Capella University was the inspiration of Stephen Shank, former CEO of Tonka Corporation, who felt that many adults were underserved by traditional universities. He envisioned a high-quality university that people could attend from any location.
In 1991, Shank established the corporate entity that would become Capella Education Company. In 1993, Dr. Harold Abel, an experienced leader in higher education and former president of three universities, joined Shank to found The Graduate School of America, now called Capella University. Originally, the university offered online master's and doctoral degrees in management, education, and human services.
As of December 31, 2015, Capella University offered over 1,800 online courses and 48 undergraduate and graduate degree programs with 166 specializations. Capella's approximately 36,900 learners include a diverse group of adults from all 50 states and 48 other countries.