Ohio Wesleyan University received its charter from the state of Ohio in 1842. The first college classes were offered in 1844. The school was associated with the Methodist Church from the beginning. It was located in Delaware, Ohio. Between 1842 and 1844, Ohio Wesleyan was a preparatory school. Students paid a total of ninety dollars a year to attend Ohio Wesleyan in the 1840s: tuition cost thirty dollars, room and board cost fifty-nine dollars, and there was one dollar in additional expenses.
Originally, only men attended Ohio Wesleyan. Ohio Wesleyan Female College began to offer classes in 1853. It was not until 1877 that the Female College became part of Ohio Wesleyan University. Three women who had been instructors at the female college became the first female faculty members at the university.
Throughout the nineteenth century, Ohio Wesleyan experienced a number of problems. During the Civil War, the college faced financial difficulties, as both students and faculty joined the Union war effort. At various times, there were debates as to whether fraternities should be allowed on campus. At one point, fraternities were banned, but later they were allowed to return. Ohio Wesleyan officially received university status in 1897.
Ohio Wesleyan continued to grow in the twentieth century. Debates over sororities and fraternities continued, and wars also continued to have an impact on the school. Half of the male student population served during World War I, and the student population once again decreased during World War II. The curriculum changed from a classical liberal arts focus to practical preparation for specific occupations. Students were allowed to declare a major for the first time in 1919. The Great Depression caused financial difficulties for Ohio Wesleyan, but administrators trimmed the budget and the school survived. During the 1960s and 1970s, campus unrest led to the students having more of a say in campus decision-making. As a result of student protests, the university modified requirements that students attend religious services and placed less of a focus on religion in education. The university also offered new courses. Economic concerns and plans for the future have led university administrators to institute a number of fund-raising campaigns in recent years.