The History of Ivy League Schools

The History of Ivy League Schools

The History of Ivy League Schools

The most prestigious alliance of American research universities are the Ivy Leagues which refers
to the eight elite universities that make up the Ivy League conference. These include Harvard,
UPenn, Yale, Columbia, Princeton, Cornell, Brown and Dartmouth – all which are located in the
Northeastern part of the United States of America. These schools are known for their academic
excellence and are highly selective in their admissions.

The Massachusetts Bay Colony voted to create a college in 1636 which was to be named after
the benefactor who had donated his books to the school. Ultimately, Harvard was the first
institution for higher education in the States. The remaining six Ivy Leagues go back to the 18th
century. Yale became the third-oldest US university as it was founded in 1701. Additionally, the
University of Pennsylvania in 1740, Princeton in 1746 and New Yorks oldest college – Columbia
in 1754. Lastly, Dartmouth and Brown came in 1769 and 1764, respectively. A century later,
Cornell was founded in 1865, which made it the only Ivy League established after the United
States of America were formed.

These colonial colleges expected students to abide by the strict standards and those who violated
these rules often faced a public whipping or an ear-boxing. It was only in 1761 that Harvard
introduced a fine system for these violations instead of physical torture. Those who swore or
brought alcohol to school were expected to pay compensation fees.

The name Ivy League originated when in the mid 19th century, Harvard students began to plant
Ivy on class day and gathered to hear the “Ivy Oration”, speech originally by a student. This
19th-century association between ivy and elite private schools eventually created the athletic
conference in its name.

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For centuries, Ivy League students were primarily sons of wealthy colonists. However, even
though the student body since then has somewhat changed and become more inclusive,
privileged students still makeup a large percentage of these universities. Fewer than 125 black
students had earned degrees at Yale, Columbia, UPenn, Harvard and Cornell combined, by the
beginning of World War 2. Additionally, many Ivy League Schools did not have female attendees
until the 1960s and 1970s. Many Ivy League graduates resisted efforts to admit more diverse
student bodies.

However, even though today’s Ivy League Schools admit both people of color and women, their
socioeconomic and racial demographics are not in line with society as a whole. An example for
this is that even though black students account for 15% of graduating seniors, they are only 8%
in the student bodies at Princeton Harvard, Brown, Yale and Cornell. In addition, economic
diversity is another prevalent issue in the Ivy League. According to a study by the Equality of
Opportunity Project, most Ivy schools do not admit students from the bottom 60% of household
incomes as they prefer the top 1%.


The admission procedures of these universities put into consideration factors like athletics and
legacy status, which ultimately gives a lesser advantage to low income students. For instance,
legacy preferences, notoriously prioritize white and wealthy students over others. Harvard admits
1 in 3 legacy applicants, however, less than 6% of all applicants. These policies contribute to the
diversity issues in the Ivy League as they continue to favor privileged applicants.

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