Columbia (pron.: /kÉËlÊmbiÉ/) is the fifth-largest city in Missouri, and the largest city in Mid-Missouri. With a population of 110,438 as of the 2011 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 county seat of Boone County and as the location of the University of Missouri. The college town is politically liberal and is known by the nicknames "The Athens of Missouri," "College Town USA," 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 City is also experiencing a construction boom, with large apartment buildings under construction in downtown, and the city is expanding to the south at a rapid pace.
Columbia was settled in pre-Columbian times by the mound-building Mississippian culture of Native Americans. In 1818, a group of settlers incorporated under the Smithton Land Company purchased over 2,000 acres (8.1 km2) and established the village of Smithton near present-day downtown Columbia. In 1821, the settlers moved and renamed the settlement Columbiaâa 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.