Your browser does not support JavaScript! or JavaScript is currently disabled.

The History of Capella University

Looking Back, Looking Ahead

Capella University was born out of a belief that quality higher education should be broadly accessible to working adults. For the past 20 years, Capella has lived up to this founding ideal by developing a truly innovative approach to education that extends access to a larger population of students.


The Graduate School of America Is Founded

Driven to bring higher education to an underserved adult population, Stephen Shank, former Tonka Corporation CEO, joins forces with Dr. Harold Abel, a former president of 3 universities. Together they started The Graduate School of America (TGSA), which originally offered online master's and doctoral degrees in Management, Education, and Human Services.

This was about trying to create something great, something that did not exist before.




TGSA Accreditation

The Graduate School of America earns accreditation from The Higher Learning Commission (HLC) of the North Central Association (NCA). TGSA offers MS and PhD programs in Organizations and Management, Education, Human Services, and Interdisciplinary Studies.

First Students Graduate

14 students graduate from TGSA with 9 MS degrees and 5 PhD degrees.




Capella University Is Born


TGSA is renamed to Capella University after the brightest star in constellation Auriga.

10th Degree Program Offered

1,000th Student Enrolls

100th Student Graduates


Bachelor's Degrees Added

Capella expands its offerings to include a BS in Information Technology, followed by a BS in Business.

My parents did not go to college. I come from basically a blue collar area...So, I'm the first graduate in our family...I want my kids to see how important it is to get a Bachelor's, to go on to post secondary or some type of post high school education...So as much as it was for me, I like to think it was also for my family.

Mark Reid, Senior Program AdministratorBS in Information Technology, 2004 Graduate




1,000th Student Graduates


First CACREP Accredited

The Mental Health Counseling specialization in the School of Human Services receives accreditation by the American Counseling Association's Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Education Programs (CACREP). This is the first of several CACREP accreditations Capella will receive.



500th Faculty Member Hired

10,000th Student Enrolls

After 9/11, the 20-page paper I wrote [for a Capella assignment] became a department manual on stress management techniques.

Deborah Moore PhD, School of Public Service Leadership, 2004 Graduate




AQIP Review Successful

Capella receives high marks and all accreditation stipulations are removed after the first comprehensive Academic Quality Improvement Program (AQIP) check–up. AQIP participation requires members to analyze operational processes, measure outcomes, and set ambitious performance goals.

Capella's Initial Public Offering

Capella University's parent company, Capella Education Company, completes its initial public offering of common stock and is traded under ticker symbol CPLA on the Nasdaq stock market.


1,000th Faculty Member Hired

10,000th Student Graduates

I got so much out of my experience at Capella and I'm so grateful. I will pass that on—through my work, through consulting, and maybe teaching one day—any way I can.

Dewain Lee PhD in Human Resource Management, 2007 Graduate


PMI Accredits IT Programs

Capella's Project Management specializations of both Bachelor's and Master's in Information Technology programs receives accreditation from the Project Management Institute (PMI) Global Accreditation Center from Project Management(PMI–GAC).

20th Degree Program Offered


Capella Receives Excellence Awards

The IMS Global Learning Consortium presents Capella with the Learning Impact Award in the same year that the university receives the WCET Outstanding Work (WOW) award from the WICHE Cooperative for Educational Technologies (WCET).

30,000th Student Enrolls

30th Degree Program Offered


NCATE Accreditation

Capella receives accreditation from the National Council for the Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE). The U.S. Department of Education and the Council for Higher Education Accreditation recognize NCATE–accredited programs for the preparation of P–12 teachers and other professional school personnel.

Capella Honored for Outstanding Work

Capella receives the 2010 CHEA Award for Outstanding Institutional Practice in Student Learning Outcomes by The Council for Higher Education Accreditation. In the same year the National University Telecommunications Network presents Capella with the NUTN Distance Education Innovation Award.

20,000th Student Graduates

35,000th Student Enrolls

40th Degree Program Offered


ABET Accreditation

The BS in Information Technology program receives accreditation from the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET).

1,500th Faculty Member Hired

25,000th Student Graduates


30,000th Student Graduates

Capella was incredibly understanding and supportive each time I was recalled to active duty.

George Anderson PhD in Organization and Management, 2012 Graduate


Successful Past, Promising Future

After 20 years of growing and success, Capella continues to lead in the field of higher education.


Capella Expands Its Flexpath Program