Massachusetts Education

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Massachusetts' Educational Legacy

One of the original 13 colonies and the sixth state to ratify the U.S. Constitution, Massachusetts has been the site of countless defining moments in American history. From the settlement of the Plymouth colony to the Boston Tea Party; from Shays Rebellion to the abolition of slavery, Massachusetts stands at the forefront of America's political, economic, and cultural curves. It should come as no surprise, therefore, the this New England state is also at the forefront of America's educational evolution.

Indeed, Massachusetts is home to what is often regarded as the very best school in the U.S. But it happens that Harvard University in Cambridge is also the first and oldest continuously operating institution of higher education in the nation. Formed in 1635 as a school for Unitarian clergy, it would eventually become the secular academic powerhouse we know today. Indeed, this campus of 21,000 students is just as frequently ranked as the top school in the world as in the U.S. Its reputation is further assured by the eight U.S presidents and 150 Nobel Laureates that have called Harvard their alma mater.

Harvard University
Massachusetts's oldest university: Harvard University, founded in 1636.

Of course, Harvard is not alone among Massachusetts' vaunted institutions of higher learning, Indeed, no fewer than six other schools are routinely regarded as being among the Top 50 schools in the U.S. This includes Tufts University, Boston College, Brandeis University, Boston University (also the biggest school in the state with an enrollment of roughly 32,000), Northeastern University, and of course, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (just a few miles down the road from Harvard and often seen as its academic equal).

Harvard is also not the only ‘first' among Massachusetts colleges. Founded in 1837, Mount Holyoke College is the oldest continuously operated women's college in the United States. The South Hadley-based liberal arts school was the first of the so-called Seven Sisters and the model from which many of its siblings would be adapted.

With 30 public schools and 86 non-profit private schools, residents of this third most densely populated state do have plenty of options. In fact, the state's small liberal arts colleges are just as reputable. Wellesley College, Amherst College, and Williams College give Massachusetts a fairly untouchable claim on U.S. News & World Report's Top Five Liberal Arts Colleges. Indeed, Williams holds the highest spot in today's rankings.

Home to roughly 2000 students, the school that was founded in 1793 offers one of the most direct windows into New England's revolutionary era. Its library houses first editions of the Declaration of Independence, the U.S. Constitution, and the Bill of Rights, among countless other remarkable artifacts.

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