The Pacific Northwest state of Washington become a part of the U.S. by way of the Oregon Treaty in 1846. During the 43 years that passed before its accession as the 42nd state in 1889, Washington honed an educational tradition that is now distinguished by stellar results.
There is an argument that the title for the territory's first postsecondary institution goes to Whitman college, founded in the friendly town of Walla Walla. The private college was started as a seminary by a territorial legislative charter in 1859. It did not, however, become the four-year liberal arts school that stands today until around 1883. Presently, its 1,600 students enjoy a nine-to-one student-to-faculty ratio and the far-reaching reputation of a school routinely ranked as a Top 50 liberal arts school by U.S. News & World Report. Today, it is one of 24 non-profit private schools in the state.
Given the transformation of Whitman from theological to secular, it is probably more technically accurate to call the University of Washington the state's oldest university. The public university was founded in 1861 in Seattle and is now among the longest-running colleges on the West Coast. Moreover, with 43,000 students occupying its 703-acre urban campus, the University ranks as the largest in the entire Northwest region. It is also one of 43 public institutions in a state where private schools are outnumbered almost two-to-one.
There is also an argument that the State of Washington offers its students one of the better returns for their money. At an average cost of $8,856, public in-state tuition for students in Washington hovers right around the national average of $8,070 per year. By contrast, the state's 68.9% rate of six year graduation shatters the national average of 56% and ranks as third overall in the nation.
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