How Many Colleges Are In The US 2023 (Latest Statistics)

When applying to colleges for higher studies, students often come across the question, “How many colleges are there in the US?”

The majority of the students are only aware of the colleges in their area, state and the top colleges of the nation. However, the United States is home to approximately 6000 colleges, but only 66% grant students degrees. 

Want to know more interesting facts and figures about the number of colleges in the US? 

Continue reading the article. 

In the following article, we have compiled statistics related to the number of colleges in the United States and different states of the nation. You will also come across the facts related to the number of colleges according to institute type and the years required to study. 

What Is The Total Number Of Colleges In The US? 

How Many Colleges Are In The US - Overview
  1. According to National Center for Education Statistics, there are 3,982 degree colleges in the United States, as recorded in the academic year 2019-2020. 
  2. United Nations has approximately 6000 colleges and universities for higher education. 
  3. Only 66% of the colleges in the United States are considered degree-granting colleges.
  4. According to Statista, there were 4,313 institutes for higher education in the United States in the year 2017. 
  5. The following table displays the number of colleges in the United States from the year 1980 to 2017. 
YearNumber of institutions
  1. According to the data obtained in the academic year 2016-2017, there are 4360 higher education institutes in the US, including colleges and universities. 
  2. 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. Each state in the United States has its colleges and universities. Let us take a look at the number of colleges in different states in the US. 

S.R. NumberStatePrivatePublicFour-YearTwo-YearTotal
1. Alabama2438362662
3. Arizona3929363268
4. Arkansas2034272754
9. Florida1334312848176
10. Georgia63507142113
16. Kansas3033352863
17. Kentucky3524382159
18. Louisiana2531302656
20. Maryland2329341852
22. Michigan4646623092
25. Missouri7027752297
26. Montana518111223
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
40.Rhode Island11313114
41.South Carolina3333412566
42.South Dakota91317522
43. Tennessee6323622486
44. Texas13510914896244
49. Washington D.C.16217118
50. West Virginia2022271542
  1. California is the only state that has more than 300 colleges. 
  2. Pennsylvania, California, and texas have more than 200 colleges and universities for higher education. 
  3. California and Texas are home to the 3 largest public university systems in the United States. 
  4. New York, Texas, and California serve more than 1 million college students. 
  5. Wyoming, Alaska, and Delaware have the fewest colleges in the United States. There are less than 10 institutions in these states. 
  6. Wyoming, Alaska, and Delaware serve less than 61,000 students in the United States. 

Sources: NCES. 

Colleges In The US By Institution Type

There are various institution types in the US, like Public universities, Private universities, etc. 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. 

  1. According to the data received from the American Association of Community Colleges (AACC), there are 1050 community colleges in the United States.
  2. Out of 1050 community colleges, 35 colleges belong to the tribal communities, 73 colleges are independent institutions,  and 942 are public colleges. 
  3. According to the data from the CCCU, the United States has over 140 Christian colleges and universities that are members of the organization.

The following table displays the breakdown of the community colleges. 

Type of CollegesNumber of Colleges
Public colleges942
Independent colleges73
Tribal community colleges35
  1. There are 2,356 private colleges and 1,625 public colleges in the US, as reported in the year 2019-2020. 

The following table shows the distribution of public and private degree-granting colleges. 

Type of CollegesNumber of Colleges
Public colleges2357
Private colleges1625
  1. 865,504 associate degrees are awarded to students by community colleges. 
  2. 599,397 certificates were awarded to the students by the community colleges. 
  3. There are 1,660 private non-profit colleges in the US as of the year 2019-2020. 

The following table includes information about private non-profit and for-profit institutions in the US. 

Type of CollegesNumber of Colleges
Private for-profit colleges697
Private non-profit colleges1660

Sources: NCES. 

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. 

  1. According to the academic year 2016-2017, out of 4360 higher education institutes, 1,582 were reported to be two-year colleges, while  2,832 were reported to be four-year colleges. 
  2. 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
  1. The most common type of university in the United States is a private four-year college. 
  2. The most popular Ivy League institutions and other prestigious colleges are included in private four-year colleges. 
  3. Over the last 5 years, the number of private four-year institutions and public two-year institutions has significantly decreased in the numbers. 
  4. There has been a 33% decrease in the number of private two-year institutions since the academic year 2015-2016. 
  5. 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. 

  1. Beating 300 popular universities, Harvard was ranked as the number one university in the United States. 
  2. Harvard university received an overall QS score of 93.3 in QS ranking. It received a score of 96.8 for the learning experience. But it scored lowest in diversity and internalization. 
  3. The second spot was grabbed by Stanford university. It scored an overall score of 89.7. 
  4. The third spot was rewarded to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). It had an overall score of 87.1. 
  5. The fourth position was awarded to the University of California, Berkeley (UCB). It had an overall score of 79.2. 

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

RankUniversity Score
1Harvard University93.3
2Stanford University89.7
3Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)87.1
4University of California, Berkeley (UCB)79.2
5Columbia University79
6University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) 78.3
6Yale University 78.3
7University of Pennsylvania76.1
8Princeton University75.7
9Cornell University73.5
  1. According to QS World University Rankings, The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) grabs first place globally. It had an overall score of 100. 
  2. The second place in the list of best universities around the globe was grabbed by  Stanford University. It had an overall score of 98.4.
  3. The third place was rewarded to Harvard University. It had a score of 97.4. 
  4. 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. They grabbed the 5th and the 10th position, respectively. 
  5. 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?

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

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. 

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. 

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. 

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. 

  1. 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. 
  2. 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. 
  3. 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. 
  4. 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. 

If you are confused about which college you must prefer, here are the top colleges that you may choose from. 

  1. Princeton University
  2. Harvard University
  3.  Columbia University
  4. Stanford University
  5. Massachusetts Institute of Technology
  6. University of Chicago
  7. Yale University.

If you wish to pursue higher studies in liberal arts, here are the top colleges that you may consider getting admitted to.

  1. Williams College
  2. Amherst College
  3. Swarthmore College
  4. Wellesley College
  5. Bowdoin College
  6. Carleton College
  7. Pomona College.
  8. Middlebury College

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

Leave a Comment