Established in 1930 by the New York City Board of Higher Education, the College had its beginnings as the Downtown Brooklyn branches of Hunter College (then a women's college) and the City College of New York (then a men's college). With the merger of these branches, Brooklyn College became the first public coeducational liberal arts college in New York City. The 26-acre campus is known for its great beauty, and is often regarded as "the poor man's Harvard" because of its low tuition and reputation for academic excellence (former President, Robert Hess, responded to the moniker by saying "I like to think of Harvard as the rich man's Brooklyn College").
The 2003 edition of The Best 345 Colleges, published by The Princeton Review, ranked Brooklyn College #1 for Most Beautiful Campus and in the Top Ten for Best Academic Value, Diversity, and Location. The College ranked in the top 2 nationally for the second consecutive year in Princeton Review’s 2006 guidebook, America’s Best Value Colleges. Brooklyn College was ranked as one of America’s Top Fifty Best Value Public Colleges for 2009 by The Princeton Review in its annual survey.