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University history

Founded in 1971

Metropolitan State University was founded in 1971 as an upper-division university offering bachelor's degrees for working adults. Since then, it has achieved national prominence as an innovative, urban university that serves primarily older students of diverse backgrounds.

Centered on students

Early on, Metropolitan State became known for its student-centered approach to serving adult students by recognizing demonstrated learning gained outside the classroom and offering smaller classes along with flexible class schedules. Practitioner-oriented community faculty members continue to teach most courses. In addition, Metropolitan State's original competency model allowed students to customize their degree programs to reflect their individual interests and goals. The legacy of that exists today in Metropolitan State's College of Individualized Studies, the university's largest college, where students can create and pursue degree programs crafted specifically to meet their educational, professional and personal goals.

Committed to the community

Metropolitan State's commitment to serving the community is long standing. The university's many community partnerships include community-based internships, law enforcement and social work degrees, and partnerships with local schools and businesses. The university's nursing program has developed the first community health clinic in Minnesota managed by nurse practitioners.

Served the needs

By 1975, the university was fully accredited, and one year later enrollment topped 1,000. It was obvious that Metropolitan State, the only public university alternative to the University of Minnesota for metro area residents, was serving a pressing need. In 1983, the first graduate students enrolled in the Master of Management and Administration program. The university now serves more than 10,000 students.

Gained strength through relationships

During the 1980s, the university strengthened its relationships with area community colleges and expanded its commitment to cultural diversity. As it became a more comprehensive urban university, Metropolitan State hired more full-time faculty and added over 30 majors in areas such as:

  • Professional communication
  • Accounting
  • Applied mathematics
  • Social work
  • Ethnic studies
  • Law enforcement
  • English
  • Nursing

Expanded sites and programs

In 1990, the Minneapolis campus moved to a highly visible site at Eighth Street and Hennepin Avenue. Two years later, Metropolitan State's administrative headquarters moved to Saint Paul's East Side. In 1994, Metropolitan State welcomed freshmen students for the first time, offered graduate programs in nursing and business administration, and celebrated its 10,000th graduate. In 2021, the university celebrated its 50,000th graduate.

Won multiple awards

The university has continued to meet the changing needs of the metro area as it has gained recognition. For example, Metropolitan State's accounting program is now the largest in Minnesota, and its graduates consistently place among the top 10 finishers in the rigorous CPA examination.

In 1995, Metropolitan State won the prestigious Hesburgh award for its continuing focus on improving teaching.

In 1997, the university won the Quality-of-Life award from the Greater Minneapolis Chamber of Commerce for conducting 25 community service projects to celebrate its 25th anniversary.

Metropolitan State's Dr. Nancy J. Black was named the 1998 Minnesota Professor of the Year.

Metropolitan State was selected in 2008 for community engagement classification by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. The university was selected for reclassification in 2015 by the Carnegie Foundation, citing evidence that community engagement had become deeper, more pervasive, better integrated, and sustained.

More recently, Metropolitan State has been recognized by INSIGHT into Diversity magazine with Higher Education Excellence in Diversity awards in 2016, 2017, 2018, and 2019 for our continuing commitment to diversity and inclusion.

The Center for Online Learning has won statewide awards in 2016 and 2018, most recently the Minnesota Connection 2018 Innovation Award for delivering online educational experiences for students.

Metropolitan State University received a 2018 ALL-IN Campus Democracy Challenge Platinum Seal for having a  2018 campus voting record above 50 percent in a midterm election, reflecting the excellent work of the Institute for Community Engagement and Scholarship's Metro State Votes campaign in getting our richly diverse student body to engage in the civic sphere.

CollegeNet's 2020 "Social Mobility Index" places Metropolitan State in the top 3 percent nationwide, and first in Minnesota, in enabling students to move from lower income strata into the middle class.

Served five decades

Metropolitan State approaches its fiftieth anniversary of service to the Twin Cities with a continuing commitment to educational access and quality for those who have been underserved and those who are bound in location by virtue of family or economic circumstances.

The university's 50,287 (as of December 2021) alumni include leaders in business, finance, health care and public service. They offer clear evidence of the opportunity and quality of educational programming provided by the university.