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Higher education in the American colonies started with a small endowment and donation from John Harvard to the Massachusetts Bay college that was later renamed in his honor. The school served young men (all White, save a few Indigenous men connected to the Harvard Indian College, until the 1900s) and operated more like a boarding school than a college as we think of it today. The average age of students was around 15.5.
As the various colonies developed needs to formalize education, men in positions of power or access to power (i.e. non-disabled White men) in early America created spaces for formal education for their sons. So, just as Boston begot Harvard, New Haven men established Yale, Princeton men established Princeton, etc. In total, 10 institutions were established during the colonial era. They are:
Collegiate School (Yale University)
College of New Jersey (Princeton University)
King's College (Columbia University)
College of Philadelphia (University of Pennsylvania)
College of Rhode Island (Brown University)
College of William & Mary
Queen's College (Rutgers University)
St. John's College (originally King William's School) in Annapolis, Maryland.
1-7 constitute the Ivy League. But why not 8-10? How did 1-7 get world reputation and fame, but not 8-9?
I know William & Mary is public and largely focuses on its undergraduate programs. It has some respected graduate schools, but it focusses on undergraduate education. Of note W&M is technically the 2nd oldest school in the US because it received its charter in 1693. However, it predates Harvard, and simply received its charter after Harvard.