Since its inception into the United States in 1837, the 26th state has been a leader in industrialization and manufacturing. But its history as a leader in higher education goes back even further. Indeed, not only did Michigan’s oldest continuously operated college open its doors 20 years before the territory became a state, but said college has been public since day one. Initially established in Detroit, the University of Michigan relocated to Ann Arbor the same year that the state acceded. It was also at this juncture that Michigan authored a requirement into its constitution mandating the state’s responsibility for sponsoring higher education. This commitment has served Michigan well, with no fewer than 46 public colleges or universities in operation today.
The University of Michigan reflects the particularly high caliber of public institution in Michigan. Widely considered one of the premier research universities in the nation, its massive 20,965 acre campus is home to more than 43,000 students, who have the opportunity to choose from 200 majors, 90 master’s programs, 100 doctoral paths, and nearly 1500 student organizations.
The University of Michigan’s storied Wolverines, particularly those of the men’s basketball and football programs, enjoy a healthy cross-state rivalry with the Michigan State Spartans. The schools also compete closely for largest institution in the state. Michigan State, founded in 1855, has the slight edge in this category with an enrollment of roughly 48,000. Michigan State also credits itself as the first institution of learning in American with a comprehensive scientific agriculture program.
The only Michigan school with more students than MSU is the Oakland Community College, a two-year institution that handles about 81,000 annually. Michigan’s considerable array of postsecondary options also includes 51 non-profit private colleges or universities. Notable among them is Hillsdale College, which was founded by Baptists in 1844 but is fully secular today. With just under 1500 undergraduates and an average class size of 15, students at Hillsdale enjoy a 10-to-one student-to-faculty ratio and a bucolic 200-acre landscape.
Michigan’s strong record on higher education extends to both its exceptionally high retention and graduation rates. As to the latter, Michigan students graduate within six years at a rate of 60.7%, which is nearly five points better than the national average.
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