Columbia is a city in and the county seat of Boone County, Missouri, United States; it is the fifth-largest city in Missouri and the largest city in Mid-Missouri. With a population of 113,225 as of the 2012 estimate according to the United States Census, it is the principal municipality of the Columbia Metropolitan Area, a region of 175,831 residents. The city serves as the location of the University of Missouri. The college town has a reputation as politically liberal, and it is known by the nicknames "The Athens of Missouri," and "CoMO." Over half of Columbians possess a bachelor's degree, and over a quarter hold graduate degrees, making it the thirteenth most highly educated municipality in the United States.
The area that became Columbia was once inhabited by successive mound-building cultures of Native Americans. In 1818, a group of settlers incorporated under the Smithton Land Company purchased over and established the village of Smithton near present-day downtown Columbia. In 1821, the settlers moved and renamed the settlement Columbia—a poetic name for the United States. The founding of the University of Missouri in 1839 established the city as a center of education and research. Two other institutions of higher education, Stephens College in 1833 and Columbia College in 1851, were also established within the city.
Located among small tributary valleys of the Missouri River, Columbia is roughly equidistant from St. Louis and Kansas City. Greater St. Louis is to the east, and the Kansas City Metropolitan Area is to the west. Today, Columbia has a highly diversified economy, and is often ranked high for its business atmosphere. Never a strong center of industry and manufacturing, the city's economic base relies on the education, medical, technology and insurance industries. Studies consistently rank Columbia as a top city in which to live for educational facilities, health care, technological savvy, economic growth, cultural opportunities and cost of living. The city has been ranked as high as the second-best place to live in the United States by Money Magazine's annual list, but has not been ranked in the top 100 since 2006. Residents of Columbia are usually described as "Columbians."
Image Gallery - Stephan's College