From its beginnings, RIT has been deeply connected to the educational and practical training needs of citizenry and industry. The university’s roots go back to 1829 when the city’s founder established the Rochester Athenaeum, a literary society that offered public lectures and debates and attracted such luminaries as Ralph Waldo Emerson and Oliver Wendell Holmes. In 1891, the Athenaeum merged with the Mechanics Institute, which had been created and funded by local business and community leaders to provide technical training to meet local industry’s growing demand for skilled workers. The merged institution—the Rochester Athenaeum and Mechanics Institute—combined cultural education and practical technical training. In 1912, cooperative education was added to the programmatic mix and the core foundation was in place for Rochester Institute of Technology, as it has been named since 1944.
Today, RIT is one of the world’s leading innovative institutions, a vibrant, connected community that is home to diverse, ambitious, creative students, and faculty from around the world. As of fall 2015, the university enrolled 18,606 full and part-time students (15,401 undergraduate and 3,205 graduate students) who represent all 50 states and 100 nations. Nearly 3,200 students from diverse racial and ethnic backgrounds are enrolled on the main campus along with approximately 2,700 international students. An additional 1,760 students are enrolled at RIT’s international locations in Croatia, Kosovo, United Arab Emirates, and China.
Through the National Technical Institute for the Deaf (NTID), one of nine academic units on campus, RIT has achieved international prominence as a leader in preparing deaf and hard-of- hearing students for successful careers in professional and technical fields. NTID was created by federal law in 1965 under President Johnson and located at RIT in 1966. The university provides unparalleled access and support services for the more than 1,200 deaf and hard-of-hearing students who live, study, and work with hearing students on the RIT campus.
RIT is well known for its commitment to undergraduate students and, increasingly, for offering a broad range of innovative graduate programs that combine the theoretical with practical applications and align with demonstrated needs in the marketplace. RIT has steadily grown its doctoral programs; in 2016, the Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education reclassified the university from “Masters – Comprehensive” to “Doctoral University – Moderate Research Activity.” In May 2016, RIT awarded 32 doctoral degrees in eight Ph.D. programs.
For more than 30 years, RIT has been recognized for educational quality and value in U.S. News & World Report, traditionally listed among the top 10 regional universities. The photography program, widely regarded as one of the best in the country, was recently ranked in the top five by U.S. News & World Report and has produced seven Pulitzer Prize-winning journalists to date. In the 2016 edition of U.S. News & World Report, RIT was ranked 20th among the nation’s best online computer information and technology programs and 8th in graduate studies in Industrial Design.