Established as a state-assisted university in 1964, Cleveland State University assumed a tradition of excellence when it adopted the buildings, faculty, staff, and curriculum of the former Fenn College, a private institution of 2,500 students that was founded in 1929.
Cleveland State University’s historical roots go back to the 19th century. During the 1880s, the Cleveland YMCA began to offer day and evening courses to students who did not otherwise have access to higher education. The YMCA program was reorganized in 1906 as the Association Institute, and this in turn was established as Fenn College in 1929. A significant contribution of Fenn College was its pioneering work in developing internships for students in engineering and business. These internships, as joint ventures between the college and local businesses and industries, provided students with professional contacts and experience as well as an affordable education. Historic Fenn Tower, now student housing, still stands as a reminder of the early years, when Fenn College was known as the "Campus in the Clouds."
The Cleveland-Marshall College of Law traces its origins to 1897 when the Cleveland Law School was founded. It was the first evening law school in the state and one of the first to admit women and minorities. Another evening law school, John Marshall School of Law, was founded in 1916. In 1946, the two schools merged to become the Cleveland-Marshall School of Law. Cleveland-Marshall became part of Cleveland State University in 1969.