It’s hard to imagine that you could be a United States president and not have a college degree, but these presidents show us that you can. Did you know that it’s not a requirement to have a college degree to be sworn in at an inauguration and live in the White House?
In fact, these are the only requirements that a United States presidential candidate must possess:
- Must be a natural-born United States citizen
- Must be 35 years or older
- Must be a resident of the United States for 14 years or more
Since a college degree isn’t a requirement to hold the top office of the United States, then how many presidents didn’t go to college?
The answer is eight. Eight U.S. presidents did not go to college at all.
1. George Washington
George Washington, the nation’s very first president, did not go to college. He served as president from 1789 to 1797. Washington attended the College of William & Mary in Virginia but not for taking college courses. Instead, he earned his surveyor’s license.
2. Andrew Jackson
Andrew Jackson was the nation’s 7th president who served from 1829 to 1837.
3. Martin Van Buren
Martin Van Buren was the 8th president of the United States who served from 1837 to 1841.
4. Zachary Taylor
Zachary Taylor was the 12th president of the United States who served from 1849 to 1850. His presidency was only 16 months long after becoming ill and passing away while in office.
5. Millard Fillmore
Millard Fillmore was the 13th president and took office in 1850 after Zachary Taylor died. Fillmore was the Vice President of Taylor and served from 1850 to 1853 after Zachary Taylor’s death.
6. Abraham Lincoln
One of the most iconic presidents in United States history is Abraham Lincoln, the 16th president of the United States. Abraham Lincoln served as president from 1861 until he was assassinated in 1865.
7. Andrew Johnson
Andrew Johnson was the nation’s 17th president and served as the vice president of Abraham Lincoln. Andrew Johnson took office on the day that Abraham Lincoln was assassinated on April 15, 1865, and served until 1869.
8. Grover Cleveland
The last president in United States history who did not go to college or take any college classes is Grover Cleveland, the 22nd and 24th president of the United States. Cleveland served his first term from 1885 to 1889 and his second term from 1893 to 1897.
Why Did the Early Presidents Not Go To College?
After Grover Cleveland, the 24th president of the United States, all United States presidents had a college degree, so why did the early presidents not go to college?
Well, the simple reason is that a college degree wasn’t viewed then the way it is viewed today.
During the era of the 24th president and prior (the time between 1789 and 1897), college was typically for the wealthiest families, and many of the nation’s early presidents were far from wealthy.
Many of the early presidents, much of the same ones on this list, spent time in the military before becoming a public servant holding office. Simply put, the time during the early presidents was different from the time during the modern presidents.
Presidents That Took College Classes But Didn’t Graduate
Several United States presidents went to college but never graduated. They include the following presidents:
James Monroe was the 5th president of the United States and attended college at William & Mary College but did not graduate. James Monroe served as the 5th president from 1817 to 1825.
William Henry Harrison
William Henry Harrison was the 9th president of the United States who served as president for just 31 days before dying in office from pneumonia. Harrison attended two different colleges, both of which he did not graduate. He attended Hampden-Sydney College and the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine.
William McKinley was the 25th president of the United States. William McKinley served from 1897 until he was assassinated on September 14, 1901. William McKinley took courses at two different schools and did not graduate from either. He attended Allegheny College and Albany Law School.
Harry S. Truman
Harry S. Truman is the only modern president that did not graduate with a college degree. Truman served as the nation’s 33rd president from 1945 to 1953. Truman attended Spalding’s Commercial College and the University of Kansas School of Law but did not graduate from either school.
Two Presidents on Mount Rushmore Do Not Have College Degrees
Four U.S. presidents are carved into Mount Rushmore in South Dakota. They are George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt, and Abraham Lincoln.
Of these four presidents, two of them do not have college degrees. They are George Washington and Abraham Lincoln.
Why College Degrees are More Common Among Modern Presidents
As time has passed, so has the growth and evolution of American presidents, especially when it comes to the wealthy families that many modern American presidents have come from.
Presidents beginning at Dwight D Eisenhower’s term (1953 and later), have all attended and graduated from college with many of them being top accredited universities and Ivy League schools.
President George H.W. Bush was the 41st president of the United States and all presidents beginning with him to the present day have all earned a college degree from an Ivy League school.
Will Future Presidents Continue to Have a College Degree?
While it’s not a requirement for a presidential candidate to have a college degree to hold office, it’s safe to assume that it’s likely for future presidents and presidential candidates to have a college degree, especially from an elite Ivy League School, especially if the trend that was set in 1989 by President H.W. Bush continues to the next president who will be elected in 2024.