New Hampshire was one of the original 13 colonies and the second to declare its independence from Great Britain in 1776. It was also the first state to develop its own constitution and, as the ninth to ratify the federal Constitution, New Hampshire would cast the vote which officially brought the landmark document into effect. Given its essential role in the early development of our nation, it is fitting that New Hampshire is also an early forerunner in the evolution of American higher education.
Its postsecondary history began when New Hampshire was still just a rebellious colony. Dartmouth was originally founded as a school for Native Americans in 1769 and in addition to being the oldest school in New Hampshire, it is one of only nine still-active Colonial Colleges founded before the Revolution. Of course, active is an understatement. This private, Hanover-based research university is a thriving and highly regarded institution today. With just a bit more than 6000 students on campus, Dartmouth is the smallest of the venerable Ivy League schools. In addition to routinely placing among the nation’s top schools academically, Dartmouth is ranked as the 3rd best school in the nation for student life, according to U.S. News & World Report.
Of course, not all of New Hampshire’s best schools predate electricity and indoor plumbing. In fact, one of the state’s top-ranked liberal arts schools was actually established well over 200 years after Dartmouth! Thomas More College of Liberal Arts emerged in Merrimack in 1978 and quickly ascended in reputation based on the strength of its reading-intensive curriculum and its dynamic study abroad program. With less than 100 students enrolled at present time, Thomas More may truly be among the most intimate college experiences available anywhere in the U.S.
Dartmouth and Thomas More are two of 14 non-profit private schools in the Granite State. New Hampshire is home to an additional 12 public institutions. This number is more than adequate for one of the nation’s least populous states. Indeed, in 2013, the whole state of New Hampshire was home to 38,834 students. Even the state’s largest public university, the University of New Hampshire, Durham, does not exceed 13,000 students.
In spite of their relatively small population, the students of New Hampshire far exceed the national six year graduation rate of 56%, scoring 65.4% in 2010.