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Minnesota State University, Mankato

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Old Main, Mankato Normal School

Old Main and students from Mankato Normal School, 1874.

Minnesota State University, Mankato was founded as Minnesota's second normal school in 1868. It went through phases as a normal school, teachers college, college, and university. By 2011 it was one of Minnesota's largest and most comprehensive universities.

Its normal school phase lasted until 1921. During that time, the school primarily prepared teachers to teach in rural schools. The student body, which peaked at about 900 students in 1920-1921, was about three-fourths female. Most students were in either the six-week program or the two-year program. Since the normal school was not a college, its graduates received certificates rather than diplomas.

The Mankato Normal School began requiring high school diplomas for admission in 1916. This was in response to urbanization. Soon after, Minnesota teacher training schools began to offer four-year curriculums and Bachelor of Science degrees. The Mankato school's shift from normal school to teachers college was part of a national trend to require four-year programs and degrees for teacher certification.

Mankato State Teachers College was challenged by the Great Depression, a World War II enrollment drop, and a postwar boom. The college survived the depression by cutting faculty salaries. It also employed many students using Works Progress Administration (WPA) funding. During World War II, when most of the male students joined the armed forces, the school enrolled only 328 students. Enrollment bounced back again after the war. The GI Bill made college more affordable, and more people thought a college degree was necessary to succeed. The number of students was 2,854 in 1950, 7,749 in 1960, and 12,488 in 1971. The student body also became more diverse. In response, the college added business, liberal arts, nursing, science, fine arts, and graduate programs to its continued teacher training.

After its post-World War II enrollment boom, the campus was too small to meet student needs. The Mankato college had to expand its campus. But it could not do so in its original location, which was located only four blocks from downtown and was surrounded by private properties.

In 1959, a new campus was started on a hilltop about a mile away. From then until 1979, Mankato State used both the old "valley campus" and the new "highland campus." By the fall of 1964, enrollment was about equally divided between the campuses. The campuses were connected by a free bus service.

This system worked in the days of cheap energy. But the 1973 oil crisis made commuting expensive. In response, the state closed the valley campus. The campus was sold to a private developer, and many of its buildings were demolished. However, several of its structures remain today. These include the Old Main Village, which is now senior housing; the library, which is a Blue Earth County office building; and part of the science building, which houses various government and private offices.

In 1995 the legislature created the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system (MNSCU). It included Mankato State University and six other state universities. In 2011 the MNSCU system had seven state universities and twenty-five two-year colleges.

In September 1998, MNSCU allowed Mankato State University to change its name to Minnesota State University, Mankato. Mankato State believed that the new name would increase the school's visibility outside of the state. Since it became Minnesota State University, Mankato, the institution has added doctoral programs, improved its physical facilities, and achieved record enrollments. In fall 2010 it had an enrollment of 15,393. That enrollment included 13,547 undergraduates, 1,716 post-graduates other than doctoral students, and 130 students enrolled in four different doctoral programs.

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© William E. Lass
  • Bibliography

Anderson, Debra L. "Mankato State Normal School: The Foundation Years, 1868–1880." MA thesis, Mankato State University, 1987.

Collection of Annual Catalogs, 1877–present
University Archives, Minnesota State University, Mankato
Description: Collection of annual catalogs published by the university with information about courses of study, graduation requirements, institutional history, student organizations, and institutional administration and faculty.

Faust, Claire E. Mankato State University: The Second Century: The First Twenty-Five Years 1968–1992: An Interpretive Essay. Mankato: Mankato State University, [1993].

Giebel, Arnie. "The Development of Mankato Normal School from 1877–1890." MS thesis, Mankato State Teachers College, 1956.

Mitau, G. Theodore. Minnesota's Colleges of Opportunities: From Normal School to Teachers Colleges and State University System—A Century of Academic Change in Minnesota. N.P.: Alumni Associations of the Minnesota State University System, 1977.

Tuinstra, Diane R. "Mankato State Teachers College During World War II." MA thesis, Mankato State University, 1994.

Youel, Donald B. "Mankato State College: An Interpretative Essay." Mankato: Mankato State College, 1968.

Related Images

Old Main, Mankato Normal School
Old Main, Mankato Normal School
Students in library, Mankato Normal School
Students in library, Mankato Normal School
Old Main in winter, Mankato State Teachers College
Old Main in winter, Mankato State Teachers College
Aerial view of Mankato State College, Valley Campus
Aerial view of Mankato State College, Valley Campus
Aerial view of Mankato State University, Highland Campus
Aerial view of Mankato State University, Highland Campus
Aerial view of Mankato State University, Highland Campus
Aerial view of Mankato State University, Highland Campus

Turning Point

Enrollment at Mankato State surges in the twenty-five years after World War II, reaching 12,488 students by 1971, assuring its development as a major institution.

Chronology

1868
Mankato Normal School is founded.
1921
The legislature changes all Minnesota normal schools to state teachers colleges. This includes Mankato, as well as Winona, St. Cloud, Moorhead, Duluth, and Bemidji.
1957
By an act of the legislature, all state teachers colleges, including Mankato, are converted to state colleges.
1975
The legislature makes all state colleges state universities.
1995
The legislature adds state universities to the newly created Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system (MNSCU).
1998
MNSCU authorizes Mankato State University to change its name to Minnesota State University, Mankato.