The “experiment” that is City College

When City College opened in 1847—back then it was called the Free Academy, just one brick building on Lexington Avenue and 23rd Street—the concept of higher education open to all was completely new.


 “The experiment is to be tried whether the highest education can be given to the masses; whether the children of the people, the children of the whole people, can be educated; and whether an institute of learning of the highest grade can be successfully controlled by the popular will, not by the privileged few but by the privileged many,” said Horace Webster, the schools first president.

Some things have changed in the ensuring century and a half: What started as one college is now a sprawling system of more than 20 different campuses and institutes of higher learning. Tuition has been charged since 1976. And in 1951, women were admitted to the flagship campus (below), which relocated to Harlem in 1906.


The flagship campus is a Gothic, serene place situated on a hill overlooking the city. It’s on Convent Avenue and 138th Street and is definitely worth checking out.

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3 Responses to “The “experiment” that is City College”

  1. Bruce R. Gilson Says:

    One correction: The Free Academy – later to become The City College – opened in 1847, not 1849.

  2. wildnewyork Says:

    You are right–I am finally making that change in the text!

  3. J Fish Says:

    Actually, it was founded in 1847. Opened in 1849. You were right the first time.

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