The oldest university west of the Mississippi, and only the second Jesuit university in the US, Saint Louis University was founded in 1813 as a Catholic academy for boys. When Saint Louis University was founded, the port of St. Louis, MO had not yet even been incorporated as a city, but the college and the city grew together thanks to Mississippi’s value as a main transportation route. In only a few years the school had become a four-year college, and SLU started a slew of “firsts” for the region – first graduate school, first law school, first medical school, and first business school in the west. Today Saint Louis University is ranked by U.S. News & World Report as a top 100 national university, and is one of the most respected Catholic universities in the nation.
Since 1967 Saint Louis University has been governed by a board of lay trustees rather than Jesuits, but SLU retains its deeply Catholic character, including the rigorous educational standards and introspective, critical thought associated with Jesuit higher learning. SLU pioneered medical education in the Midwest, awarding the first MD degree in the region, and has expanded their expertise in healthcare with their new College for Public Health and Social Justice, which prepares students to advocate for the health of vulnerable populations. SLU’s colleges of nursing, health science, and dental education are also among the most prominent in the Midwest.
SLU offers 100 undergraduate degree programs, and nearly as many graduate degrees, from traditional liberal arts disciplines to professional and career fields. With 12,000 students and an 11:1 student:faculty ratio, SLU provides students with ample support and mentorship. In recent years, Saint Louis has expanded their adult education opportunities with more than two dozen fully online degree programs from the School of Professional Studies, a highly innovative division that has been widely acclaimed for excellence. SLU’s outreach to nontraditional students is giving what was once a small liberal arts college a whole new life, one that has Saint Louis poised for the future of higher education, while keeping rooted in Catholic identity and heritage.
Saint Louis University has long been known for its accepting and progressive spirit. The university famously fought against segregation in St. Louis, becoming the first college in Missouri to admit African-American students, and that heritage remains firmly in place. Students come to SLU from across America and around the world, creating a diverse student body made up of many races, nationalities, and faith backgrounds. SLU also has a reputation for study abroad, and was the first American university to establish an independent campus in Europe (Madrid, Spain).
With its Jesuit heritage, student life at SLU is highly oriented around service; in fact, around 80% of programs incorporate service learning into the curriculum. Saint Louis calls itself the “character-building college,” and has been recognized by the President’s Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll, by Washington Monthly, and by the Carnegie Foundation’s Community Engagement Classification. Students also have fun with SLU’s NCAA Division I Billikins (one of the oddest college mascots, the Billikin is a kind of troll figure once popular as a good-luck charm). Saint Louis University is even credited with inventing the forward pass, an innovation that transformed American football.