The history of Michigan State University (MSU) dates back to 1855, when the Michigan Legislature established the Agricultural College of the State of Michigan in East Lansing, with three buildings, five faculty members and 63 male students. As the first agricultural college in the United States, the school served as a prototype for future land-grant institutions under the Morrill Act enacted during Abraham Lincoln's presidency. The school's first class graduated in 1861 right after the onset of the American Civil War. That same year, the Michigan Legislature approved a plan to allow the school to adopt a four-year curriculum and grant degrees comparable to those of the University of Michigan.
In 1870, the College became co-educational and expanded its curriculum beyond agriculture into a broad array of coursework commencing with home economics for women students. The school admitted its first African American student in 1899. Not long before this, in 1885, the College had begun offering degrees in engineering and other applied sciences to students. The 26th U.S. President, Theodore Roosevelt, addressed the school at the 1907 commencement, an event coinciding with the 50th anniversary of the school's opening. During this period, the school established "Farmers' Institutes" as a means of reaching out to the state's agricultural community and informing the membership of developments in agricultural science; the program gradually became the MSU Extension Services.
After World War II, the college gained admission to the Big Ten Conference, joining the rival University of Michigan, and grew to become one of the largest educational institutions in the United States with 44,937 currently enrolled. In its centennial year of 1955, the state officially made the school a university and the current name was adopted in 1964 after Michigan voters adopted a new constitution. Today, Michigan State University emphasizes biotechnology research and residential college learning as a modern paradigm for America's land-grant institutions, of which it was the first.
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