In 1899, Mennonites established Central Mennonite College, the predecessor of Bluffton University, in Bluffton, Ohio. As the number of Mennonite students enrolled declined, the institution became known as Bluffton University. In 1997, only thirteen percent of the student population was Mennonite.
Despite the declining enrollment of Mennonites at Bluffton University, the institution remains closely tied to its religious past. The school has a strict honor code, with students taking exams alone, with no professorial supervision. The campus cafeterias also do not require meal cards for resident students, relying on non-residents' honesty when it comes to paying for their food.
For most of the twentieth century, Bluffton University numbered several hundred students, but in the 1990s, the institution exceeded one thousand students for the first time. In 2005, 1,211 people enrolled, including 239 graduate students. Phyllis Diller and Hugh Downs rank among the college's more prominent graduates.