Ferris is distinguished by its strong heritage of opportunity and career-oriented approach to education where theory meets practice, along with unique degrees that are not available at other universities in the state, region or nation. More than 180 programs, ranging from associate to doctoral degrees, are offered through eight degree-granting colleges: Arts and Sciences, Business, Education and Human Services, Engineering Technology, Health Professions, Kendall College of Art and Design, Michigan College of Optometry, and Pharmacy.
Ferris is the only university in Michigan named after its founders, Woodbridge Nathan Ferris (two-term Michigan governor and U.S. senator) and Helen Gillespie Ferris. It was founded in 1884 as the privately-owned Big Rapids Industrial School and provided opportunity for people who might otherwise have become lumberjacks, farm laborers and food processing workers, instead offering paths to lives of greater possibility. Ferris did not become a state institution until 1950, undergoing several name changes until becoming Ferris State University in 1987. The Ferris philosophy of a practical, hands-on approach to education that enables students to learn practical skills for new jobs in a changing world still resonates today.