Best Colleges for Future Politicians

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The United States Congress is a colossal body; 435 Representatives are elected to two-year terms and 100 Senators serve six-year terms. While neither office requires a college degree, according to official government sources, the vast majority (94% of members of the House and 100% of senators) in the current 114th Congress hold bachelor’s degrees.

While it would be informative to examine each congressperson’s alma mater, the amount of schools and states to consider is overwhelming. When looking at large states like California and Texas, it becomes clear that the bulk of their Representatives attended in-state schools, which skews a comprehensive ranking. Instead, we narrowed our focus to the more prestigious Senate and concentrated on the schools that senators serving in the past decade graduated from. Just for fun, we awarded bonus points to the schools attended by the Vice President (+2) and President (+4).

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RankNameDescription
1

Yale University

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Yale University is the third oldest institution of higher education in the United States and has a long history of producing powerful politicians. U.S. Presidents William Howard Taft, Gerald Ford, George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush all attended Yale. The political science undergraduate major is among the largest on campus, and the graduate program produces Ph.D. students who go on to become leaders in the field.

2

Harvard University

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Harvard University boasts the greatest number of U.S. Senators in the past 10 years. American political leaders John Hancock, John Adams, John Quincy Adams, Rutherford B. Hayes, Theodore Roosevelt, Franklin D. Roosevelt, John F. Kennedy, Al Gore, George W. Bush and Barack Obama all attended Harvard. The Government Department is one of the leading political science communities in the United States. Additionally, 570 undergraduate majors make Government the second largest concentration at Harvard College.

3

Columbia University in the City of New York

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The third Ivy in the Top Three makes the rank thanks to President Barack Obama, who also attended Occidental College in Los Angeles but graduated from Columbia. Originally established in 1754 as King’s College, it is the oldest institution of higher learning in New York State. Former U.S. Presidents Theodore Roosevelt and Franklin Delano Roosevelt attended Columbia’s law school. Other more recent political figures educated at Columbia include Associate Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and former U.S. Secretary of State, Madeleine Albright.

4

Stanford University

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Stanford University is known for its outstanding faculty, such as Former Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice and George Schultz. Former U.S. President Herbert Hoover and former U.S. Secretary of State Warren Christopher both went to Stanford, while U.S. President John F. Kennedy attended Stanford without graduating, as did the 2012 Republican presidential nominee and former governor of Massachusetts, Mitt Romney. In addition to the six current Senators, six current Representatives also attended Stanford.

5

Brigham Young University

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BYU is owned and operated by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church), and, excluding online students, is the largest religious university and the third largest private university in the United States, with nearly 30,000 students on campus. Over 21 BYU graduates have served in the U.S. Senate and U.S. House of Representatives, and many alumni have served as Cabinet members.

6

University of Missouri - Columbia

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Established in 1839, Missouri is the oldest public university west of the Mississippi River. It is the flagship campus of the University of Missouri System. The university prioritizes enriching students’ lives and cultivating active citizenship. While they don’t focus on practicing politics, their political science majors enjoy a high degree of success, with the average graduate either employed in their field or pursuing graduate education at a higher rate than the average Missouri grad in general.

7

Princeton University

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Founded in 1746 in Elizabeth as the College of New Jersey, Princeton was the fourth chartered institution of higher education in the Thirteen Colonies. U.S. Presidents James Madison and Woodrow Wilson and Vice President Aaron Burr graduated from Princeton, as did Michelle Obama, the current First Lady of the United States. Former Chief Justice of the United States Oliver Ellsworth was an alumnus, as are current U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justices Samuel Alito, Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor.

8

Dartmouth College

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Though it’s always been a historically a small college, Dartmouth has blossomed and emerged as a formidable Ivy League school. Over 164 Dartmouth graduates have served in the United States Senate and United States House of Representatives, and Nelson A. Rockefeller, 41st Vice President of the United States and 49th Governor of New York, graduated cum laude from Dartmouth with a degree in Economics in 1930. The Government Department is committed to providing an outstanding curriculum as well as opportunities for students to learn about politics outside the classroom.

9

University of Wyoming

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Many current and former Wyoming politicians had their start at home, attending the flagship University of Wyoming campus at Laramie. Wyoming’s most notable political alumnus is Dick Cheney—former Vice-President of the United States of America under George W. Bush, who started his national political career as a U.S. Congressman. He was also White House Chief of Staff (served under Gerald Ford) and former U.S. Defense Secretary (served under George H. W. Bush).

10

University of Delaware

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Much like Wyoming, many local Delaware politicians attended school at home, with the University of Delaware’s most notable alumnus being current Vice President Joe Biden. New Jersey Governor Chris Christie received a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science from Delaware in 1984. Wyoming wins the “tie” with Delaware because Joe Biden went from the Senate to the Vice Presidency, while Wyoming had two graduates that earned them points.

11

George Washington University

George Washington has been ranked by The Princeton Review in the top “Most Politically Active” Schools. Counting graduate degrees, 18 GW alumni serve in Congress. GW alumni have been governors of 18 states and one territory. Other notable alumni include US Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, former Secretary of State Colin Powell and former First-Lady Jacqueline Kennedy.

12

The University of Tennessee - Knoxville

Founded in 1794, the Knoxville campus is the flagship institution of the University of Tennessee system, with almost 28,000 students in attendance. Former Vice President Al Gore, Jr. is the most notable of dozens of politicians to attend UT Knoxville.

13

Louisiana State University

LSU is the flagship institution of the Louisiana State University System. In 2015, the University enrolled over 26,000 undergraduate and over 5,000 graduate students. Notable political alumni include James Carville, who was the senior political adviser to Bill Clinton, and Donna Brazile, the campaign manager of the 2000 presidential campaign of Vice President Al Gore. Hubert Humphrey, the 38th Vice President of the U.S., earned a master’s degree in political science before becoming a U.S. Senator in Minnesota.

14

University of Hawaii at Manoa

The University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa, founded as a land grant college, is the flagship institution of the University of Hawaiʻi system. President Barack Obama’s parents, Barack Obama, Sr., and S. Ann Dunham, earned degrees from Hawai’i, where they met in a Russian language class.

15

University of Mississippi

Ole Miss opened its doors to its first class of 80 students in 1848. Current U.S. Senators Trent Lott, Roger Wicker and Thad Cochran earned both their undergraduate and law degrees from the University of Mississippi. Additionally, Senator Jeanne Shaheen earned a master’s degree at Ole Miss.

16

University of Texas at Austin

Founded in 1883, UT has the fifth largest single campus enrollment in the nation, with over 50,000 undergraduate and graduate students. At least 15 graduates have served in the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives, including Lloyd Bentsen, who served as both a U.S. Senator and member of the House in addition to being the 1988 Democratic Vice Presidential nominee.

17

Florida State University

Founded in 1851, Florida State University has produced eight members of the U.S. House of Representatives, numerous U.S. Senators and three governors. The Political Science Department has more than 1,000 majors, making it the largest department in the College of Social Sciences.

18

University of Florida

The University of Florida traces its origins back to 1853 and has been located in Gainesville since 1906. Florida alumni include 10 U.S. Senators, 42 U.S. Representatives, 8 U.S. ambassadors and 11 state governors. U.S. Senator and Presidential Candidate Marco Rubio earned his Bachelor of Arts degree in political science from the University of Florida in 1993.

19

University of Wisconsin - Madison

Wisconsin-Madison was the first public university established in Wisconsin (1848) and remains the oldest and largest public university in the state. Its Political Science Department is ranked as one of the best among American public universities, and averages almost 900 undergraduates per year. Dozens of state and regional politicians attended Wisconsin-Madison as well as presidents and ministers of several foreign countries.

20

Georgetown University

Founded in 1789, Georgetown is the oldest Catholic and Jesuit institution of higher education in the US. Including graduate degrees, six alumni currently serve in the Senate, and 13 in the House of Representatives. Former President Bill Clinton received a graduate degree at Georgetown.

21

Pennsylvania State University

Founded in 1855, annual enrollment totals more than 45,000 graduate and undergraduate students, making Penn State one of the largest universities in the United States. Penn State offers a Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science as well as a Bachelor of Arts degree in International Politics. International Politics majors choose from among three concentrations: National Security, International Relations and International Political Economy.

22

University of Pittsburgh

In 1787, after the American Revolutionary War, Pitt was founded on the edge of the American frontier as the Pittsburgh Academy. Political Science is a popular major that prepares students for a range of careers in the public and private sectors as well as in in academia. Pitt offers a wide variety of courses in American Politics, Comparative Politics, World Politics and Political Theory.

23

United States Naval Academy

Established in 1845 under Secretary of the Navy George Bancroft, the US Naval Academy is the second oldest of the United States’ five service academies. Former President Jimmy Carter graduated from Annapolis in 1946 and former Presidential Candidate and Senator John McCain graduated in 1958.

24

Miami University

Founded in 1809, Miami is the 10th oldest public university in the United States. Benjamin Harrison, the 23rd President of the United States, graduated from Miami in 1852. The Political Science Department at Miami University is large and active, offering three undergraduate majors: Political Science, Diplomacy and Global Politics and Public Administration.

25

Wake Forest University

The school that became Wake Forest University was founded as a Baptist school in 1834. Notable political alumni include governors such as Charlie Crist and Bob Ehrlich as well as several United States senators including Kay Hagan, Richard Burr and Jesse Helms.