Colorado is known as the Centennial State, a nickname earned by its admission to the Union as America celebrated the 100th anniversary of its independence in 1876. Even before achieving statehood, the Colorado territory laid the formal groundwork for today’s university system. With the rugged state becoming a growing attraction to silver prospectors, America’s railways reached major mining hubs like Denver. Indeed, early histories point to the determinant role that the silver boom played in shaping curriculum at Colorado’s first colleges, denoting the importance of subjects such as chemistry, mining, and assaying (which has something to do with determining the content of metal or ore).
These events helped to make Denver in particular a thriving western outpost and, in 1864, site of the University of Denver. Just miles from a bustling downtown area, the University is the oldest in the Rocky Mountain region. The college’s founder was a man named John Evans, originally a Governor of the Colorado Territory appointed by no less authority than President Lincoln. Evans viewed his university as a way to help civilize the wild west mining camp that Denver had been to that point. It remains a bastion of civility today to roughly 11,500 students, nestled brilliantly between the majesty of the Rockies and the heart of the city.
As a testament to the importance that higher education has always played in Colorado’s evolution as a state, the University of Denver is just one of the reputable institutions to predate the state’s official accession. Colorado College, steeped in the idyllic natural splendor of Colorado Springs, was founded in 1874. Don’t let its age fool you, though. This private liberal arts college offers among the most progressive and immersive learning experiences in the country. These are among the best of Colorado’s 18 private non-profit colleges.
Colorado also hosts a robust public college system. The University of Colorado, for instance, is one of 29 publicly funded colleges or universities, distinguished as the state’s leading producer of graduate degrees. From its humble beginnings as an agricultural college, the University is now Colorado’s most generously-funded research institution.
On the whole, Colorado has been among the more successful states when it comes to providing affordable high quality post-secondary education to its residents. Take, for instance, the fact that a year at the University of Colorado, Boulder will run an out-of-towner $31K while costing in-state residents just a shade under $10K.
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