New Jersey was one of the original 13 colonies and the third state to ratify the U.S. Constitution in 1787. In addition to being the most densely populated state in the nation and the second wealthiest according to the American Community Survey, New Jersey is home to one of the nation's most storied systems of higher education. To the point, New Jersey is the only state with a claim to not one but two of the nation's original nine Colonial Colleges.
The first of these, Princeton University was established in the town of the same name, originally as the College of New Jersey, in 1746. This makes it only the fourth university in the U.S. to gain its charter and, naturally, the oldest in the Garden State. The Ivy League school is not just the best in New Jersey. Quite simply, according to 2015's U.S. News & World Report, Princeton is the very best school in America. Admitting a mere 8% of applicants each year, it is among the most selective schools in the world, but its generous financial aid and work study programs help most of its students to graduate without crippling student loan debt.
Two decades after Princeton's establishment, Queen's College opened its doors in New Brunswick, becoming only the eighth college to do so in the 13 colonies. Renamed Rutgers College in 1825, the private liberal arts school endured financial difficulty for much of its first half-century. Though endowments facilitated its growth over the next several decades, 1864 saw its designation as the state's only land-grant college. Transformed into a public coeducational institution, the state school now spreads across three regional campuses and serves roughly 58,000 students.
Princeton and Rutgers also share a fairly remarkable distinction in the history of college and American sports. In November of 1869, the two schools became the first ever to compete in an intercollegiate football game.
In spite of New Jersey's dense population, not all of its public schools are as massive as is Rutgers. The Ramapo College of New Jersey, located in Mahwah, is a mid-sized public liberal arts school which places its students in a region that is at once endowed with natural beauty and in close proximity to New York City. Kiplinger's calls the school, established in 1969, one of the Best Value Public Colleges in the U.S.
Ramapo is one of New Jersey's 32 public schools. Along with an additional 30 non-profit private schools, New Jersey is almost as densely populated with excellent schools as with citizens and cars. And with a six-year graduation rate that is 10.5% better than the nationwide rate of 56%, it's easy to see why Jersey continues to enjoy unfettered growth and prosperity some 269 years after the establishment of its first university.
- See who ranks as the best college and university in New Jersey today.
- Princeton University and Rutgers University rank among The 100 Best Universities in the World.