The Oldest College in New York

Written by Justin Sexton
Published: October 3, 2023
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Facade of the Federal Hall Wall Street

Facade of the Federal Hall with Washington Statue on the front, Wall Street, Manhattan, New York City

©f11photo/iStock via Getty Images

The state of New York has over two hundred forty different colleges. New York is actually home to some of the oldest schools in the United States. Although this article will cover the oldest college in New York, we must give an honorable mention to the oldest grade school in New York. The Collegiate School in New York City is a K-12 school. Collegiate opened in 1628 and is located in Upper West Side Manhattan. The school is a private Ivy grade school. The average annual tuition of $55,000.

The collegiate was a part of the Reformed Dutch Protestant Church in the New Dutch Colony of New Amsterdam. The school has changed locations many times since its launch in 1628. From 1892-2017, the school occupied several buildings on 77th and 78th in Westside Manhattan. The school buildings on 77th are now historical landmarks in the city of New York.

Now that we got that very honorable mention out of the way, as Collegiate is technically the oldest educational institution in New York, what’s the oldest college in New York?

What’s The Oldest College In New York?

The oldest college in New York is Columbia University. Columbia University first opened its doors in 1754. However, Columbia wasn’t the first name of the university. The first name of the college was King’s College. Then, King’s College rebranded to Columbia College in 1784 after the American Revolution. In 1912, the college was once again renamed to Columbia University.

Columbia University was once an all-men’s liberal arts school until 1983 when they began to admit women into the university. Before 1983, Columbia had a separate university affiliated with Columbia. One of the Seven Sisters schools, Barnard College was established in 1889 as an all-women’s liberal arts school. Barnard College is still an all-women’s arts school to this day. The college gained its name from Columbia Univerisity’s 10th president, Frederick Barnard, who pushed the initiative to provide women with higher education opportunities.

Some Fun Facts About The Univerisity

Aside from being the oldest college institution in the United States, here are some additional facts about Columbia University.

Columbia University Is Older Than America

Columbia University was founded in 1754. America was established in 1776. Therefore, Columbia is 22 years older than America.

They’re The First College To Offer An M.D. Degree

Back when it was known as King’s College in 1770, King’s College became the first college to offer an M.D. degree. After the American Revolution interrupted the college’s developments in medicinal education, the renamed Columbia College’s medical facility merged with the College of Physicians and Surgeons to create the Medical Department of Columbia College.

Their advancement in the M.D. department allowed Columbia University to expand its outreach. Columbia’s medical school was a partner with the Presbyterian Hospital in creating the Columbia-Presbyterian Medical Center in 1928. This allowed patient care, research, and education to all be on the same campus. The now-named New York-Presbyterian Hospital is the spot for Columbia’s medical students to study medicine and their respective practices. They renamed their medical school in 2017 to the Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons.

Columbia University Has The Second Most Nobel Prize Winners

The only university that has more Nobel-Prize affiliate winners than Columbia University is Harvard University. Here is a list of the top seven colleges in the United States with the most Nobel Prize winners:

  • Harvard University
  • Columbia University
  • The University of Cambridge
  • The University of Chicago
  • Massachusetts Institution of Technology (MIT)
  • The University of California
  • The University of Oxford

Although this section is about the Nobel Prize, let it be known that the Pulitzer prize is administered annually by Columbia.

FM Radio Was Invented At Columbia University

The FM radio was invented by Edwin Howard Armstrong, a 1913 graduate of Columbia University. He worked on the invention in the basement of Columbia University’s Philosophy Hall. Armstrong began working on the development of the FM radio in 1928. He knew of an RCA project that focused on radio transmission and whether FM radio was less susceptible to fading compared to AM radio. They were working on “narrow-band” FM radio transmissions while Edwin Armstrong sought to develop “wide-band” FM radio transmissions. With “wide-band” transmissions, the frequencies are much larger than the frequency of the audio signal which helps with better noise rejection.

A video covering the history of frequency modulation, aka FM radio

Eventually, Armstrong sought to partner up with upcoming brands such as Zenith and General Electric to promote his invention. He had a vision of FM radio replacing AM radio in the span of five years. In 1936, Edwin gave a presentation to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) about his “wide-band” FM radio. Unfortunately, there’s a sad history of the development of FM radio. The video above covers the history of FM radio and Armstrong’s influence.

Columbia Was The First North American Site Where The Uranium Atom Was Split

Columbia Magazine provided the perfect caption for this historic moment named “Gone Fission” in their Winter 2007 edition. Several scientists at Columbia University heard of the news that Australian scientists had discovered that a Uranium atom could be split. The lead physicist, John Dunning, and other Columbia staff began conducting experiments to split a Uranium atom.

They used a tool called the cyclotron. The cyclotron was a sixty-five-ton, twelve-foot wide, and seven-foot-tall particle accelerator created by Dunning. The series of experiments verified that many of the properties of Uranium and the isotopes of Uranium 235 and 238 were fissionable. Uranium 238 was the more fissionable element of the two.

The cyclotron was a key research component for many studies at the university. In 1965, the cyclotron was discontinued. Key mechanical parts were sent to the Smithsonian Museum.

Columbia Has The Oldest Operating University Orchestra

The Columbia University Philharmonic Society was founded in 1896. Edward McDowell is the founder of the orchestra. The orchestra began as a twenty-five-member group and three years later, it went under a new direction. A new leader, Gustav Hinnichs, replaced McDowell. The group performed a grand concert at the Barnard School in 1900 and performed their first out-of-state event at Hoboken, New Jersey in 1902. The Orchestra has formed many famous compositions and composers to this day. Some of the names to come out from the illustrious university orchestra are Otto Luening, Henry Brandt, Maurice Wriht, Jack Besson, Charles Wuorinen, and Bluent Ariel. Students can apply to be a part of the CUO for college credits.

Columbia University Is Home To The Oldest Gay Student Organization In The World

The Columbia Queer Alliance is the oldest gay student organization. Back in 1966, a priest, a gay rights activist, Columbia college administrators, and a student named Steven Donaldson created the alliance. The university recognized the Columbia Queer Alliance as an official club in 1967. Steven Donaldson was one of the main organizers although he was a sophomore in the college. The idea for the club was born after Steven’s freshmen roommates asked to have Steven removed from their suite. Steven saw this as an opportunity to create the idea.

They eventually gained faculty support to establish the CQA as a group at the university. It would be approved as an academic club rather than a social club. However, it was designed to be both. Members discussed homosexuality and the rights of gay, queer, and transsexual individuals while creating a social club to party and hang out. The university faced backlash with several articles posted from The New York Times and LA Times. This induction of the CQA sparked many other clubs like it at different universities. The CQA stood tall in the times when AIDS was first discovered, same-sex marriage laws and LGBTOIA+ rights grew and developed decades after the club’s launch.

General Statistics About The Oldest College In New York

  • Their graduation rate is at 96%
  • The student/faculty ratio is 6:1
  • Their acceptance rate is 7%
  • The student residency is: 78% out-of-state, 6% in-state, 16% international
  • Their student demographic is this: 54% Caucasian, 30% Asian, 20% Hispanic, 15% Black, 4% Other
  • The Gender distribution is pretty even as 51% of students are males and 49% of students are females.

The photo featured at the top of this post is © Jon Bilous/

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About the Author

Justin is an A-Z Animals Writer that loves to cover places, unique natural disasters, and travel. He has eight years of experience as a writer in the medical and media fields. He wrote for the likes of VCU Health, theMSQshop, PayDay LA, and Comic Book Resources under the penname Jay Guevara. Although he's a full time writer, Justin graduated from Virginia Commonwealth University in 2019 with a Bachelors in Health, Physical Education, and Exercise Science with a background in Community Engagement. After spending over two decades in Richmond, Virginia, Justin now resides in the suburbs of Rancho Cucamonga, California. He's a dedicated gymrat. He's also a two-time poetry author who's influenced by rappers Joe Budden and IDK along with Dante Alighieri.

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