The history of West Virginia is quite unique among American states. Indeed, it is the only one in the Union to have been carved out of an existing state against the latter’s will. It is also unique among southern states for being classified as such in spite of its northern affiliation and sympathy during the Civil War. As tensions mounted toward this conflict, West Virginia gained independence because it differed from its mother state on the issue of slavery. It was thus that West Virginia became the nation’s 35th state in 1863, at the height of war.
Its first postsecondary institution actually predated the war and the achievement of statehood by more than 20 years. Bethany College opened its doors in 1840 and remains to this day a private, Christian-affiliated, liberal arts college. Bethany is one of only ten non-profit private schools in the state.
Another notable private school, West Virginia Wesleyan College also remains affiliated with the United Methodist Church that founded it in 1890. Based in the small mountain town of Buckhannon, West Virginia Wesley is home to 1400 students and an average class size of less than 20 students. These conditions have earned it a #12 overall ranking among Southern schools according to U.S. News & World Report. When affordability is factored in, that ranking shoots up to #2.
West Virginia also sanctions 23 public colleges or universities. The largest and best among them is West Virginia University, which sprouted up as the Agricultural College of West Virginia in 1867. The 913 acre campus rests in Morgantown, where the Monongahela River and the Appalachian trail meet, casting the educational experience in a spellbindingly beautiful environment.
With roughly 30,000 students occupying its three mini-campuses, West Virginia University ranks as one of the Best 100 public universities in the country according to U.S. News & World Report. Also of note to sports history buffs, a football game played between West Virginia University and the University of Pittsburgh became the very first of such contests to be broadcast on the radio.
Also of distinction, West Virginia’s average in-state tuition for public school students totaled $5,599 in the 2012-2013 academic year. This falls well below the national average of $8,070 and ranks West Virginia as among the most affordable states in which to attend a public university.