Founded in 1770 and chartered in 1785, the College of Charleston is the oldest institution of higher education in the state of South Carolina and the thirteenth oldest in the United States.
From its beginnings in the eighteenth century, the College has attracted teachers and students of uncommon talent and commitment. In the eighteenth century Doctor Simon Felix Gallagher began the tradition of rigorous scholarship. The distinguished scientists Louis Agassiz and John Bachman served on the faculty in the nineteenth century. The present faculty is composed of 430 dedicated scholars and teachers. Students are at the center of the educational program, and professors work closely with them at all levels of study.
Incorporated into the South Carolina State College System in 1970, the College began to serve a much broader region. Whereas the first class conducted at the College contained about a dozen Charlestonians, the student body now numbers approximately 9,800 students, 70 percent of whom are South Carolinians; other students come from 50 states and 65 foreign countries.
The enduring commitment to the liberal arts is seen in the core curriculum of the College which requires study in English, history, modern and classical languages, math, science, the arts, and the social sciences. At the same time, the College has expanded its offerings to include new and emerging fields of study. The desire to respond to the needs of the region led President Harry M. Lightsey, Jr. to propose that the University of Charleston be established to help meet the area's demand for graduate education. In July 1992 the University of Charleston was founded. In the spring of 2006, more than 2,000 students are enrolled in 17 graduate degree programs and five certificate programs.