EDU in Review News Blog

Alma Maters of U.S. Presidents

So where did the U.S. presidents attend college?  As you might expect, the big name schools have attracted many future Commander in Chiefs. Yale University alumni outnumber Harvard University alumni 7-6 (when counting both undergraduate and law school admission). However, if Barack Obama becomes president, the core will be even, as he graduated from Harvard School of Law.

As for public universities?  Only three presidents actually had undergraduate degrees from state universities — Gerald Ford from the University of Michigan, Lyndon Johnson from Texas State University – San Marcos, and James Polk from the University of North Carolina. Two presidents have degrees from the United States Military Academy (Ulysses Grant and Dwight Eisenhower) and one has a degree from the United States Naval Academy (Jimmy Carter — who will be joined by John McCain, if he wins the election).

As for advanced degrees, the presidents have had surprisingly few. Eight former presidents have law degrees — nine, if Obama is elected.  Only one president earned a PhD — Woodrow Wilson. Seven presidents did not go to college.

Here’s a list of the presidents and where they went to college.

  1. George Washington — did not attend college but received a surveyor’s license from the College of William and Mary
  2. John Adams — Harvard College (which later became a part of Harvard University)
  3. Thomas Jefferson –  College of William and Mary
  4. James Madison — College of New Jersey (which is now Princeton University)
  5. James Monroe — Yale University
  6. John Quincy Adams — Harvard College (which later became a part of Harvard University)
  7. Andrew Jackson — did not attend college
  8. Martin Van Buren — Kinderhook Academy (now defunct)
  9. William HarrisonHampden-Sydney College (did not graduate)
  10. John Tyler — College of William and Mary
  11. James Polk — University of North Carolina
  12. Zachary Taylor — did not go to college
  13. Millard Fillmore — did not go to college
  14. Franklin PierceBowdoin College
  15. James BuchananDickinson College
  16. Abraham Lincoln — did not go to college
  17. Andrew Johnson — did not go to college
  18. Ulysses S. Grant — United States Military Academy
  19. Rutherford B. HayesKenyon College and Harvard School of Law
  20. James GarfieldWilliams College
  21. Chester ArthurUnion College
  22. Grover Cleveland — did not attend college
  23. Benjamin HarrisonMiami University of Ohio
  24. William McKinleyAllegheny College and Albany Law School
  25. Theodore Roosevelt — Harvard University
  26. William Taft — Yale University, University of Cincinnati School of Law
  27. Woodrow Wilson — Princeton University, Johns Hopkins University (PhD)
  28. Warren Harding — Ohio Central College (now defunct)
  29. Calvin CoolidgeAmherst College
  30. Herbert HooverStanford University
  31. Franklin Roosevelt — Harvard University, Columbia University School of Law
  32. Harry TrumanUniversity of Missouri – Kansas City School of Law (did not graduate)
  33. Dwight Eisenhower — United States Military Academy
  34. John F. Kennedy — Harvard University
  35. Lyndon Johnson — Southwest Texas State Teacher’s College (part of Texas State University – San Marcos)
  36. Richard NixonWhittier College, Duke University School of Law
  37. Gerald Ford — University of Michigan, Yale School of Law
  38. Jimmy Carter — United States Naval Academy
  39. Ronald ReaganEureka College
  40. George H. W. Bush — Yale University
  41. Bill ClintonGeorgetown University, Yale School of Law
  42. George W. Bush — Yale University





3 Responses to “Alma Maters of U.S. Presidents”

  1. Julia Erickson says:

    James Monroe did not go to Yale. He is cited as attending but not graduating from the College of William and Mary – see bio at http://www.nps.gov/history/history/online_books/presidents/bio5.htm

  2. Brandi says:

    Hi Brian – thanks for pointing out the error. We double-checked and Jefferson did in fact attend William and Mary. This has been corrected.

  3. Brian says:

    For Thomas Jefferson, both his bio at monticello.org and http://www.whitehouse.gov/history/presidents/tj3.html cite him as having attended William and Mary College and make no reference to Yale. I can find no credible reference (albeit after only a cursory search stating Jefferson attended Yale.) He read law under George Wyeth and by all accounts that was in Williamsburg, VA as well, so no tie to Yale there either.


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