How Many Colleges & Universities in the US (2023 Update)

Ever wondered, “How many colleges are in the US?”

The United States is home to approximately 6000 colleges, but that’s not the only figure you need to know.

We decided to go all the way into different research and studies to come up with the latest statistics related to how many colleges and universities are in the US.

You will also come across the facts related to the number of colleges according to institute type and the years required to study. 

With that, let’s dive right into the details below!

How Many Colleges & Universities Are There In The USA: Top Picks

If you don’t want to go through the entire statistics, here are the top 10 picks summarised for you to understand how many universities are there in the US. It also includes the number of colleges in the US. 

  • The United States has approximately 6,000 colleges, with only 66% of them granting degrees.
  • In 2021, there were around 5,916 postsecondary institutions in the US, categorised as public, private non-profit, and private for-profit.
  • There has been an increase in the number of colleges in the US from 1980 to 2017, with 4,313 in 2017.
  • California has the most colleges, with more than 300 institutions.
  • New York, Texas, and California serve more than 1 million college students each.
  • Wyoming, Alaska, and Delaware have the fewest colleges, with fewer than 10 institutions.
  • There has been a significant decrease in the number of private two-year institutions and an increase in public four-year universities in recent years.
  • MIT is ranked as the number one university in the US, followed by Harvard, Stanford, and UC Berkeley.
  • 29% of the top 100 universities globally are in the US.
  • As of August 2023, at least 43 public or nonprofit colleges have announced closures or mergers since March 2020, contributing to a 13% decline in college numbers.

What Is The Total Number Of Colleges In The US? 

  1. According to NCES, there are over 4,800-degree colleges in the US. This includes both two-year and four-year colleges. Here is a breakdown of these institutes:
College TypeNumber of Colleges
4-year colleges and universities4,294
2-year colleges517
Specialized institutes90

2. The United Nations has approximately 6000 colleges and universities for higher education. 

3. According to research from 2021, there were around 5,916 postsecondary institutions in the US.

Let’s have a look at the breakdown of postsecondary colleges according to the level and control of the college. (NCES, 2021)

Level and control of the institutionNumber of Institutions
Total postsecondary institutions5,916
Public1,892
Private Non-profit1,754
Private for-profit2,270
Title IV non-degree-granting institutions1,958
Title IV degree-granting institutions3,931
2-year colleges1,294
4-year colleges2,637

The following table displays the number of colleges in the United States from the year 1980 to 2017. 


Year
Number of institutions
19803,231
19903,559
20004,182
20054,276
20064,314
20074,352
20084,409
20094,495
20104,599
20114,706
20124,726
20134,724
20144,627
20154,583
20164,360
20174,313

4. According to the data obtained in the academic year 2016-2017, there are 4360 higher education institutes in the US, including colleges and universities. 

5. 20 million students enrolled in colleges and universities in the fall of the year 2020. 

The following table suggests the total number of colleges as per the type of college.

Public colleges Private colleges
No. of 4-year institutions6291,845
No. of Community colleges1,070596

Source: Statista, NCES

Colleges In The US By State

The number of colleges varies in different states. Let us take a look at the number of colleges in different states in the US. 

S.R. NumberStatePrivatePublicFour-YearTwo-YearTotal
1. Alabama2438362662
2.Alaska44628
3. Arizona3929363268
4. Arkansas2034272754
5.California265151262154416
6.Colorado3928462167
7.Connecticut1822281240
8.Delaware53718
9. Florida1334312848176
10. Georgia63507142113
11.Hawaii71010717
12.Idaho7811415
13.Illinois96609858156
14.Indiana5816601474
15.Iowa3719391756
16. Kansas3033352863
17. Kentucky3524382159
18. Louisiana2531302656
19.Maine151522830
20. Maryland2329341852
21.Massachusetts77308819107
22. Michigan4646623092
23.Minnesota4044503484
24.Mississippi1123181634
25. Missouri7027752297
26. Montana518111223
27.Nebraska2016241236
28.Nevada15715722
29. New Hampshire111316824
30.New Jersey5432622486
31.New Mexico1128182139
32. New Mexico2207923465299
33. New York2207923465299
34. North Carolina60757362135
35. North Dakota61415520
36. Ohio1026011349162
37. Oklahoma2130312051
38. Oregon2826342054
39.Pennsylvania1556315563218
40.Rhode Island11313114
41.South Carolina3333412566
42.South Dakota91317522
43. Tennessee6323622486
44. Texas13510914896244
45.Utah22826430
46.Vermont14518119
47.Virginia70417140111
48.Washington3143631174
49. Washington D.C.16217118
50. West Virginia2022271542
51.Wisconsin3732521769
52.Wyoming18189

6. California is the only state that has more than 300 colleges. 

7. Pennsylvania, California, and Texas have more than 200 colleges and universities for higher education. 

8. California and Texas are home to the 3 largest public university systems in the United States. 

9. New York, Texas, and California serve more than 1 million college students. 

10. Wyoming, Alaska, and Delaware have the fewest colleges in the United States. There are less than 10 institutions in these states. 

11. Wyoming, Alaska, and Delaware serve less than 61,000 students in the United States. 

Sources: NCES. 

Colleges In The US By Institution Type

The United States is comprised of several different institutional types, ranging from large public universities to small private colleges.

The local and state governments finance public universities with the help of taxes. In contrast, private colleges are supported through tuition, private donations, and endowments. 

Let us take a look at the facts and figures related to the number of colleges according to the institution type. 

Type of InstituteNumber of colleges
Private2,357
Public1,625
Private Non-profit1,660
For Profit697
(Source: NCES 2021)

12. According to the data received from the American Association of Community Colleges (AACC), there are 1050 community colleges in the United States.

13. Out of 1050 community colleges, 35 colleges belong to the tribal communities, 73 colleges are independent institutions,  and 942 are public colleges. 

The following table displays the breakdown of the community colleges. 

(Source: Statista 2022)

Type of collegesNumber of colleges
Public colleges935
Independent colleges72
Tribal community colleges35

14. 865,504 associate degrees are awarded to students by community colleges. 

15. 599,397 certificates were awarded to the students by the community colleges. 

16. There are 1,660 private non-profit colleges in the US as of the year 2019-2020. 

The Number Of Colleges In The US According To The Years Required To Study.

The associate degree requires two years to complete. At the same time, a bachelor’s degree needs four or five years to complete, depending on the field of study. In the following section, we have listed statistics related to the number of two-year and four-year colleges in the United States. 

17. There are 853 public two-year colleges in the US and 772 four-year colleges. 

The following table highlights the number of two-year and four-year public and private colleges in the United States as recorded in 2019-2020. 

Type of CollegesNumber of Colleges
Private two-year colleges450
Private four-year colleges1907
Public two-year colleges853
Public four-year colleges772

18. The most common type of university in the United States is a private four-year college. 

19. The most popular Ivy League institutions and other prestigious colleges are included in private four-year colleges. 

20. Over the last 5 years, the number of private four-year institutions and public two-year institutions has significantly decreased in the numbers. 

21. There has been a 33% decrease in the number of private two-year institutions since the academic year 2015-2016. 

22. There has been a 9% increase in the number of public four-year universities since the year 2015-2016.  

Sources: NCES. 

Which Are The Top Colleges In The United States? 

According to the QS World University 2020 rankings, the following colleges were classified as the top colleges in the United States.

The key factors like the quality of education, student interaction with the teachers, how the curriculum is taught, grades of the students, etc., were the deciding factors for these rankings. 

23. Beating 300 popular universities, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) is ranked as the number one university in the United States. 

24. Harvard University received an overall QS score of 93.3 in QS ranking.

25. The third spot was grabbed by Stanford University.  It has an overall score of 98.1.

26. The fourth position was awarded to the University of California, Berkeley (UCB). It has an overall score of 90.4.

The following table displays the top universities in the United States and their scores.  

University Score World Rank
Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)1001
Harvard University98.34
Stanford University98.15
University of California, Berkeley (UCB)90.410
University of Chicago90.311
University of Pennsylvania89.412
Cornell University89.313
California Institute of Technology (Caltech)87.915
Yale University87.716
Princeton University8717

27. According to QS World University Rankings, The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) grabs first place globally. It had an overall score of 100. 

28. The other universities in the United States included in the top 10 global universities were the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) and the University of Chicago.

29. 29% of the top 100 Universities around the globe are located in the United States. 

Source: QS World University Rankings. 

How Many Colleges Have Closed In Recent Years In The US?

30. As of August 2023, at least 43 public or nonprofit colleges have closed, merged, or announced closures or mergers since March 2020. This number is likely to increase as more colleges struggle to stay afloat financially.

31. There has been a 13% decline in the number of colleges and universities for higher education in the last 5 years. 

32. According to US news, various factors contributed to the colleges’ shutdown. Especially the aspects like the combination of market size, location, market recognition, and brand identity have a more substantial effect on the university’s survival. 

33. 800 private colleges are at higher risk of being shut down. There are less than 100 enrollments in these colleges. Moreover, small colleges mostly depend on the students to generate revenue and maintain the college. Hence, their unmet financial needs have exposed these colleges to a higher risk of shutdown. 

34. Furthermore, the recent incidents of colleges shutting down include Becker College in Massachusetts. The college reported that they closed down due to financial struggles and increased debts due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

35. The Mills College in California also announced its shutdown. The women’s college reported that they were struggling with the finances and the management of the cash flow. The pandemic paved the way for the shutdown of the college. 

How To Find The Right College That Suits Your Needs?  

With more than 6000 colleges across the nation, students have plenty of options for higher studies. Whether you want to pursue an engineering degree or liberal arts or want to get enrolled in medical school, you will surely be confused and stressed while selecting your college due to the number of options you have. 

Here are a few tips for choosing the best college that suits your needs. 

  • Determine the crucial criteria for getting admitted into a college, like location, degree, type of institute, etc. Find the colleges that fulfil most of your priorities. 
  • Visit the campus and familiarise yourselves with the degree programs available. You can have a talk with the professors, students, and alumni of the colleges. 
  • If you can not visit the campus, look out for the free resources on the internet that provide details of the campus and the degree programs available in the colleges. 
  • You may also get help from a paid consultant who can guide you about the most suitable college. 

If you are a student staying out of the US, the 3rd and 4th tips will be of great help. Apart from that, you can also take help from online communities on different social media platforms. You might have already gone through the top colleges in the US. This list will be pretty helpful for you when selecting a college for higher studies. 

Related Read:

Wrapping Up: How Many Colleges Are In The US (2023)

That’s all about the number of colleges in the United States. 

With over 4,000 degree-granting institutions from coast to coast, you have the opportunity to find the right college or university to suit your needs. 

The diversity across public, private, 2-year, 4-year, non-profit, and for-profit schools enables you to identify the best match based on cost, location, degree programs, campus culture, and other factors. 

Choosing a college may seem overwhelming, but there are many great options available. 

Finding the right fit will set you up for success. From community colleges to specialized institutions, the U.S. has a wide selection of excellent educational options to choose from.

Colleges and universities across the country are committed to providing the next generation with knowledge, skills, and experiences. 

I hope that the above article has helped you to know the total number of colleges in the United States and the top colleges you may choose from. We keep updating the article with the latest facts and figures. You may check out our website if you need updated information about other college facts. 

Ryan Harris

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