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Which colleges and universities are the most influential in the world? And, in what do they excel?

Find the colleges and universities that have made the biggest historical impact in the discipline, country, and timeframe of your choice! We rank universities and colleges from around the world based on the scholarly work of their faculty and alumni, i.e., influence.

Methodology: How and Why We Rank by Influence …

What is Desirability?

List of the most influential schools in Social Work, for the years 2000 – 2020

Columbia University
# 1

Columbia University

#3 institution's overall influence
#6 student desirability

Tuition + fees

$53K

Acceptance

6%

Graduation

95%

Student body

28K

Median SAT/ACT

1505/34

New York, NY

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Columbia is the eleventh-oldest institution of higher learning in the United States. After New Jersey founded its college (now Princeton University) in 1746, New Yorkers, not wishing to be outdone, established their own college just eight years later. Its original name was King’s College.
University of Michigan
# 2

University of Michigan

#15 institution's overall influence
#37 student desirability

Tuition + fees

$16K

Acceptance

23%

Graduation

91%

Student body

42K

Median SAT/ACT

1420/32

Ann Arbor, MI

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The flagship campuses of many of the state university systems have superb faculties and excellent academic reputations. However, setting aside Berkeley as a special case, by our criteria the University of Michigan’s Ann Arbor campus is the most distinguished of all these many fine institutions. That is, Michigan has a strong claim to be considered (after Berkeley) the best public research university in the US.
Harvard University
# 3

Harvard University

#1 institution's overall influence
#2 student desirability

Tuition + fees

$50K

Acceptance

5%

Graduation

97%

Student body

25K

Median SAT/ACT

1520/34

Cambridge, MA

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Harvard University is almost universally acclaimed as the world’s most prestigious university. There is little doubt that its towering reputation is well earned.
University of Southern California
# 4

University of Southern California

#39 institution's overall influence
#30 student desirability

Tuition + fees

$56K

Acceptance

13%

Graduation

92%

Student body

37K

Median SAT/ACT

1440/32

Los Angeles, CA

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The University of Southern California (USC) was founded as the first private research university in the state (five years before Stanford) largely through the efforts of Judge Robert Widney, one of the most prominent citizens of Los Angeles at that time.
New York University
# 5

New York University

#16 institution's overall influence
#44 student desirability

Tuition + fees

$52K

Acceptance

20%

Graduation

85%

Student body

47K

Median SAT/ACT

1410/31

New York, NY

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As the cultural mecca of the US, New York City naturally contains many fine colleges and universities. One of the very best is New York University (NYU), located in Washington Square in Lower Manhattan’s Greenwich Village neighborhood. While NYU is a quintessentially urban school lacking a conventional, pastoral college campus setting, its site is immediately recognizable thanks to Washington Square Arch, which is a replica of the ancient Roman Arch of Titus and very similar in appearance to Paris’s celebrated Arc de Triomphe (though only half its size).
Boston University
# 6

Boston University

#37 institution's overall influence
#56 student desirability

Tuition + fees

$54K

Acceptance

22%

Graduation

87%

Student body

30K

Median SAT/ACT

1415/31

Boston, MA

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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.
University of London
# 7

University of London

#2 institution's overall influence
An institution of higher education named University College London (UCL) was founded in the UK’s largest metropolis and capital city in 1826. A mere three years later, in 1829, a second, similar institution named King’s College London (KCL) opened its doors. Then, a mere decade after the founding of UCL, a third institution known simply as University of London (UL) was founded in 1836 by the merger of UCL and KCL.
Glasgow Caledonian University
# 8

Glasgow Caledonian University

#1132 institution's overall influence
Glasgow Caledonian University is a public university in Glasgow, Scotland. It was formed in 1993 by the merger of The Queen's College, Glasgow and Glasgow Polytechnic .
University of Toronto
# 9

University of Toronto

#24 institution's overall influence
The University of Toronto received its royal charter in 1827 from King George IV. Originally known as King’s College, it was the first institution of higher learning in the colonial Province of Upper Canada (consisting of mostly what is now southern Ontario).
Washington University in St. Louis
# 10

Washington University in St. Louis

#61 institution's overall influence
#20 student desirability

Tuition + fees

$53K

Acceptance

15%

Graduation

94%

Student body

12K

Median SAT/ACT

1520/33

Saint Louis, MO

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Washington University in St. Louis (WUSTL), which is located in an unincorporated area just west of the St. Louis city limits, was founded in 1853. WUSTL’s student body is highly diversified, including individuals from all 50 states and some 120 foreign countries.
University of California, Berkeley
# 11

University of California, Berkeley

#6 institution's overall influence
#29 student desirability

Tuition + fees

$14K

Acceptance

15%

Graduation

92%

Student body

41K

Median SAT/ACT

1425/33

Berkeley, CA

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The University of California, Berkeley is a public research university in Berkeley, California. Established in 1868 as the state's first land-grant university, it is the oldest campus of the University of California system and a founding member of the Association of American Universities. Among its 14 colleges and schools, the university employs over 2,500 faculty and enrolls some 31,000 undergraduate and 12,000 graduate students, and its 180 academic departments and 80 interdisciplinary research units offer over 350 degree programs. Berkeley is ranked among the world's top universities by ma...
University of Chicago
# 12

University of Chicago

#5 institution's overall influence
#8 student desirability

Tuition + fees

$57K

Acceptance

7%

Graduation

94%

Student body

12K

Median SAT/ACT

1520/34

Chicago, IL

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The University of Chicago is one of the foremost universities in the world academically, albeit one of the youngest in that august company. In spite of its relatively recent founding, the school has been associated with some of the world’s most important scientific achievements, above all, the first controlled, self-sustaining, nuclear chain reaction (atomic fission), which was achieved in late 1942 by a team led by the legendary Italian physicist, Enrico Fermi, in a laboratory beneath a football field on the Chicago campus.
Yale University
# 13

Yale University

#7 institution's overall influence
#4 student desirability

Tuition + fees

$53K

Acceptance

6%

Graduation

98%

Student body

15K

Median SAT/ACT

1515/34

New Haven, CT

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Yale was originally founded under the name of Collegiate School by Connecticut Colony in 1701. It is the fourth-oldest institution of higher learning in the US, after Harvard, the College of William & Mary (in Williamsburg, Virginia), and St. John’s College (in Annapolis, Maryland). Called the “Collegiate School,” its original mission was to train future ministers for the Congregational Church.
University of California, Los Angeles
# 14

University of California, Los Angeles

#23 institution's overall influence
#31 student desirability

Tuition + fees

$13K

Acceptance

14%

Graduation

91%

Student body

44K

Median SAT/ACT

1405/32

Los Angeles, CA

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The University of California, Los Angeles is a public research university in Los Angeles, California. UCLA traces its early origins back to 1882 as the southern branch of the California State Normal School . It became the Southern Branch of the University of California in 1919, making it the second-oldest of the 10-campus University of California system.
Hampshire College
# 15

Hampshire College

#434 institution's overall influence
#955 student desirability

Tuition + fees

$52K

Acceptance

63%

Graduation

65%

Student body

1K

Amherst, MA

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Hampshire College is a private liberal arts college in Amherst, Massachusetts. It was opened in 1970 as an experiment in alternative education, in association with four other colleges in the Pioneer Valley: Amherst College, Smith College, Mount Holyoke College, and the University of Massachusetts Amherst. Together they have since been known as the Five Colleges or the Five College Consortium.
Rockford College
# 16

Rockford College

#830 institution's overall influence
#259 student desirability

Tuition + fees

$31K

Acceptance

49%

Graduation

49%

Student body

1K

Median SAT/ACT

1090/21

Rockford, IL

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Rockford University is a private university in Rockford, Illinois. It was founded in 1847 as Rockford Female Seminary and changed its name to Rockford College in 1892, and to Rockford University in 2013.
University of Pennsylvania
# 17

University of Pennsylvania

#17 institution's overall influence
#10 student desirability

Tuition + fees

$56K

Acceptance

8%

Graduation

95%

Student body

27K

Median SAT/ACT

1485/33

Philadelphia, PA

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The University of Pennsylvania (commonly known as “Penn”) is a leading private research university (note that nearly all US universities named after their state are public-supported—Penn is an exception to this rule).
University of Connecticut
# 18

University of Connecticut

#252 institution's overall influence
#1460 student desirability

Tuition + fees

$16K

Acceptance

49%

Graduation

82%

Student body

25K

Median SAT/ACT

1315/28

Storrs, CT

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The University of Connecticut (UConn) was founded in 1881. With branch campuses in Farmington, Groton, Hartford, Stamford, and Waterbury, in addition to its flagship campus in Storrs, UConn’s total student body numbers more than 32,000 individuals.
Florida State University
# 19

Florida State University

#153 institution's overall influence
#174 student desirability

Tuition + fees

$7K

Acceptance

37%

Graduation

80%

Student body

39K

Median SAT/ACT

1275/28

Tallahassee, FL

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Florida State University (FSU) was established in 1851. With a student enrollment of about 41,500, FSU is the second-largest university in the state, after the University of Florida.
University of Texas at Austin
# 20

University of Texas at Austin

#42 institution's overall influence
#43 student desirability

Tuition + fees

$11K

Acceptance

39%

Graduation

81%

Student body

45K

Median SAT/ACT

1355/30

Austin, TX

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By rights, the University of Texas (known within Texas itself as “UT,” for short) ought to be 40 years older than it is. In 1839, the Republic of Texas officially set aside 40 acres of prime real estate in the center of the new country’s capital city, Austin, as the site for the campus of a national university. The Texas Congress also granted 288,000 acres of land, mainly in the western regions of the Republic, as a financial endowment for the future university.
University of Washington
# 21

University of Washington

#43 institution's overall influence
#69 student desirability

Tuition + fees

$11K

Acceptance

49%

Graduation

84%

Student body

46K

Median SAT/ACT

1340/29

Seattle, WA

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In the 1850s, the Governor of Washington Territory and some of his Seattle-based friends and business associates, including a prominent Methodist minister, put their heads together to figure out a way to advance two causes close to their hearts: the prospect of statehood for the territory and the economic welfare of the city of Seattle.
University of Auckland
# 22

University of Auckland

#280 institution's overall influence
The University of Auckland is a public research university in Auckland, New Zealand. It is the highest ranked New Zealand university in the QS World University Rankings and Shanghai Jiao Tong Academic Ranking of World Universities. The institution was established in 1883, a constituent college of the University of New Zealand. Today, the University of Auckland is New Zealand's largest university by enrolment, hosting about 40,000 students on five Auckland campuses. The City Campus, in central Auckland, has the bulk of the students and faculties. There are eight faculties, including a law schoo...
University of Pittsburgh
# 23

University of Pittsburgh

#63 institution's overall influence
#987 student desirability

Tuition + fees

$19K

Acceptance

59%

Graduation

81%

Student body

27K

Median SAT/ACT

1350/30

Pittsburgh, PA

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University of Pittsburgh (“Pitt”) traces its roots to the Pittsburgh Academy, a preparatory school founded in 1787, when Pittsburgh was still a frontier outpost. Defined in this way, Pitt is the oldest continuously chartered educational institution west of the Allegheny Mountains.
New York University Tandon School of Engineering
# 24

New York University Tandon School of Engineering

#135 institution's overall influence
The New York University Tandon School of Engineering is the engineering and applied sciences school of New York University. Tandon is the second oldest private engineering and technology school in the United States. The school dates back to 1854 when its predecessor institutions, the University of the City of New York School of Civil Engineering and Architecture and the Brooklyn Collegiate and Polytechnic Institute, were founded. The school was renamed in 2015 in honor of NYU Trustees Chandrika and Ranjan Tandon following their donation of $100 million to the school.
Northwestern University
# 25

Northwestern University

#28 institution's overall influence
#24 student desirability

Tuition + fees

$55K

Acceptance

8%

Graduation

94%

Student body

19K

Median SAT/ACT

1490/34

Evanston, IL

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The founding of Northwestern University was spearheaded by the physician and politician John Evans, for whom the town of Evanston, Illinois, is named. The school is a private institution whose campus lies along Lake Michigan, just north of Chicago.
University of Sydney
# 26

University of Sydney

#78 institution's overall influence
The wave of expansion of Homo sapiens out of its African birthplace reached the continent of Australia around 40,000 years ago, or more. However, the first visit of Europeans to the land down under did not occur until 1606, when the Dutch explorer Willem Janszoon made landfall at what is now the town of Weipa on the western shore of the Cape York Peninsula in northern Queensland.
University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign
# 27

University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign

#45 institution's overall influence
#162 student desirability

Tuition + fees

$17K

Acceptance

62%

Graduation

85%

Student body

52K

Median SAT/ACT

1330/29

Champaign, IL

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The University of Illinois began life as the Illinois Industrial University, located in the city of Urbana. Although the original intention of lawmakers and the preference of many state residents was for the new school to concentrate on vocational training, the university’s first president, John Milton Gregory, wisely insisted on offering a full spectrum of liberal arts and science courses.
Johns Hopkins University
# 28

Johns Hopkins University

#20 institution's overall influence
#21 student desirability

Tuition + fees

$54K

Acceptance

11%

Graduation

92%

Student body

24K

Median SAT/ACT

1505/34

Baltimore, MD

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Johns Hopkins was designed from its origin to contribute to the cutting edge of scientific discovery. With time, this goal has been fully achieved, leading to the top-tier research institution that the university is today. The school is named after its founding benefactor, the entrepreneur and philanthropist Johns Hopkins, who contributed $7 million (approximately $145 million in today’s money) to create both the university and an associated hospital.
University of Sussex
# 29

University of Sussex

#142 institution's overall influence
The University of Sussex was established by royal charter in 1961 in the village of Falmer, in the eastern portion of the sprawling South Downs National Park, just north of the seaside city of Brighton, in the county of East Sussex.
University of Delhi
# 30

University of Delhi

#157 institution's overall influence
The University of Delhi (DU) was founded in 1922 by the government of British India. The new university soon absorbed four other colleges already existing in Delhi: Delhi College (originally founded in 1792 as Zakir Husain Delhi College); St. Stephen’s College (founded in 1881); Hindu College (founded in 1899); and Ramjas College (founded in 1917). One reason why the British decided to establish DU was the transfer of the seat of colonial administration from Kolkata (Calcutta) to Delhi in 1911.
Cornell University
# 31

Cornell University

#14 institution's overall influence
#14 student desirability

Tuition + fees

$55K

Acceptance

11%

Graduation

94%

Student body

24K

Median SAT/ACT

1465/33

Ithaca, NY

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Cornell University was founded in turbulent times. With the Civil War winding down, and less than two weeks after President Abraham Lincoln’s assassination, the Governor of New York signed the school’s official charter in the state capital, Albany, where only the day before Lincoln’s funeral procession had passed through the city’s streets.
Sarah Lawrence College
# 32

Sarah Lawrence College

#236 institution's overall influence
#1422 student desirability

Tuition + fees

$56K

Acceptance

56%

Graduation

82%

Student body

2K

Median SAT/ACT

1330/29

Bronxville, NY

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Sarah Lawrence College is a private liberal arts college in Yonkers, New York. The college models its approach to education after the Oxford/Cambridge system of one-on-one student-faculty tutorials, which are a key component in all areas of study. Sarah Lawrence emphasizes scholarship, particularly in the humanities, performing arts, and writing, and places high value on independent study.
McGill University
# 33

McGill University

#40 institution's overall influence
McGill University is the direct descendent of McGill College, founded by royal charter in 1821 and largely funded by a bequest from the Scottish-born Canadian entrepreneur and philanthropist, James McGill. The university took its present name in 1885.
Case Western Reserve University
# 34

Case Western Reserve University

#133 institution's overall influence
#110 student desirability

Tuition + fees

$49K

Acceptance

29%

Graduation

82%

Student body

9K

Median SAT/ACT

1435/32

Cleveland, OH

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Case Western Reserve University (CWRU) was established in 1967 through the merger of Western Reserve University (founded in 1826) and Case Institute of Technology (founded in 1880).
Hunter College
# 35

Hunter College

#178 institution's overall influence
#1193 student desirability

Tuition + fees

$7K

Acceptance

36%

Graduation

53%

Student body

19K

New York, NY

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Hunter College, one of the constituent colleges of the City University of New York (CUNY), was founded in 1870 as a women’s “normal school” (teacher-training college). The college began admitting males in 1946.
University of Plymouth
# 36

University of Plymouth

#792 institution's overall influence
The University of Plymouth is a public university based predominantly in Plymouth, England where the main campus is located, but the university has campuses and affiliated colleges across South West England. With students, it is the largest in the United Kingdom by total number of students . It has 2,915 staff.
University of Waterloo
# 37

University of Waterloo

#176 institution's overall influence
The University of Waterloo traces its roots back to the Waterloo College School, founded in 1914.
Brandeis University
# 38

Brandeis University

#87 institution's overall influence
#167 student desirability

Tuition + fees

$55K

Acceptance

31%

Graduation

90%

Student body

7K

Median SAT/ACT

1390/31

Waltham, MA

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Brandeis University was founded in suburban Boston in 1948. Its founders intended to provide a top-rank research university that would be friendly to Jewish students and faculty—at a time when the American Ivy League schools all restricted the number of their Jewish students according to a strict quota system.
University of Western Ontario
# 39

University of Western Ontario

#200 institution's overall influence
The University of Western Ontario , corporately branded as Western University and commonly shortened to Western, is a public research university in London, Ontario, Canada. The main campus is located on of land, surrounded by residential neighbourhoods and the Thames River bisecting the campus's eastern portion. The university operates twelve academic faculties and schools. It is a member of the U15, a group of research-intensive universities in Canada.
University of Wisconsin–Madison
# 40

University of Wisconsin–Madison

#25 institution's overall influence
#216 student desirability

Tuition + fees

$11K

Acceptance

52%

Graduation

85%

Student body

36K

Median SAT/ACT

1365/29

Madison, WI

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The University of Wisconsin was founded at the same time that the eastern part of the Wisconsin Territory became the new state of Wisconsin and entered the union. In accord with its charter, the new state university was physically located in the state capital, Madison.
Tulane University
# 41

Tulane University

#208 institution's overall influence
#107 student desirability

Tuition + fees

$55K

Acceptance

17%

Graduation

83%

Student body

11K

Median SAT/ACT

1420/31

New Orleans, LA

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Tulane University is a private research university in New Orleans, Louisiana. It was founded as a public medical college in 1834 and became a comprehensive university in 1847. The institution was made private under the endowments of Paul Tulane and Josephine Louise Newcomb in 1884. Tulane is the 9th oldest private university in the Association of American Universities, which consists of major research universities in the United States and Canada. The Tulane University Law School and Tulane University Medical School are, respectively, the 12th oldest law school and 15th oldest medical school i...
University of Oldenburg
# 42

University of Oldenburg

#918 institution's overall influence
The Carl von Ossietzky University of Oldenburg is a university located in Oldenburg, Germany. It is one of the most important and highly regarded educational facilities in northwestern Germany and specialises in interdisciplinary and sustainable development studies and renewable energy studies with focus on solar and wind energy.
Hong Kong Polytechnic University
# 43

Hong Kong Polytechnic University

#819 institution's overall influence
The Hong Kong Polytechnic University is a public research university located in Hung Hom, Hong Kong. The history of PolyU can be traced back to 1937. It became a fully accredited university and one of the government-funded degree-granting tertiary institutions in 1994.
City College of New York
# 44

City College of New York

#58 institution's overall influence

Tuition + fees

$7K

Acceptance

48%

Graduation

47%

Student body

13K

New York, NY

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The City College of the City University of New York is a public college of the City University of New York system in New York City. Founded in 1847, City College was the first free public institution of higher education in the United States. It is the oldest of CUNY's 24 institutions of higher learning, and is considered its flagship college.
University of Houston
# 45

University of Houston

#250 institution's overall influence
#1064 student desirability

Tuition + fees

$9K

Acceptance

62%

Graduation

51%

Student body

37K

Median SAT/ACT

1220/25

Houston, TX

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The University of Houston (UH) was established in 1927. With a student body in excess of 46,000, it is the third-largest university in the state of Texas.
University of Haifa
# 46

University of Haifa

#501 institution's overall influence
The University of Haifa is a university located on Mount Carmel in Haifa, Israel. Founded in 1963, the University of Haifa received full academic accreditation in 1972, becoming Israel's sixth academic institution and the fourth university. The university has the largest university library in Israel. As of 2019, approximately 18,000 students were enrolled at the University of Haifa. Among Israeli higher education institutions the University of Haifa has the largest percentage of Arab-Israeli students.
Portland State University
# 47

Portland State University

#528 institution's overall influence
#448 student desirability

Tuition + fees

$8K

Acceptance

90%

Graduation

48%

Student body

21K

Median SAT/ACT

1120/21

Portland, OR

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Portland State University is a public research university in Portland, Oregon. It was founded in 1946 as a post-secondary educational institution for World War II veterans. It evolved into a four-year college over the following two decades and was granted university status in 1969. It is the only public urban university in the state of Oregon that is located in a large city. It is governed by a board of trustees. PSU is classified among "R2: Doctoral Universities – High research activity".
University of Minnesota
# 48

University of Minnesota

#33 institution's overall influence
#890 student desirability

Tuition + fees

$15K

Acceptance

52%

Graduation

78%

Student body

44K

Median SAT/ACT

1375/28

Minneapolis, MN

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The University of Minnesota (UM) traces its roots to a college preparatory school established in the city of Minneapolis seven years before Minnesota entered the Union in 1858. This school closed its doors during the Civil War, but reopened in 1867.
Arizona State University
# 49

Arizona State University

#146 institution's overall influence
#1312 student desirability

Tuition + fees

$11K

Acceptance

85%

Graduation

67%

Student body

50K

Median SAT/ACT

1245/25

Tempe, AZ

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Arizona State University (ASU) was founded as the Territorial Normal School in 1885---over a quarter century before Arizona entered the Union in 1912---in Tempe, a town just east of Phoenix.
Virginia Commonwealth University
# 50

Virginia Commonwealth University

#474 institution's overall influence
#994 student desirability

Tuition + fees

$14K

Acceptance

86%

Graduation

62%

Student body

26K

Median SAT/ACT

1165/24

Richmond, VA

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Virginia Commonwealth University is a public research university in Richmond, Virginia. VCU was founded in 1838 as the medical department of Hampden–Sydney College, becoming the Medical College of Virginia in 1854. In 1968, the Virginia General Assembly merged MCV with the Richmond Professional Institute, founded in 1917, to create Virginia Commonwealth University. In 2018, more than 31,000 students pursue 217 degree and certificate programs through VCU's 11 schools and three colleges. The VCU Health System supports the university's health care education, research, and patient care mission.