Boston University

#92 / #33
Global Influence / U.S. Influence
Most Desirable School
Private research university in Boston, Massachusetts, United States

Boston University Featured Rankings

About Boston University

By James Barham, PhD

Boston University (universally known as “BU”) traces its roots to a Methodist Church training college, the Newbury Biblical Institute, founded in Newbury, Vermont, by a group of Boston-based Methodist ministers and elders. Ten years later, in 1849, the school was transferred to the much larger town (and state capital) of Concord, New Hampshire, where it operated as the Concord Biblical Institute for 20 more years. Finally, in 1869, it moved again, this time to Boston itself, under the new name of the Boston Theological Institute.

Just two years after that, in 1871, the school’s name was changed one last time—to Boston University. BU was built up piecemeal over a period of many years, in several different Boston locations, including the Beacon Hill and Copley Square neighborhoods. It only came to occupy its present main campus—in the Back Bay neighborhood along the south bank of the Charles River across from MIT—during the 1930s.

Despite BU’s origins as a Methodist Church training institute, its new 1871 charter stated that there should be no religious test for entrance to the university at large (the School of Theology excepted), placing BU among the ranks of the first American universities to officially sever their ties to their religious past. BU was also early in admitting women and African Americans to its student body on an equal basis with white men.

From today’s perspective, the transplantation of the school to Boston was prescient, as the city and its immediately surrounding region now have the highest concentration of top-ranking colleges and universities in the US. In addition to BU, the greater Boston area is home to Northeastern University and Emerson College (also in Boston proper), to Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (in Cambridge), to Boston College (in Chestnut Hill), to Brandeis University (in Waltham), and to Tufts University (in Medford and Somerville).

Nine persons connected with Boston University have won the Nobel Prize. Of these, the best known are the:

  • American particle physicist, Sheldon Glashow—physics
  • American novelist, Saul Bellow and the Saint Lucian-born poet, Derek Walcott—literature
  • Romanian-born novelist, Holocaust-survivor, and prolific non-fiction author and political activist, Elie Wiesel— peace

Then there is the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr., the Baptist minister and primary leader of the Civil Rights Movement during the 1950s and 1960s until his assassination in 1968, who obtained his doctorate in systematic theology from BU in 1955, and who received the Noble Peace Prize in 1964.

It is also worth noting that King’s dissertation advisor at BU was Edgar Sheffield Brightman, who taught philosophy there for more than 30 years. Brightman’s own teacher, Borden Parker Bowne, was the founder of the American philosophical movement known as personalism; he, too, taught at BU for 30 years. Finally, one of Brightman’s students, Peter A. Bertocci, also taught for three decades at BU, where among other things he edited MLK’s papers. Thus, the three most important figures in the history of American personalism all made their long and distinguished careers at BU, which may be considered the beating heart of that significant American philosophical movement.

Another well-known philosopher, the Kant-scholar, and conservative public intellectual, John Silber, served as President of BU for some 25 years.

Among other well-known BU-connected individuals, we may mention:

  • Alexander Graham Bell, who invented the telephone at BU in 1875
  • Philosophers, Alasdair MacIntyre & Roger Scruton
  • Poets, Robert Lowell & Sylvia Plath
  • Novelist, Jhumpa Lahiri
  • Folk singer, Joan Baez
  • Actors, Faye Dunaway, Geena Davis, Alfre Woodard, Julianne Moore, Marisa Tomei, & Emily Deschanel
  • Radio personality, Howard Stern
  • Television personalities, Rosie O’Donnell and Bill O’Reilly
  • Prominent, recently elected member of the US House of Representatives, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez

Finally, William Howard Taft lectured at BU’s law school between 1918 and 1921, in between serving as the 17th President of the United States and the 10th Chief Justice of the US Supreme Court. Taft is the only person ever to hold both of those high positions.

According to Wikipedia, Boston University is a private research university in Boston, Massachusetts. The university is nonsectarian, but has a historical affiliation with the United Methodist Church. It was founded in 1839 by Methodists with its original campus in Newbury, Vermont, before moving to Boston in 1867.

Boston University Admissions, Retention, and Graduation Information

Annual Applications Acceptance Graduation Rate Median SAT Score Median ACT Score
61,007 20% 89% 1425 32

How Much Does Boston University Cost To Attend?

Tuition (in-state)
Price by Family Income
Income Average Net Cost
0 - 30K $12,903
30K - 48K $13,256
48K - 75K $20,231
75K - 110K $31,075
110K+ $48,048

Source: National Center for Education Statistics

How Much Do Boston University Graduates Make?

If you graduate from Boston University, then you can expect to earn an average of $75,900 per year. You also have a 92% chance of being employed after 10 years.

Boston University's Demographics

Demographic data is for full-time, on-campus students.

Student Body Under-Grads Graduates
32,365 22,128 10,237

Where is Boston University?

Boston University is located at One Silber Way, Boston MA 02215

How Safe is Boston University?

Boston University has a violent crime rate of less than .01% and a property crime rate of less than .01%. Boston has a violent crime rate of less than .01% and a property crime rate of less than .01%.

What Is Boston University Known For?

Boston University is known for it's academic work in the following disciplines:

Boston University's Top Areas of Influence With Degrees Offered

Who Are Boston University's Most Influential Alumni?

Boston University's most influential alumni faculty include professors and professionals in the fields of Social Work, Communications, and Nursing. Here are some of Boston University's most famous alumni:

Martin Luther King Jr.
Martin Luther King Jr.
An American clergyman, activist, and leader in the American Civil Rights Movement.
Sheldon Glashow
Sheldon Glashow
An American theoretical physicist.
Neal Stephenson
Neal Stephenson
An American science fiction writer.
Kim Stanley Robinson
Kim Stanley Robinson
An American science fiction writer.
Albert-László Barabási
Albert-László Barabási
A Hungarian-Romanian physicist.
Norman Vincent Peale
Norman Vincent Peale
An American writer and minister .
Ray Hyman
Ray Hyman
An American professor of psychology.
Daniel C. Tsui
Daniel C. Tsui
A Chinese-American physicist, Nobel laureate.
Tipper Gore
An American writer and photographer.
Owen Flanagan
An American philosopher.
Bernard Berenson
Bernard Berenson
An American art critic and collector.
Keith B. Alexander
A United States Army general and former head of the National Security Agency.

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