175 years and counting

At Carthage, we’ve seen 175 years of leaders, makers, and go-getters go out and go forth. We’ve changed our name — and even our location — since we were founded in 1847. But the core of a Carthage education has stayed the same: Our liberal arts foundation provides students with a strong academic, moral, and intellectual compass, so they become perceptive, resourceful, and grounded individuals.


A college with a very long name is founded in Hillsboro, Illinois

Carthage College was founded by Lutheran pioneers in education, and chartered by the Illinois General Assembly on Jan. 22, 1847. Back then, the College was located in Hillsboro, Illinois, and was known as The Literary and Theological Institute of the Lutheran Church in the Far West. The name was soon shortened to Hillsboro College.

“A course of study designed to be thorough and practical, and to embrace all the branches of learning, usually pursued in the best academies and colleges.”

With a two-person faculty and 79 students, Hillsboro promised “a course of study designed to be thorough and practical, and to embrace all the branches of learning, usually pursued in the best academies and colleges.”


The prospering college relocates, and changes its name again

Hillsboro prospered in its first two years, thanks to support from Lutheran congregations. In 1852, the College relocated to the larger town of Springfield, Illinois, and assumed the new name of Illinois State University. 

President Abraham Lincoln served as an early trustee of the College, serving on the Board of Trustees at the institution through the first year of his presidency.


Carthage College finally finds its name — but not its permanent home

In 1870, the College moved again, this time to the rural, west-central city of Carthage, Illinois, where the College acquired its current name. By 1916, the College gained accreditation from the North Central Association of Colleges and Secondary Schools and received the association’s highest rating of “A” — one of only four colleges in Illinois to gain this honor. By 1927, enrollment in the College had reached nearly 300 students.


New lakeshore campus in Wisconsin ushers in era of exciting growth

The Great Depression and World War II lowered enrollment to 131 students in 1943. Ten years later, the Board of Trustees agreed to consider relocating Carthage once again. By 1962, Carthage had established its lakeshore campus in Kenosha, Wisconsin, and the College launched an era of exciting growth.

The next decade brought a period of continuous expansion. Enrollment increased fivefold, the endowment tripled, and physical assets increased 600 percent. In Fall 1995, Carthage enrolled 1,527 full-time students, setting a new record.

Full-time undergraduate enrollment now stands at a record level of 2,600 students. Total enrollment is 2,800 students. Intensive national searches have built a teaching-oriented faculty holding Ph.D.s from major graduate programs across the country. Carthage has invested more than $250 million in recent years in residential, academic, and recreational facilities.