Presidential Higher Ed Facts for Presidents Day

Presidential Higher Ed Facts for Presidents Day

For nearly 500 years, higher education has been part of the fabric of what is now the United States. On Presidents Day, we thought it would be fun to take a look at higher ed as experienced and influenced by George Washington and his successors. Enjoy!

Student Outcomes

Nearly 75 percent of U.S. presidents graduated from college. Notable exceptions include Abraham Lincoln, whose great erudition belied his single year of formal education at any level, and George Washington, whose college education was cut short by his father’s death.


Some presidents had surprising college majors, including Ronald Reagan, who studied economics and sociology at Eureka College. Herbert Hoover studied geology at Stanford University, and William Henry Harrison studied medicine at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine.

Faculty First

Prior to taking the oath of office, several United States presidents served as faculty members at colleges or universities. Kudos to professorial presidents James Garfield, William Taft, Woodrow Wilson, Richard Nixon, Jimmy Carter, George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama. Even more served as top university administrators or on boards of trustees.

Measuring Impact

It’s no surprise that the oldest institution of higher education in North America, Harvard University, educated the most US presidents with five alumni serving, followed by the College of William and Mary with four and Princeton and Yale universities with three each. But smaller institutions from Bowdoin College in Maine to Whittier College in California are distinguished by a presidential alumnus as well.

Education for the Troops

In 1944, President Franklin Roosevelt signed the G.I. Bill, providing tuition assistance and other financial aid to soldiers returning from World War II. Since then, the G.I. Bill has opened the door to higher education for millions of US veterans.

Community Engagement

Higher education makes a difference. As Thomas Jefferson, a great believer in progress, noted in 1822, “If the condition of man is to be progressively ameliorated, as we fondly hope and believe, education is to be the chief instrument in effecting it.”

Thanks to all of you who work in higher education. It’s both a pleasure and a privilege to support your efforts with faculty activity reporting that shines a light on the achievements of your faculty and university.

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