For many parents, especially those who reside in the northeastern United States as well as other places, the pinnacle of education is found in Ivy League schools. Their cherished dream and life-long ambition is to send their sons and daughters to these schools, believing that the higher standards of education and social connections available there will likely set up their offspring for life. They are impressed no end by the Ivy League, with its connotations of academic excellence and its reputation for social elitism, and with good reason.
The term Ivy League can trace its roots to 1935, but the term really gained national attention starting in 1954 with the formation of the NCAA Division I athletic conference. With the dearth of professional sports at the time, people became rabid supporters of their favorite college teams and the Ivy League schools were no exception. Today, the term Ivy League is no longer associated wholly with athletics but with educational philosophy as exhibited by the country’s oldest schools.
There are eight private institutions that comprise the Ivy League: Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island; Columbia University in New York, New York; Cornell University in Ithaca, New York; Dartmouth College in Hanover, New Hampshire; Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts; Princeton University in the Princeton Borough and Princeton Township, New Jersey; University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; and Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut.
There are some characteristics common to Ivy League members, and these give credence to the perception that they are exceptional learning institutions. Ivy League schools consistently place among the top 20 in the US News college and university rankings; they rank among the top one percent of the world’s academic institutions in terms of financial endowment; they are a haven for the country’s top-tier students and faculty; and they are perceived to be socially elite.
All of the Ivy League institutions have financial endowments of over $2 billion each and are considered to be among the wealthiest private universities in the United States. Harvard, with a $25.5 billion endowment in 2005, is considered the wealthiest university in the United States and in the world. Incidentally, it is also the oldest university in the country.