2 Your Roots: The College of Charleston

2 Your Roots

Charleston, S.C. (WCBD) – In this week’s edition of 2 Your Roots, we explore the history surrounding the oldest educational institution south of Virginia: The College of Charleston.

Founded in 1770, the College of Charleston celebrated its 250th anniversary this past January.

“On January 30, 1770, Lieutenant Governor William Bull recommended to the colony’s general assembly the establishment of a provincial college. However, internal disagreements, political rivalries and the American Revolution delayed progress on this front. After the war, South Carolinians returned their attention to establishing a college. On March 19, 1785, the College of Charleston was chartered to “encourage and institute youth in the several branches of liberal education.”

-The College of Charleston

Classes emphasized “moral discipline” along with a classical liberal arts education. According to the South Carolina Encyclopedia, out of the sixty students who started in 1790, six earned a bachelor’s degree four years later. At the time, city support was meager, and enrollment was declining.

The school had an average attendance of fifty students per year in the 1840’s and 1850’s; This changed when Harrison Randolph’s Presidential tenure began in the late 1890s.

“The specialization of “majors” and many social science and science laboratory courses came forth along with distinctive B.A. and B.S. degrees. Language and mathematics requirements for bachelor’s degrees were reduced, but the master of arts added a year of course work to the thesis. Money was raised and dormitories built. New extracurricular activities, student associations, and intercollegiate sports appeared.”

The South Carolina Encyclopedia

Until the 20th century, students who attended the College were primarily Charlestonians and the enrollment sat at about 500 students until the College became a state institution in 1970. Three years prior, the College opened its doors to Black students.

Today, the College is led by Andrew T. Hsu, the 23rd president of the institution. To view of timeline of the College’s complete history, click here.

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