private colleges and universities?

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Tamara K. H. eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Private colleges began in the United States during the colonial era as places to train ministers and teach potential government leaders. Harvard College was the first college to be chartered in the U.S., despite the protestations of the British. However, among the colonists to settle in New England were Cambridge and Oxford alumni, and believing education to be "essential," despite British resistance, Harvard College was established by Cambridge graduate Reverend John Harvard in 1963. Furthermore, "between Harvard's founding and the start of American Revolution," the colonists persisted and chartered a total of nine colleges, the others being the College of William and Mary in Virginia, 1693; what is now Yale University in Connecticut, 1701; what is now the University of Pennsylvania, 1740; what is now Princeton University in New Jersey, 1746; what is now Columbia University in New York City, 1754; what is now Brown University in Rhode Island, 1764; what is now Rutgers State University in New Jersey, 1766; and Dartmouth College in New Hampshire, 1769. Each of these colleges had all been created out of response to the First Great Awakening of the 1730s and 70s, which helped develop a wider variety of Protestant church denominations. As each denomination developed, it wanted its own seminary. One example can be seen in the fact that the Presbyterians founded the College of New Jersey, now known as Princeton University ("Higher Education in the United States--Historical Development, System"). Furthermore, as each of these colleges expanded to include more and more schools and students, the private colleges developed into private universities, though some of the original nine colleges have developed into public universities.

By the 19th century, public state colleges started being developed. Public state colleges and universities are state-funded institutions as opposed to privately-funded institutions. However, despite the emergence of public colleges, even in the East Coast, most students continued enrolling in private colleges. It wasn't until the start of the 20th century, as the country spread westward, that public colleges started to become more dominant ("Colleges and Universities, Private").