The northern-bound midwestern state of Minnesota joined the U.S. in 1858 and immediately made education one of its top priorities, mandating the establishment of the Winona Normal School (now Winona State University) that very same year. This was the site of the first so-called “normal school”—now more commonly referred to as teachers’ colleges—west of the Mississippi.
The fact that education played such a central role in the early development of the 32nd state may well account for the array of evidence suggesting that Minnesota is among the best educated and most literate states in the U.S. Quite to the point, the city of Minneapolis is at once home to the single most literate metropolitan population in America and to its premier public research institution. The University of Minnesota-Twin City, in fact, predates the establishment of the state itself by seven years and now occupies two campuses, with the second five miles down the road in St. Paul. Today, its 65,000 students enjoy 2,730 acres spread across both campuses.
In addition to the 43 public schools Minnesota has to offer, students may also choose from among 35 non-profit private universities. Carleton College is a standout among them. The Northfield school of 2000 students sits on an expansive rural tract of more than 1000 acres, enough room for the extremely generous array of student activities and athletics the campus has to offer. Carleton is also one of six colleges in Minnesota occupying a spot on U.S. News & World Report’s Top 100 liberal arts schools.
On the whole, higher education has proven an important part of life and culture in Minnesota. In fact, its state college and university system is the 14th largest in the United States based on student enrollment, a telling accomplishment for a state that is only the 21st most populous in the nation. In 2012, it ranked tops of all the states in its region for overall college enrollment rates. Minnesota is a perfect example of a state whose commitment to higher education has translated into widespread literacy and prosperity.
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