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Higher education in the United States is an optional stage of
formal learning Education is the process of facilitating learning Learning is the process of acquiring new , , s, s, , attitudes, and s. The ability to learn is possessed by s, s, and some ; there is also evidence for some kind of learning in certain ...
following
secondary education Secondary education covers two phases on the International Standard Classification of Education The International Standard Classification of Education (ISCED) is a statistical framework for organizing information on education Educatio ...
.
Higher education Higher education is tertiary education Tertiary education, also referred to as third-level, third-stage or post-secondary education, is the education Education is the process of facilitating learning, or the acquisition of knowledge ...
is also referred as post-secondary education, third-stage, third-level, or tertiary education. It covers stages 5 to 8 on the International ISCED 2011 scale. It is delivered at 4,360
Title IV Title IV of the Higher Education Act of 1965 (HEA) covers the administration of the United States federal Student financial aid (United States), student financial aid programs. American colleges and universities are generally classified with re ...
degree-granting institutions, known as
college A college (Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language A classical language is a language A language is a structured system of communication Communication (from Latin ''communicare'', meaning "to share" or "to be in rel ...

college
s or
universities A university () is an of (or ) and which awards s in several . Universities typically offer both and programs in different schools or faculties of learning. The word ''university'' is derived from the ''universitas magistrorum et scholari ...

universities
. These may be
public In public relations Public relations (PR) is the practice of managing and disseminating information from an individual or an organization An organization, or organisation (English in the Commonwealth of Nations, Commonwealth Engli ...
or
private universities Private universities (and private colleges) are usually not operated by governments, although many receive tax breaks, public student loans, and grants. Depending on their location, private universities may be subject to government regulation ...
,
research universities A research university is a university that is committed to research as a central part of its mission. They can be public education, public or private education, private, and often have well-known brand names. Undergraduate courses at many research ...
,
liberal arts college A liberal arts college or liberal arts institution of higher education is a college A college (Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language A classical language is a language A language is a structured system of communicat ...
s,
community college A community college is a type of educational institution An educational institution is a place where people of different ages gain an education Education is the process of facilitating learning, or the acquisition of knowledge, skills, ...
s, or
for-profit colleges Proprietary colleges are for-profit colleges and universities. They are operated by their owners or investors, rather than a not-for-profit institution, religious organization, or government. Because they are not funded by tax money, their long-ter ...
. US higher education is loosely regulated by the government and by several third-party organizations. In 2021, US
student loan debt Student debt is a form of debt Debt is an obligation that requires one party, the debtor, to pay money or other agreed-upon value to another party, the creditor. Debt is a deferred payment, or series of payments, which differentiates it fro ...
amounts to more than $1.7 trillion. According to the
National Center for Education Statistics The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) is the part of the United States Department of Education The United States Department of Education (sometimes shortened to the ED, ED or DoEd) is a United States Cabinet, Cabinet-level depart ...
(NCES) and National Student Clearinghouse, college enrollment has declined every year since a peak in 2010–2011 and is projected to continue declining or be stagnant for the next two decades. The US is unique in its investment in highly competitive
NCAA The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) is a nonprofit organization A nonprofit organization (NPO), also known as a non-business entity, not-for-profit organization, or nonprofit institution, is a legal entity organized and o ...
sports, particularly in
American football American football, referred to simply as football in the United States and Canada and also known as gridiron, is a team sport played by two teams of eleven players on a rectangular American football field, field with goalposts at each end. ...

American football
and
basketball Basketball is a team sport in which two teams, most commonly of five players each, opposing one another on a rectangular court A court is any person or institution, often as a government institution, with the authority to Adjudication, ...

basketball
, with large sports stadiums and arenas.


History


Colonial era to 19th century

Religious denominations established early colleges in order to train ministers. Between 1636 and 1776, nine colleges were chartered in Colonial America; today, these institutions are known as the
colonial colleges The colonial colleges are nine institutions of higher education Higher education is tertiary education leading to award of an academic degree. Higher education, also called post-secondary education, third-level or tertiary education, is an o ...
. According to historian John Thelin, most instructors at these institutions were lowly paid 'tutors'. As objects of the
slavocracy A slavocracy, also known as a plantocracy, is a ruling class, political order or government composed of (or dominated by) slave owners and plantation owners. A number of early European colonies in the New World The "New World" is a Eurocentris ...
, enslaved Africans and their descendants also served as free labor for more than a century and a half Protestants and Catholics opened over hundreds of small denominational colleges in the 19th century. In 1899 they enrolled 46 percent of all U.S. undergraduates. Many closed or merged but in 1905 there were over 500 in operation. Catholics opened several women's colleges in the early 20th century. Schools were small, with a limited undergraduate curriculum based on the liberal arts. Students were drilled in Greek, Latin, geometry, ancient history, logic, ethics and rhetoric, with few discussions and no lab sessions. Originality and creativity were not prized, but exact repetition was rewarded. College presidents typically enforced strict discipline, and upperclassman enjoyed hazing freshman. Many students were younger than 17, and most colleges also operated a preparatory school. There were no organized sports, or Greek-letter fraternities, but literary societies were active. Tuition was low and scholarships were few. Many of their students were sons of clergymen; most planned professional careers as ministers, lawyers or teachers. The nation's small colleges helped young men make the transition from rural farms to complex urban occupations. These schools promoted upward mobility by preparing ministers and providing towns with a core of community leaders. Elite colleges became increasingly exclusive and contributed little upward social mobility. By concentrating on the offspring of wealthy families, and ministers, elite Eastern colleges such as
Harvard Harvard University is a private Private or privates may refer to: Music * "In Private "In Private" was the third single in a row to be a charting success for United Kingdom, British singer Dusty Springfield, after an absence of nearly t ...

Harvard
,
Columbia Columbia may refer to: * Columbia (personification), the historical female national personification of the United States, and a poetic name for the Americas Places North America Natural features * Columbia Plateau, a geologic and geographic regio ...

Columbia
, and
Princeton Princeton University is a private Private or privates may refer to: Music * "In Private "In Private" was the third single in a row to be a charting success for United Kingdom, British singer Dusty Springfield, after an absence of nearly two ...

Princeton
played a role in the formation of a Northeastern elite.


Catholic colleges and universities

The
Association of Catholic Colleges and Universities Association may refer to: *Club (organization), an association of two or more people united by a common interest or goal *Trade association, an organization founded and funded by businesses that operate in a specific industry *Voluntary association ...
was founded in 1899 and continues to facilitate the exchange of information and methods. Vigorous debate in recent decades has focused on how to balance Catholic and academic roles, with conservatives arguing that bishops should exert more control to guarantee orthodoxy.


Historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs)

Most Historically Black Colleges and Universities were established in the South after the American Civil War, often with the assistance of religious missionary organizations based in the northern United States. HBCUs established prior to the American Civil War include Cheyney University of Pennsylvania in 1837, University of the District of Columbia then known as Miner School for Colored Girls in 1851 and Lincoln University in 1854.


Timeline of key federal legislation

*
Morrill Act The Morrill Land-Grant Acts are United States The United States of America (U.S.A. or USA), commonly known as the United States (U.S. or US) or America, is a country Continental United States, primarily located in North America. It consis ...
(1862 and 1890) *
Smith–Hughes Act The Smith–Hughes National Vocational Education Act of 1917 was an act of the United States Congress The United States Congress or U.S. Congress is the bicameral legislature of the federal government of the United States and consists of ...
or National Vocational Education Act (1917) * Federal Student Aid Program (1934–1943) *
G.I. Bill The Servicemen's Readjustment Act of 1944, commonly known as the G.I. Bill, was a law that provided a range of benefits for some of the returning World War II World War II or the Second World War, often abbreviated as WWII or WW2, ...
(1944) *
National Defense Education Act The National Defense Education Act (NDEA) was signed into law on September 2, 1958, providing funding to United States education institutions at all levels.Schwegler 1 NDEA was among many science initiatives implemented by President Dwight D. ...
(1958) * Higher Education Act (1965) * Education Amendments (1972) *
CARES Act The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, also known as the CARES Act, is a $2.2trillion economic stimulus In economics, stimulus refers to attempts to use monetary policy or fiscal policy (or stabilization policy in general) to ...
, Coronavirus Relief packages, and
American Rescue Plan The American Rescue Plan Act of 2021, also called the COVID-19 Stimulus Package or American Rescue Plan, is a $1.9 trillion economic stimulus bill passed by the 117th United States Congress The 117th United States Congress is the current m ...
(2020-2021)


20th century

At the beginning of the 20th century, less than 1,000 colleges with 160,000 students existed in the US. The number of colleges skyrocketed in waves, during the early and mid-20th century. State universities grew from small institutions of fewer than 1,000 students to campuses with 40,000 more students, with networks of regional campuses around the state. In turn, regional campuses broke away and became separate universities. To handle the explosive growth of K–12 education, every state set up a network of teachers' colleges, beginning with Massachusetts in the 1830s. After 1950, they became state colleges and then state universities with a broad curriculum. Major new trends included the development of the
junior colleges A junior college (sometimes referred to colloquially as a juco or JuCo) is a post-secondary educational institution offering vocational training designed to prepare students for either skilled trade A tradesman, skilled tradesman, or tradie refe ...

junior colleges
. They were usually set up by city school systems starting in the 1920s. By the 1960s they were renamed as "community colleges." Junior colleges grew from 20 in number In 1909, to 170 in 1919. By 1922, 37 states had set up 70 junior colleges, enrolling about 150 students each. Meanwhile, another 137 were privately operated, with about 60 students each. Rapid expansion continued in the 1920s, with 440 junior colleges in 1930 enrolling about 70,000 students. The peak year for private institutions came in 1949, when there were 322 junior colleges in all; 180 were affiliated with churches, 108 were independent non-profit, and 34 were private schools run for-profit. Many factors contributed to rapid growth of community colleges. Students parents and businessmen wanted nearby, low-cost schools to provide training for the growing white-collar labor force, as well as for more advanced technical jobs in the blue-collar sphere. Four-year colleges were also growing, albeit not as fast; however, many of them were located in rural or small-town areas away from the fast-growing metropolis. Community colleges continue as open-enrollment, low-cost institutions with a strong component of vocational education, as well as a low-cost preparation for transfer students into four-year schools. They appeal to a poorer, older, less prepared element. College students were involved in
social movements Social organisms, including humans, live collectively in interacting populations. This interaction is considered social whether they are aware of it or not, and whether the exchange is voluntary/involuntary. Etymology The word "Social" derives fr ...
long before the 20th century, but the most dramatic student movements rose in the 1960s. In the 1960s, students organized for
civil rights Civil and political rights are a class of rights Rights are legal Law is a system of rules created and law enforcement, enforced through social or governmental institutions to regulate behavior,Robertson, ''Crimes against humanity'', ...
and against the
Vietnam War {{Infobox military conflict , conflict = Vietnam War , partof = the Indochina Wars The Indochina Wars ( vi, Chiến tranh Đông Dương) were a series of wars fought in Southeast Asia Southeast Asia, also spelled ...
. In the 1970s, students led movements for
women's rights Women's rights are the and s claimed for and s worldwide. They formed the basis for the women's rights movement in the 19th century and the s during the 20th and 21st centuries. In some countries, these rights are institutionalized or supp ...
and
gay rights Rights affecting lesbian A lesbian is a Homosexuality, homosexual woman.Zimmerman, p. 453. The word ''lesbian'' is also used for women in relation to their sexual identity or sexual behavior, regardless of sexual orientation, or a ...
, as well as protests against South African
apartheid Apartheid (South African English South African English (SAfrE, SAfrEng, SAE, en-ZA) is the set of English language dialects native to South Africans. History British British may refer to: Peoples, culture, and language * B ...

apartheid
.
Privatization Privatization (or privatisation in British English) can mean several different things, most commonly referring to moving something from the public sector into the private sector. It is also sometimes used as a synonym for deregulation when a heav ...
of US higher education increased in the 1980s and during economic recessions and
austerity Austerity is a set of political-economic policies that aim to reduce government budget deficits through spending cuts, tax increases, or a combination of both. There are three primary types of austerity measures: higher taxes to fund spending, ...

austerity
in the 20th and 21st century. While for-profit colleges originated during Colonial times, growth in these schools was most apparent from the 1980s to about 2011. For-profit college enrollment, however, has declined significantly since 2011, after several federal investigations. For-profit colleges were criticized for predatory marketing and sales practices. The failures of
Corinthian Colleges Corinthian Colleges, Inc. (CCi) was a large For-profit higher education in the United States, for-profit post-secondary education company in North America. Its subsidiaries offered career-oriented diploma and degree programs in health care, busin ...
and
ITT Technical Institute ITT Technical Institute (often shortened to ITT Tech) was a For-profit higher education in the United States, for-profit vocational education, technical institute. Founded in 1969 and with approximately 130 campuses in 38 states of the United Stat ...
were the most remarkable closings. In 2018, the documentary ''Fail State'' chronicled the boom and bust of for-profit colleges, highlighting the abuses that led to their downfall.


21st century

Changing technology, mergers and closings, and politics have resulted in dramatic changes in US higher education during the 21st century.


Online education: MOOCs and OPMs

Online education has grown in the early 21st century. More than 6.3 million students in the U.S. took at least one online course in fall 2016. While online attendance has increased, confidence among chief academic officers has decreased from 70.8 percent in 2015 to 63.3 percent in 2016. In 2017, about 15% of all students attended exclusively
online In computer technology and telecommunications Telecommunication is the transmission of information by various types of technologies over , radio, , or other systems. It has its origin in the desire of humans for communication over a dista ...

online
, and competition for online students has been increasing By 2018, more than one hundred short-term coding bootcamps existed in the US. Programs were available at Harvard University's extension school and the extension schools at Georgia Tech, University of Pennsylvania, Cal Berkeley, Northwestern, UCLA, University of North Carolina, University of Texas, George Washington, Vanderbilt University, and Rutgers through Trilogy Education Services. In 2019, researchers at George Mason University concluded that online education has "contributed to increasing gaps in educational success across socioeconomic groups while failing to improve affordability". A MOOC is a ''
massive open online course A massive open online course (MOOC ) is an online course Educational technology (commonly abbreviated as EduTech, or EdTech) is the combined use of computer hardware, software, and Education sciences, educational theory and practice to facili ...
'' aimed at unlimited participation and open access via the web. It became popular in 2010–14. In addition to traditional course materials such as filmed lectures, readings, and
problem setA problem set, sometimes shortened as pset, is a teaching tool used by many universities A university ( la, universitas, 'a whole') is an institution of higher (or tertiary) education and research which awards academic degrees in various a ...
s, many MOOCs provide interactive user forums to support community interactions between students, professors, and teaching assistants. Robert Zemsky (2014), of the
University of Pennsylvania Graduate School of Education A university ( la, universitas, 'a whole') is an institution Institutions, according to Samuel P. Huntington, are "stable, valued, recurring patterns of behavior". Institutions can refer to mechanisms which govern the behavior Behavio ...
notes that they at first seemed to be an extremely inexpensive method of bringing top teachers at low cost directly to students. However, very few students—usually under 5%—were able to finish a MOOC course. He argues that they have passed their peak: "They came; they conquered very little; and now they face substantially diminished prospects." In 2019, researchers at MIT found that MOOCs had completion rates of 3 percent and that the number of people taking these courses has been declining since 2012–13. Online programs for many universities are often managed by privately owned companies called
online program managerAn Online Program Manager (OPM) provides a ready made digital portal on which universities can run online courses. OPMs allow universities to get into online teaching without the costs and time needed to build their own platform. The major OPMs inclu ...
s or OPMs. The OPMs include 2U,
Academic Partnerships An academy (Attic Greek: Ἀκαδήμεια; Koine Greek Ἀκαδημία) is an institution of secondary education, secondary or tertiary education, tertiary higher education, higher learning, research, or honorary membership. Academia is the w ...
, Noodle, and iDesign. Trace Urdan, managing director at Tyton Partners, "estimates that the market for OPMs and related services will be worth nearly $8 billion by 2020."


Financial difficulties, mergers and downsizing

Hundreds of colleges are expected to close or merge, according to research from
Ernst & Young Ernst & Young Global Limited, doing business as EY, is a multinational corporation, multinational professional services Professional services network, network with headquarters in London, England. EY is one of the largest professional services ...
. The US Department of Education publishes a monthly list of campus and learning site closings. Typically there are 300 to 1000 closings per year. Notable college closings include for-profit
Corinthian Colleges Corinthian Colleges, Inc. (CCi) was a large For-profit higher education in the United States, for-profit post-secondary education company in North America. Its subsidiaries offered career-oriented diploma and degree programs in health care, busin ...
(2015),
ITT Technical Institute ITT Technical Institute (often shortened to ITT Tech) was a For-profit higher education in the United States, for-profit vocational education, technical institute. Founded in 1969 and with approximately 130 campuses in 38 states of the United Stat ...
(2016), Brightwood College and
Virginia College Virginia College was a private For-profit education, for-profit college, located primarily in the southeastern United States. Virginia College offered classes, certificates, diplomas, and degrees related to specific professions, such as health and m ...
(2018). Private college closings include
Wheelock College Wheelock College (Wheelock) was a private college in Boston, Massachusetts. Founded in 1888 by Lucy Wheelock as Miss Wheelock's Kindergarten Training School, it offered undergraduate and graduate programs that focused on the Arts & Sciences, Edu ...
(2018) and
Green Mountain College Green Mountain College was a Private college, private liberal arts college in Poultney, Vermont, at the foot of the Taconic Mountains between the Green Mountains and Adirondacks. The college was affiliated with the United Methodist Church and offe ...

Green Mountain College
(2019). In December 2017,
Moody's Moody's Investors Service, often referred to as Moody's, is the bond credit rating In investment To invest is to allocate money Image:National-Debt-Gillray.jpeg, In a 1786 James Gillray caricature, the plentiful money bags handed to Kin ...
credit rating agency downgraded the US higher education outlook from stable to negative, "citing financial strains at both public and private four-year institutions." In June 2018, Moody's released data on declining college enrollments and constraints, noting that tuition pricing would suppress tuition revenue growth. Other businesses related to higher education have also had financial difficulties. In May 2019, two academic publishers,
Cengage Cengage Group is an American educational Education is the process of facilitating learning Learning is the process of acquiring new understanding, knowledge, behaviors, skills, value (personal and cultural), values, attitudes, and pr ...
and
McGraw Hill McGraw Hill is an American learning company and one of the "big three" educational publishers that provides customized educational content, software, and services for pre-K Pre-kindergarten (also called Pre-K or PK) is a voluntary classroom ...
, merged. In 2020, higher education lost 650,000 jobs or about 13 percent of the workforce amid the COVID-19 pandemic, despite an infusion of federal funds. The number of US colleges and universities dropped from 6,642 in 2017-2018 to 6,063 in 2020-2021.


Class privilege and the growth of the educated underclass

Social class has a profound influence on higher education. Undergraduates at elite universities have a substantial advantage if their parents also went to a particular college. Educator Gary Roth, a left wing writer, has argued that with fewer good jobs for graduates, the US has been producing an "educated underclass." While upward social mobility continues to be available for immigrants and first generation people, the route to upward social mobility is more complicated for people from families that have been in the US longer.


Protests, political clashes, and the growth of right wing politics

The growth of power among right wing groups has been apparent since the mid-2010s.
Turning Point USA Turning Point USA (TPUSA), or Turning Point, is an American Right-wing politics, right-wing organization that advocates conservative narratives on high school, college, and university campuses. The organization was founded in 2012 by Charlie Kir ...
(TPUS), now the most dominant conservative presence on US campuses, has clubs at more than 2500 college campuses. TPUSA is known for questionable tactics, such as its Professor Watchlist. Charlie Kirk, its founder, also took over
Students for Trump Students for Trump (S4T) is an American youth group whose mission is to re-elect President Donald Trump. The group was founded in 2015 by two college students, Ryan Fournier and John Lambert. In July 2019, Charlie Kirk (activist), Charlie Kirk, CE ...
in 2019. The Chronicle of Higher Education has documented groups such as the
Groypers Groypers, sometimes called the Groyper Army, are a loose group of white nationalist and far-right activists, provocateurs, and internet trolls who are notable for their attempts to introduce far-right politics into mainstream conservatism in ...
who have infiltrated conservative organizations on campus.
Student protests Campus protest or student protest is a form of student activism that takes the form of protest at university campuses. Such protests encompass a wide range of activities that indicate student dissatisfaction with a given political or academics is ...
and clashes between left and right appeared on several US campuses in 2017. On August 11, 2017, white nationalists and members of the
alt-right File:Donald Trump alt-right supporter (32452974604).jpg, upright=1.35, An alt-right supporter at the March 4 Trump rally in Saint Paul, Minnesota; due to copyright issues, a depiction of Pepe the Frog on the man's sign has been digitally remove ...
rallied at the
University of Virginia The University of Virginia (U.Va. or UVA) is a public In public relations Public relations (PR) is the practice of managing and disseminating information from an individual or an organization An organization, or organisat ...

University of Virginia
, protesting the removal of a statue of
Robert E. Lee Robert Edward Lee (January 19, 1807 – October 12, 1870) was an American Confederate general best known for his service to the Confederate States of America The Confederate States of America (CSA), commonly referred to as the Co ...

Robert E. Lee
. The following day, one person died during protests in Charlottesville. Following this event, speaking engagements by Richard Spencer were canceled at
Texas A&M University Texas A&M University (Texas A&M, A&M, or TAMU) is a public In public relations Public relations (PR) is the practice of managing and disseminating information from an individual or an organization An organization, or organi ...
and the
University of Florida The University of Florida (Florida or UF) is a public In public relations Public relations (PR) is the practice of managing and disseminating information from an individual or an organization An organization, or organisati ...
.


Functions

US higher education functions as an institution of knowledge but has several secondary functions. According to Marcus Ford, the primary function went through four phases in American history: preserving Christian civilization, advancing the national interest, research, and growing the global economy. Higher education has also served as a source for professional credentials, as a vehicle for social mobility, and as a social sorter. The college functions as a 'status marker', "signaling membership in the educated class, and a place to meet spouses of similar status". Especially among students who move away from their families to attend residential-focused four-year colleges, the experience of going away to college is seen as a
rite of passage A rite of passage is a ceremony A ceremony (, ) is a unified ritual A ritual is a sequence of activities involving gestures, words, actions, or objects, performed according to a set sequence. Rituals may be prescribed by the traditions o ...
that produces young adults, irrespective of what they might learn in a classroom. The loss of these non-classroom experiences was the basis for some lawsuits filed after most campuses closed due to the
COVID-19 pandemic The COVID-19 pandemic is an ongoing global pandemic A pandemic (from , , "all" and , , "local people" the 'crowd') is an of an that has spread across a large region, for instance multiple or worldwide, affecting a substantial numbe ...

COVID-19 pandemic
, and the desire for those experiences was one reason why schools were pressured to re-open campus life in the fall of 2020. In 2018, Universitas 21 (U21), the network of research-intensive universities, ranked the US first globally for overall higher education, but only 15th when
GDP Gross domestic product (GDP) is a monetary Image:National-Debt-Gillray.jpeg, In a 1786 James Gillray caricature, the plentiful money bags handed to King George III are contrasted with the beggar whose legs and arms were amputated, in the ...
was factored into the equation. Accounting for GDP, the top 10 nations for higher education in 2018 were Finland, the United Kingdom, Serbia, Denmark, Sweden, Portugal, Switzerland, South Africa, Israel and New Zealand. Strong research funding helped 'elite American universities' dominate global rankings in the early 21st century, making them attractive to
international student International students, or foreign students, according to the OECD are "those who received their prior education in another country and are not residents of their current country of study." In 2020, there were over 5.6 million international stude ...
s, professors and researchers. Other countries, though, are offering incentives to compete for researchers as funding is threatened in the US and US dominance of international tables has lessened. The system has also been blighted by fly-by-night schools, diploma mills, visa mills, and predatory
for-profit colleges Proprietary colleges are for-profit colleges and universities. They are operated by their owners or investors, rather than a not-for-profit institution, religious organization, or government. Because they are not funded by tax money, their long-ter ...
. There have been some attempts to reform the system through federal policy such as gainful employment regulations, particularly through the Department of Education's
College ScorecardThe College Scorecard is an online tool, created by the United States government, for consumers to compare the cost and value of higher education institutions in the United States. It displays data in five areas: cost, graduation rate, employment rat ...
, which enables students to see the socio-economic diversity, SAT/ACT scores, graduation rates, and average earnings and debt of graduates at all colleges. According to
Pew Research Center The Pew Research Center is a nonpartisan Nonpartisanism is a lack of affiliation with, and a lack of bias toward, a political party A political party is an organization that coordinates candidates to compete in a particular country's ...

Pew Research Center
and
Gallup poll Gallup, Inc. is an American analytics and advisory company based in Washington, D.C. Founded by George Gallup in 1935, the company became known for its public opinion polls conducted worldwide. Starting in the 1980s, Gallup transitioned its bu ...
surveys, public opinion about colleges has been declining, especially among Republicans and the white
working class The working class (or labouring class) comprises those engaged in manual-labour occupations or industrial work, who are remunerated via waged or salaried contracts. Working-class occupations (see also "Designation of workers by collar color ...
. The higher education industry has been criticized for being unnecessarily expensive, providing a difficult-to-measure service which is seen as vital but in which providers are paid for inputs instead of outputs, which is beset with federal regulations that drive up costs, and payments coming from third parties, not users.Mitch Daniels, February 6, 2018, Washington Post
Health care isn't our only ludicrously expensive industry
Retrieved February 7, 2018, "... by evading accountability for quality, regulating it heavily, and opening a hydrant of public subsidies in the form of government grants and loans, we have constructed another system of guaranteed overruns ... pricing categories that have outpaced health care over recent decades are college tuition, room and board, and books...."
In a 2018 Pew survey, 61 percent of those polled said that US higher education was headed in the wrong direction. A 2019 Gallup survey found that, among graduates who strongly felt a purpose in life was important, "only 40 percent said they had found a meaningful career after college."


Types of colleges and universities

US colleges and universities offer diverse educational venues: some emphasize a
vocational A vocation () is an job, occupation to which a person is especially drawn or for which they are suited, trained, or qualified. People can be given information about a new occupation through student orientation. Though now often used in non-religi ...
,
business Business is the activity of making one's living or making money by producing or buying and selling products (such as goods and services). Simply put, it is "any activity or enterprise entered into for profit." Having a business name A trad ...

business
,
engineering Engineering is the use of scientific principles to design and build machines, structures, and other items, including bridges, tunnels, roads, vehicles, and buildings. The discipline of engineering encompasses a broad range of more speciali ...

engineering
, or technical curriculum (like polytechnic universities and
land-grant universities A land-grant university (also called land-grant college or land-grant institution) is an institution of higher education in the United States designated by a state to receive the benefits of the Morrill Acts of 1862 and 1890. Signed by Abraham ...
) and others emphasize a
liberal arts Liberal arts education (from Latin "free" and "art or principled practice") is the traditional academic program in Western higher education. ''Liberal arts'' takes the term ''Art (skill), art'' in the sense of a learned skill rather than spec ...
curriculum. Many combine some or all of the above, as comprehensive universities.


Terminology

The term "college" refers to one of three types of education institutions: stand-alone higher-level education institutions that are not components of a university. #
community colleges A community college is a type of educational institution. The term can have different meanings in different countries: many community colleges have an "open enrollment" for students who have graduated from high school (also known as senior sec ...
#
liberal arts colleges A liberal arts college or liberal arts institution of higher education is a college A college (Latin: ''collegium'') is an educational institution or a University system, constituent part of one. A college may be a academic degree, degree-aw ...
# a college within a university, mostly the undergraduate institution of a university. Almost all colleges and universities are
coeducation Mixed-sex education, also known as mixed-gender education, co-education, or coeducation (abbreviated to co-ed or coed), is a system of education Education is the process of facilitating learning, or the acquisition of knowledge, skills ...
al. A dramatic transition occurred in the 1970s, when most
men's colleges In higher education Higher education is tertiary education Tertiary education, also referred to as third-level, third-stage or post-secondary education, is the education Education is the process of facilitating learning, or the ac ...
started to accept women. Over 80% of the women's colleges of the 1960s have closed or merged, leaving fewer than 50. Over 100
historically black colleges and universities Historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) are institutions of higher education in the United States Higher education in the United States is an optional stage of formal learning following secondary education. Higher education is ...
(HBCUs) operate, both private and public. Some
U.S. states In the United States, a state is a Federated state, constituent political entity, of which there are currently 50. Bound together in a political union, each state holds governmental jurisdiction over a separate and defined geographic territor ...
offer higher education at two year "colleges" formerly called "
community college A community college is a type of educational institution An educational institution is a place where people of different ages gain an education Education is the process of facilitating learning, or the acquisition of knowledge, skills, ...
s". The change requires cooperation between community colleges and local universities. Four-year colleges often provide the
bachelor's degree A bachelor's degree (from Middle Latin Medieval Latin was the form of Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was originally spoken in the area ...
, most commonly the
Bachelor of Arts Bachelor of Arts (BA or AB; from the Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language A classical language is a language A language is a structured system of communication Communication (from Latin ''communicare'', meaning "to ...
(B.A.) or
Bachelor of Science A Bachelor of Science (BS, BSc, SB, or ScB; from the Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language A classical language is a language A language is a structured system of communication Communication (from Latin ''communicare' ...
(B.S.). They are primarily either undergraduate only institutions (e.g.
liberal arts college A liberal arts college or liberal arts institution of higher education is a college A college (Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language A classical language is a language A language is a structured system of communicat ...
s), or the undergraduate institution of a university (such as
Harvard College Harvard College is the undergraduate Undergraduate education is education conducted after secondary education and prior to postgraduate education. It typically includes all postsecondary programs up to the level of a bachelor's degree A b ...
,
Yale College Yale College is the undergraduate college of Yale University Yale University is a private Private or privates may refer to: Music * "In Private "In Private" was the third single in a row to be a charting success for United Kingdom, ...
, and Columbia College). Higher education has led to the creation of accreditation organizations, independent of the government, to vouch for the quality of degrees. They rate institutions on academic quality, the quality of their libraries, the publishing records of their faculty, the degrees which their faculty hold, and their financial solvency. Accrediting agencies have been criticized for possible conflicts of interest that lead to favorable results. Non-accredited institutions exist, but their students are not eligible for federal loans.


Universities

Universities are educational institutions with undergraduate and graduate programs. For historical reasons, some universities have retained the term ''college'' instead of "university" for their name.
Graduate programs Student receives degree from the Monterrey Institute of Technology and Higher Education, Mexico City, 2013 A graduate school (sometimes shortened to grad school) is a school A school is an educational institution designed to provide le ...
grant a variety of
master's degree A master's degree (from Latin ) is an academic degree awarded by University, universities or colleges upon completion of a course of study demonstrating mastery or a high-order overview of a specific field of study or area of Profession, professio ...
s (like the
Master of Arts A Master of Arts ( la, Magister Artium or ''Artium Magister''; abbreviated MA or AM) is the holder of a master's degree A master's degree (from Latin ) is an academic degree awarded by University, universities or colleges upon completion of a ...
(M.A.),
Master of Science A Master of Science ( la, Magisterii Scientiae; abbreviated MS, M.S., MSc, M.Sc., SM, S.M., ScM or Sc.M.) is a master's degree A master's degree (from Latin ) is an academic degree awarded by University, universities or colleges upon comple ...
(M.S.),
Master of Business Administration A Master of Business Administration (MBA; also Master's in Business Administration) is a graduate degree Postgraduate education (graduate education in North America North America is a continent A continent is any of seve ...
(M.B.A.) or
Master of Fine Arts A Master of Fine Arts (MFA or M.F.A.) is a terminal degree A terminal degree is a university A university ( la, universitas, 'a whole') is an educational institution, institution of higher education, higher (or Tertiary education, tertiary ...
(M.F.A.)) in addition to
doctorate A doctorate (from Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was originally spoken in the area around Rome, known as Latium. Through the power of the Roman Republ ...

doctorate
s such as the
Ph.D A Doctor of Philosophy (PhD, Ph.D., or DPhil; Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was originally spoken in the area around Rome, known as La ...
. The
Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education The Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education, or simply the Carnegie Classification, is a framework for classifying colleges and universities in the United States. Created in 1970, it is named after and was originally created ...
distinguishes among institutions on the basis of the prevalence of degrees they grant and considers the granting of
master's degree A master's degree (from Latin ) is an academic degree awarded by University, universities or colleges upon completion of a course of study demonstrating mastery or a high-order overview of a specific field of study or area of Profession, professio ...
s necessary, although not sufficient, for an institution to be classified as a university. Some universities have professional schools. Examples include
journalism school A journalism school is a school A school is an educational institution designed to provide learning spaces and learning environments for the teaching of students (or "pupils") under the direction of teachers. Most countries have systems of ...
,
business school A business school is a university-level institution that confers degrees in business administration Business administration (also known as business management) is the administration of a commercial enterprise. It includes all aspects of overse ...

business school
,
medical school A medical school is a tertiary education Tertiary education, also referred to as third-level, third-stage or post-secondary education, is the education Education is the process of facilitating learning, or the acquisition of knowled ...
s,
pharmacy school The basic requirement for pharmacists to be considered for registration is an undergraduate Undergraduate education is education conducted after secondary education and prior to postgraduate education. It typically includes all postsecondary p ...
s ( Pharm.D.), and
dental school Dental may refer to: * Having to do with teeth A tooth (plural teeth) is a hard, calcified Calcification is the accumulation of calcium salts in a Tissue (biology), body tissue. It normally occurs in the formation of bone, but calcium can be ...
s. A common practice is to refer to these disparate faculties within universities as ''colleges'' or ''schools''. The American university system is largely
decentralized Decentralization or decentralisation is the process by which the activities of an organization, particularly those regarding planning and decision making, are distributed or delegated away from a central, authoritative location or group. Concep ...

decentralized
.
Public universities A public university or public college is a university or college that is in state ownership or receives significant Government spending, public funds through a national or subnational government, as opposed to a private university. Whether a natio ...
are administered by the individual
states State may refer to: Arts, entertainment, and media Literature * ''State Magazine'', a monthly magazine published by the U.S. Department of State * The State (newspaper), ''The State'' (newspaper), a daily newspaper in Columbia, South Carolina, Un ...
and
territories A territory is an administrative division, usually an area that is under the jurisdiction of a sovereign state. In most country, countries, a ''territory'' is an organized division of an area that is controlled by a country but is not formally d ...
, usually as part of a
state university system A state university system in the United States is a group of public universities A public university or public college is a university or college that is in state ownership or receives significant Government spending, public funds through a n ...
. Except for the
United States service academies The United States service academies, also known as the United States military academies, are federal academies for the undergraduate education and training of commissioned officers for the United States Armed Forces. There are five U.S. servic ...
and
staff college Staff colleges (also command and staff colleges and war college A war college is a senior military academy which is normally intended for veteran military officers and whose purpose is to educate and 'train on' senior military tacticians, strat ...
s, the
federal government A federation (also known as a federal state) is a political entity A polity is an identifiable political Politics (from , ) is the set of activities that are associated with Decision-making, making decisions in Social group, groups, ...
does not directly regulate universities. However, it can offer federal grants and any institution that receives federal funds must certify that it has adopted and implemented a drug prevention program that meets federal regulations. Each state supports at least one state university and several support several. At one extreme, California has three public higher education systems: the 10-campus
University of California The University of California (UC) is a public university, public Land-grant university, land-grant research university, research university system in the U.S. state of California. The system is composed of the campuses at University of Califor ...
, the 23-campus
California State University The California State University (Cal State or CSU) is a public university #REDIRECT Public university #REDIRECT Public university#REDIRECT Public university A public university or public college is a university or college that is in state ow ...
, and the 112-campus
California Community Colleges System The California Community Colleges is "a postsecondary education system" in the U.S. state In the , a state is a , of which there are currently 50. Bound together in a , each state holds al jurisdiction over a separate and defined geogra ...
. In contrast,
Wyoming Wyoming () is a U.S. state, state in the Mountain states, Mountain West subregion of the Western United States. The List of U.S. states and territories by area, 10th largest state by area, it is also the List of U.S. states and territories b ...
supports a single state university. Public universities often have large student bodies, with introductory classes numbering in the hundreds, with some undergraduate classes taught by graduate students.
Tribal college In the United States The United States of America (U.S.A. or USA), commonly known as the United States (U.S. or US) or America, is a country Continental United States, primarily located in North America. It consists of 50 U.S. state, stat ...
s operated on
Indian reservation An Indian reservation is an area of land tenure In common law In law, common law (also known as judicial precedent or judge-made law, or case law) is the body of law created by judges and similar quasi-judicial tribunals by virtue of ...

Indian reservation
s by some
federally recognized tribes This is a list of federally recognized tribes in the contiguous United States of America The United States of America (U.S.A. or USA), commonly known as the United States (U.S. or US) or America, is a country Continental United States, ...
are also public institutions. Many
private universities Private universities (and private colleges) are usually not operated by governments, although many receive tax breaks, public student loans, and grants. Depending on their location, private universities may be subject to government regulation ...
exist. Some are
secular Secularity, also the secular or secularness (from Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was originally spoken in the area around Rome, known as Latium. Through t ...
and others are involved in
religious education In secular Secularity, also the secular or secularness (from Latin ''saeculum'', "worldly" or "of a generation") is the state of being unrelated or neutral in regards to religion and irreligion. Anything that does not have an explicit reference ...
. Some are
non-denominational A non-denominational person or organization that does not follow or is not restricted to any particular or specific religious denomination. Overview The term has been used in the context of various faiths including Jainism, Baháʼí Faith, Zoroast ...
, and some are affiliated with a certain sect or church, such as
Roman Catholicism The Catholic Church, also known as the Roman Catholic Church, is the largest Christian church, with 1.3 billion baptised Baptism (from the Greek language, Greek noun βάπτισμα ''báptisma'') is a Christians, Christian r ...
(with different institutions often sponsored by particular
religious institute A religious institute is a type of institute of consecrated life in the Catholic Church whose members take religious vows, religious vows and lead a life in community with fellow members. Religious institutes are one of the two types of institut ...
s such as the
Jesuits The Society of Jesus ( la, Societas Iesu; abbreviated SJ), also known as the Jesuits (; la, Iesuitæ), is a religious order (Catholic), religious order of the Catholic Church headquartered in Rome. It was founded by Ignatius of Loyola and six co ...
) or religions such as
Lutheranism Lutheranism is one of the largest branches of Protestantism Protestantism is a form of Christianity Christianity is an , based on the and of . It is the , with about 2.5 billion followers. Its adherents, known as , make up a major ...
or
Mormonism Mormonism is the religious tradition and theology of the Latter Day Saint movement of Restorationism, Restorationist Christianity started by Joseph Smith in Western New York in the 1820s and 1830s. As a label, Mormonism has been applied to var ...
.
Seminaries A seminary, school of theology, theological seminary, or divinity school is an educational institution for educating students (sometimes called ''seminarians'') in scripture, theology, generally to prepare them for ordination to serve as clergy, in ...
are private institutions for those preparing to become members of the
clergy Clergy are formal leaders within established s. Their roles and functions vary in different religious traditions, but usually involve presiding over specific rituals and teaching their religion's s and practices. Some of the terms used for ind ...
. Most private schools (like all public schools) are
non-profit A nonprofit organization (NPO), also known as a non-business entity, not-for-profit organization, or nonprofit institution, is a legal entity organized and operated for a collective, public or social benefit, in contrast with an entity that o ...
, although some are for-profit.


Community colleges

Community colleges are often
two-year college A junior college (sometimes referred to colloquially as a juco or JuCo) is a post-secondary Tertiary education, also referred to as third-level, third-stage or post-secondary education, is the education Education is the process of ...
s. They have
open admissions Open admissions, or open enrollment, is a type of unselective and noncompetitive college admissions process in the United States in which the only criterion for entrance is a high school diplomaA high school diploma is a North American academic sc ...
, usually with lower tuition fees than other state or private schools. Graduates earn
associate degree An associate degree is an undergraduate degree awarded after a course of post-secondary study lasting two to three years. It is a level of qualification between a high school diploma, GED, and a Bachelor's degree. The first associate degrees we ...
s, such as an
Associate of Arts An associate degree is an undergraduate degree An undergraduate degree (also called first degree or simply degree) is a colloquial term for an academic degree earned by a person who has completed undergraduate courses. In the United States, it i ...
(AA). According to National Student Clearinghouse data, community college enrollment has dropped by 2.2 million students since its peak year of 2010–11. In 2017, 88% of community colleges surveyed were facing declining enrollments. A ''
The New York Times ''The New York Times'' is an American daily newspaper based in New York City with a worldwide readership. Founded in 1851, the ''Times'' has since won List of Pulitzer Prizes awarded to The New York Times, 132 Pulitzer Prizes, the most of a ...

The New York Times
'' report in 2017 suggested that of the nation's 18 million undergraduates, 40% were attending community college; of these students, 62% were attending community college full-time, 40% of them worked at least 30 hours a week or more, and more than half lived at home to save money.Gail O. Mellow, August 28, 2017, The New York Times
The Biggest Misconception About Today's College Students
Retrieved August 28, 2017
The College Promise program, which exists in several forms in 47 states, is an effort to encourage community college enrollment.


Liberal arts colleges

Four-year institutions emphasizing the
liberal arts Liberal arts education (from Latin "free" and "art or principled practice") is the traditional academic program in Western higher education. ''Liberal arts'' takes the term ''Art (skill), art'' in the sense of a learned skill rather than spec ...
are
liberal arts colleges A liberal arts college or liberal arts institution of higher education is a college A college (Latin: ''collegium'') is an educational institution or a University system, constituent part of one. A college may be a academic degree, degree-aw ...
. They traditionally emphasize interactive instruction. They are known for being
residential A residential area is a land used in which houses, housing predominates, as opposed to industrial district, industrial and Commercial Area, commercial areas. Housing may vary significantly between, and through, residential areas. These include ...
and for having smaller enrollment and lower student-to-faculty ratios than universities. Most are
private Private or privates may refer to: Music * "In Private "In Private" was the third single in a row to be a charting success for United Kingdom, British singer Dusty Springfield, after an absence of nearly two decades from the charts. Both "In Pri ...
, although there are public liberal arts colleges. Some offer experimental curricula.


For-profit colleges

For-profit higher education (known as
for-profit college Proprietary colleges are for-profit colleges and universities. They are operated by their owners or investors, rather than a not-for-profit institution, religious organization, or government. Because they are not funded by tax money, their long-te ...
or proprietary education) refers to higher education institutions operated by private, profit-seeking businesses. Students were "attracted to the programs for their ease of enrollment and help obtaining financial aid," but "disappointed with the poor quality of education...."
University of Phoenix University of Phoenix (UoPX) is a Private university, private For-Profit School, for-profit university, with its headquarters in Phoenix, Arizona. Founded in 1976, the university confers certificates and degrees at the Academic certificate, ce ...

University of Phoenix
has been the largest for-profit college in the US. Since 2010, for-profit colleges have received greater scrutiny from the US government, state Attorneys General, the media, and scholars. Notable business failures include
Corinthian Colleges Corinthian Colleges, Inc. (CCi) was a large For-profit higher education in the United States, for-profit post-secondary education company in North America. Its subsidiaries offered career-oriented diploma and degree programs in health care, busin ...
(2015), ITT Educational Services (2016),
Education Management Corporation Education Management Corporation ("EDMC") was a Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania-based operator of For-profit higher education in the United States, for-profit post-secondary educational institutions in the United States and Canada. The company was founde ...
also known as EDMC (2017), and
Education Corporation of America Education Corporation of America, headquartered in Birmingham, Alabama, Birmingham, Alabama, was a privately held company that operated proprietary colleges across the United States. Included were three schools with 31 campuses, plus one online sch ...
(2018). Two large schools,
Kaplan University Kaplan University (KU) was a for-profit college owned by Kaplan, Inc., a subsidiary of the Graham Holdings Company. It was predominantly a Distance education, distance learning institution, maintaining 14 ground locations across the United States ...
and
Ashford University The University of Arizona Global Campus (UAGC) formerly known as Ashford University, is an online university headquartered in San Diego San Diego (, ; ) is a city in the U.S. state of California on the coast of the Pacific Ocean and imme ...

Ashford University
were sold to public universities with for-profit online program managers and rebranded as
Purdue University Global Purdue University Global, Inc (PG) is an adult-serving public university, operating as a public-benefit corporation and part of the Purdue University system. With content delivered mostly online, Purdue University Global's programs focus on career ...
and University of Arizona Global Campus.


Funding of universities and colleges


Sources of funds

US colleges and universities receive their funds from many sources, including tuition, federal
Title IV Title IV of the Higher Education Act of 1965 (HEA) covers the administration of the United States federal Student financial aid (United States), student financial aid programs. American colleges and universities are generally classified with re ...
funds, state funds, and endowments.


State government

The major source of funding for public institutions of higher education is direct support from the state. The levels of state support roughly correlate with the population of the state. For example, with a population nearly 40 million, the state of California allocates more than $15 billion on higher education. At the other extreme, Wyoming allocates $384 million for its 570,000 citizens.


Institutional donors and endowments

Private giving supports both private and public institutions. Gifts come in two forms, current use and endowment. Both types of gifts are usually constrained according to a contract between the donor and the institution. Private institutions tend to be more reliant on private giving. *
Harvard University Harvard University is a private Private or privates may refer to: Music * "In Private "In Private" was the third single in a row to be a charting success for United Kingdom, British singer Dusty Springfield, after an absence of nearly t ...

Harvard University
$40.9 billion *
University of Texas The University of Texas at Austin (UT Austin, UT, or Texas) is a public In public relations Public relations (PR) is the practice of managing and disseminating information from an individual or an organization An organizat ...
$30.88 billion *
Princeton University Princeton University is a private Private or privates may refer to: Music * "In Private "In Private" was the third single in a row to be a charting success for United Kingdom, British singer Dusty Springfield, after an absence of nearly tw ...

Princeton University
$25.9 billion At the other extreme, the HBCU
Fayetteville State University Fayetteville State University (FSU) is a Historically black colleges and universities, historically black Public university, public regional university in Fayetteville, North Carolina. FSU is part of the University of North Carolina System and the ...
, has an endowment of $22 million. Private philanthropy can be controversial. At the University of Maryland,
Northrop Grumman Northrop Grumman Corporation () is an American multinational Multinational may refer to: * Multinational corporation, a corporate organization operating in multiple countries * Multinational force, a military body from multiple countries * Mult ...

Northrop Grumman
has funded a cybersecurity concentration, designs the curriculum in cybersecurity, provides computers and pays some cost of a new dorm. At Ohio State,
IBM International Business Machines Corporation (IBM) is an American multinational technology company headquartered in Armonk, New York, with operations in over 170 countries. The company began in 1911, founded in Endicott, New York, as the C ...

IBM
partnered to teach
big data Big data is a field that treats ways to analyze, systematically extract information from, or otherwise deal with data set A data set (or dataset) is a collection of data Data (; ) are individual facts, statistics, or items of informati ...

big data
analytics. Murray State University's engineering program was supported by computer companies. The
College of Nanoscale Science and Engineering The College of Nanoscale Science and Engineering is the college of nanotechnology Nanotechnology, also shortened to nanotech, is the use of matter on an atomic, molecular, and Supramolecular complex, supramolecular scale for industrial purpose ...
at State University of New York in Albany, received billions of dollars in private sector investment.


Student costs and funding

In 2016, average estimated annual student costs (excluding books) were $16,757 at public institutions, $43,065 at private nonprofit institutions, and $23,776 at private for-profit institutions. Between 2006 and 2016, prices at public colleges and universities rose 34 percent above inflation, and prices at private nonprofit institutions rose 26 percent above inflation. Students receive
scholarships A scholarship is an award of financial aid Student financial aid in the United States is funding that is available exclusively to students attending a Higher education in the United States, post-secondary educational institution in the Unite ...
,
student loan A student loan is a type of loan In finance Finance is the study of financial institutions, financial markets and how they operate within the financial system. It is concerned with the creation and management of money and investments. S ...
s, or
grants Grant or Grants may refer to: Places *Grant County (disambiguation)Grant County may refer to: Places ;Australia * County of Grant, Victoria ;United States *Grant County, Arkansas *Grant County, Indiana *Grant County, Kansas *Grant County, K ...
to offset costs
out-of-pocket An out-of-pocket expense (or out-of-pocket cost, OOP) is the direct payment of money that may or may not be later reimbursement, reimbursed from a third-party source. For example, when operating a vehicle, gasoline, parking fees and Road pricing, t ...
. Several states offer scholarships that allow students to attend free of tuition or at lower cost, for example the
HOPE Scholarship The HOPE Program (Helping Outstanding Pupils Educationally) created in 1993 under the supervision of Georgia Governor Zell Miller Zell Bryan Miller (February 24, 1932 – March 23, 2018) was an American author and politician from the state of Ge ...
in
Georgia Georgia usually refers to: * Georgia (country) Georgia (, ; ) is a country located at the intersection of Eastern Europe and Western Asia. It is a part of the Caucasus region, bounded to the west by the Black Sea, to the north and east by ...
and the
Bright Futures Scholarship Program Bright Futures is the name of a scholarship program in the state of Florida. It is funded by the Florida Lottery and was first started in 1997. Scholarships The program funds three scholarships, available to Florida residents who attend a Florida ...
in
Florida Florida is a U.S. state, state located in the Southeastern United States, Southeastern region of the United States. Florida is bordered to the west by the Gulf of Mexico, to the northwest by Alabama, to the north by Georgia (U.S. state), Geor ...

Florida
. Some private colleges and universities offer full need-based financial aid, so that admitted students only have to pay as much as their families can afford (based on the university's assessment of their income). In most cases, the barrier of entry for students who require financial aid is set higher, a practice called need-aware admissions. Universities with exceptionally large endowments may combine need-based financial aid with
need-blind admission Need-blind admission is a term used in the United States The United States of America (USA), commonly known as the United States (U.S. or US), or America, is a country Contiguous United States, primarily located in North America. It consists ...
, in which students who require financial aid have equal chances to those who do not. Financial assistance comes in two major forms: grant programs and loan programs. Grant programs consist of money the student receives to pay for higher education that does not need to be paid back; loan programs consist of money the student receives to pay for school that must be paid back. Public higher education institutions (which are partially funded through state government appropriation) and private higher education institutions (which are funded exclusively through tuition and private donations) offer grant and loan financial assistance programs. Grants to attend public schools are distributed through federal and state governments, and through the schools themselves; grants to attend private schools are distributed through the school itself (independent organizations, such as charities or corporations also offer grants that can be applied to both public and private higher education institutions). Loans can be obtained publicly through government sponsored loan programs or privately through independent lending institutions. Financial aid at US institutions has shifted from needs based to merit based, leaving many low-income students with more debt and fewer opportunities.


Grants, scholarships, loans and work study programs

Grant programs and work study programs are divided into two major categories: Need-based financial awards and merit-based financial awards. Most state governments provide need-based scholarship programs, while a few also offer merit-based aid. Several need-based grants are provided through the federal government based on information provided on a student's
Free Application for Federal Student Aid The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is a form completed by current and prospective college students (undergraduate Undergraduate education is education conducted after secondary education and prior to postgraduate education. I ...
or FAFSA. The federal
Pell Grant A Pell Grant is a subsidy A subsidy or government incentive is a form of financial aid or support extended to an economic sector (business, or individual) generally with the aim of promoting economic and social policy. Although commonly extende ...
is a need-based grant available from the federal government. The federal government had two other grants that were a combination of need-based and merit-based: the Academic Competitiveness Grant, and the National SMART Grant, but the SMART grant was abolished in 2011 with the last grant awarded in June 2011. In order to receive one of these grants a student must be eligible for the Pell Grant, meet specific academic requirements, and be a US citizen. Eligibility for work study programs is also determined by information collected on the student's FAFSA. Many companies offer tuition reimbursement plans for their employees, to make benefits package more attractive, to upgrade the skill levels and to increase retention. In 2012, total student loans exceeded consumer credit card debt for the first time in history. In late 2016, the total estimated US student loan debt exceeded $1.4 trillion. Student loans can be divided into two categories: federal student loans and private student loans. Federal student loans may be: * subsidized Stafford Loans * unsubsidized Stafford Loans * Direct Loans *
PLUS Loan A PLUS Loan is a student loan, which is part of the Federal Direct Student Loan Program, offered to parents of students enrolled at least half time, or graduate and professional students, at participating and eligible higher education, post-seconda ...
s A student's eligibility for any of these loans, as well as the amount of the loan itself is determined by information on the student's
FAFSA The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is a form completed by current and prospective college students (undergraduate Undergraduate education ieducationconducted after secondary education and prior to postgraduate education. It t ...
. The former Federal Perkins Loan program expired in 2017.


Statistics

The
National Center for Education Statistics The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) is the part of the United States Department of Education The United States Department of Education (sometimes shortened to the ED, ED or DoEd) is a United States Cabinet, Cabinet-level depart ...
(NCES) and National Student Clearinghouse, show that college enrollment has declined since a peak in 2010–11 and is projected to continue declining or be stagnant for the next two decades. US educational statistics are provided by the
National Center for Education Statistics The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) is the part of the United States Department of Education The United States Department of Education (sometimes shortened to the ED, ED or DoEd) is a United States Cabinet, Cabinet-level depart ...
(NCES), part of the
Department of Education An education ministry is a national or subnational government agency A government or state agency, sometimes an appointed commission, is a permanent or semi-permanent organization in the machinery of government that is responsible for the oversigh ...
. The number of Title IV-eligible, degree-granting institutions peaked at 4,726 in 2012 with 3,026 4-year institutions and 1,700 2-year institutions. Enrollment at postsecondary institutions, participating in Title IV, peaked at just over 21.5 million students in 2010. l A US Department of Education
longitudinal survey A longitudinal study (or longitudinal survey, or panel study) is a research design that involves repeated observations of the same variables (e.g., people) over short or long periods of time (i.e., uses longitudinal data). It is often a type of obs ...
of 15,000 high school students in 2002 and 2012, found that 84% of the 27-year-old students had some college education, but only 34% achieved a bachelor's degree or higher; 79% owe some money for college and 55% owe more than $10,000; college dropouts were three times more likely to be unemployed than those who finished college; 40% spent some time unemployed and 23% were unemployed for six months or more; and 79% earned less than $40,000 per year.Jordan Weissmann, Atlantic Monthly, January 14, 2014
Highly Educated, Highly Indebted: The Lives of Today's 27-Year-Olds, In Charts: A new study by the Department of Education offers up a statistical picture of young-adult life in the wake of the Great Recession
Accessed January 26, 2014


Declining enrollment, mergers, and campus closures

Colleges Receiving Federal Financial Aid, 2012-present Falling birth rates result in fewer people graduating from high school. The number of high school graduates grew 30% from 1995 to 2013, then peaked at 3.5 million. Liberal arts programs have been declining for decades. From 1967 to 2018, college students majoring in the liberal arts declined from 20 percent to 5 percent. Since 2011, enrolment in postsecondary education in the United States has declined by more than 2 million people. Researchers hypothesize that the primary factors leading to this drop in enrollment are low birth rates over the last couple decades, a more successful economy, and the increasing cost of postsecondary education coupled with a decrease in financial aid and student debt. Some potential students are also questioning the value of a college education and if it is necessary to gain employment, opting instead for
vocational education Vocational education is education Education is the process of facilitating learning, or the acquisition of knowledge, skills, value (ethics), values, morals, beliefs, habits, and personal development. Educational methods include teach ...
. In 2018, the
National Center for Education Statistics The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) is the part of the United States Department of Education The United States Department of Education (sometimes shortened to the ED, ED or DoEd) is a United States Cabinet, Cabinet-level depart ...
projected stagnant enrollment patterns until at least 2027. Demographer Nathan Grawe projected that lower birth rates following the
Great Recession The Great Recession was a period of marked general decline (recession In economics Economics () is the social science that studies how people interact with value; in particular, the Production (economics), production, distribution ( ...
of 2008 would result in a 15 percent enrollment loss, beginning in 2026. In 2019, the National Center for Education Statistics continued to project that higher education enrollment would remain stagnant, but white enrollment would drop 8 percent from 2016 to 2027. The report projected black enrollment to increase by 6 percent, Hispanic enrollment to increase 14 percent, Asian/Pacific Islander enrollment to increase 7 percent, and American Indian/Alaska Native enrollment to decrease 9 percent during the same period. In March 2019,
Moody's Moody's Investors Service, often referred to as Moody's, is the bond credit rating In investment To invest is to allocate money Image:National-Debt-Gillray.jpeg, In a 1786 James Gillray caricature, the plentiful money bags handed to Kin ...
warned that enrollment declines could lead to more financial problems for the higher education industry. In a 2019 survey by ''
Inside Higher Ed ''Inside Higher Ed'' is a media company and online publication Electronic publishing (also referred to as publishing, digital publishing, or online publishing) includes the digital publication of e-book An ebook (short for electronic book), ...
'', nearly one in seven college presidents said their campus could close or merge within five years. In "The Higher Education Apocalypse", ''
U.S. News & World Report ''U.S. News & World Report'' is an American media company that publishes news, opinion, consumer advice, rankings, and analysis. Founded as a news magazine in 1933, ''U.S. News'' transitioned to primarily web-based publishing in 2010, although it ...
'' education reporter Lauren Camera speculated that recent closings of schools in New England might be the beginning of a rash of college closures. An analysis of federal data from ''
The Chronicle of Higher Education ''The Chronicle of Higher Education'' is a newspaper A newspaper is a periodical Periodical literature (also called a periodical publication or simply a periodical) is a category of serial Serial may refer to: Arts, entertainment, and ...
'' shows "about half a million students have been displaced by college closures, which together shuttered more than 1,200 campuses." In a 2021
Wall Street Journal ''The Wall Street Journal'', also known as ''The Journal'', is an American business-focused, English-language international daily newspaper A newspaper is a periodical Periodical literature (also called a periodical publication or simpl ...

Wall Street Journal
article titled "Hobbled for Life," Melissa Korn and Andrea Fuller found that many master's degrees at elite schools did not pay off.


Admission process

Students can apply to some colleges using the
Common Application The Common Application (informally known as the Common App) is an undergraduate College admissions in the United States, college admission College application, application that applicants may use to apply to any of more than 900 member colleges a ...
. With a few exceptions, most undergraduate colleges and universities maintain the policy that students are to be admitted to (or rejected from) the entire college, not to a particular
department Department may refer to: * Departmentalization, division of a larger organization into parts with specific responsibility Government and military *Department (country subdivision), a geographical and administrative division within a country, for e ...
or
major Major is a military rank Military ranks are a system of hierarchical A hierarchy (from the Greek: , from , 'president of sacred rites') is an arrangement of items (objects, names, values, categories, etc.) in which the items are repre ...
. (This is unlike college admissions in many European countries, as well as graduate admissions.) Some students, rather than being rejected, are "wait-listed" for a particular college and may be admitted if another student who was admitted decides not to attend the college or university. The five major parts of admission are ACT/ scores,
grade point average Grading in education Education is the process of facilitating learning, or the acquisition of knowledge, skills, value (ethics), values, morals, beliefs, habits, and personal development. Educational methods include teaching, training ...
, college application, essay, and letters of recommendation. The SAT's usefulness in the admissions process is controversial. Each state has its own set of residency laws and requirements that dictate educational benefits as a reward for state residence. As a result, public colleges and universities in many states charge out-of-state applicants a higher rate of tuition than resident students must pay.


Legacies and large donors

Admissions at elite schools include preferences to alumni and large investors. Legislators have asked for transparency with donors and college admissions, but there are several groups that oppose it. ''
Inside Higher Ed ''Inside Higher Ed'' is a media company and online publication Electronic publishing (also referred to as publishing, digital publishing, or online publishing) includes the digital publication of e-book An ebook (short for electronic book), ...
'' 2018 survey of college admissions directors found that 42 percent of private colleges and universities used legacy status as a factor in admissions decisions.


International study and student exchange

In 2016–17, 332,727 US students studied abroad for credit. Most took place in Europe, with 40 percent of students studying in five countries: the United Kingdom, Italy, Spain, France, and Germany. The US is the most popular country in the world for attracting students from other countries, according to
UNESCO The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) (french: Organisation des Nations unies pour l'éducation, la science et la culture) is a specialised agency United Nations Specialized Agencies are autonomous orga ...

UNESCO
, with 16% of all international students going to the US (the next highest is the UK with 11%). 671,616 foreign students enrolled in American colleges in 2008–09. This figure rose to 723,277 in 2010–11. The largest number, 157,558, came from China. According to ''
Uni in the USA ''Uni in the USA'' is a guide to university, universities around the world aimed at prospective students in the United Kingdom. The guide is a subsidiary of The Good Schools Guide, and is published in paperback by Galore Park. It is also available ...
'', despite "exorbitant" costs of US universities, higher education in America remains attractive to international students due to "generous subsidies and financial aid packages that enable students from even the most disadvantaged backgrounds to attend the college of their dreams".


Government coordination


Coordination institutions

Every state has an entity designed to promote coordination and collaboration between higher education institutions. A few are listed:
Alabama Commission on Higher Education The Alabama Commission on Higher education, Higher Education, a statewide 12-member lay board appointed by the Governor of Alabama, Lieutenant Governor of Alabama, Lieutenant Governor, and Speaker (politics), Speaker of the House and confirmed by th ...
,
California Postsecondary Education Commission The California Postsecondary Education Commission (CPEC) was the higher education planning and coordinating agency of the government of California, government of the U.S. state of California. It closed in 2011. History The 1960 California Maste ...
,
Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board The Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board (THECB) is an agency of the U.S. state of Texas's government that oversees all public post-secondary education in the state. It is headquartered at 1200 East Anderson Lane in Austin, Texas, Austin. ...
,
Washington State Higher Education Coordinating Board The Washington Student Achievement Council (WSAC) is the state agency overseeing higher education and student success in the state of Washington. It consists of a nine-member citizen board and an associated cabinet-level agency. The agency was cre ...
, The Georgia Department of Technical and Adult Education.


Academic labor

Until the mid-1970s, when federal expenditures for higher education fell, there were routinely more tenure-track jobs than Ph.D. graduates. In the 1980s and 1990s there were significant changes in the economics of academic life. Despite rising tuition rates and growing university revenues, professorial positions were replaced with poorly paid adjunct positions and graduate-student labor. Community colleges and for-profit colleges rely almost exclusively on adjuncts for instruction. With academic institutions producing Ph.D.s in greater numbers than the number of tenure-track positions they intended to create,
administrators Administrator or admin may refer to: Job roles Computing and internet * Database administrator, a person who is responsible for the environmental aspects of a database * Forum administrator, one who oversees discussions on an Internet forum * N ...

administrators
were cognizant of the economic effects of this arrangement. Sociologist
Stanley Aronowitz Stanley Aronowitz (born January 6, 1933) is a professor of sociology Sociology is the study of society, human social behaviour, patterns of social relationships, social interaction, and culture that surrounds everyday life. It is a social sc ...
wrote: "Basking in the plenitude of qualified and credentialed instructors, many university administrators see the time when they can once again make tenure a rare privilege, awarded only to the most faithful and to those whose services are in great demand". Aggravating the problem, those few academics who do achieve tenure are often determined to stay put as long as possible, refusing lucrative incentives to retire early.


Labor unions and labor conditions

The following unions represent higher education faculty and staff: *American Association of University Professors *American Federation of Teachers *Service Employees International Union


Adjunctification

In 2017, 17% of faculty were tenured. 89% of adjunct professors worked at more than one job. An adjunct was paid an average of $2,700 for a single course. While student-faculty ratios remained the same since 1975, administrator-student ratio went from 1–84 to 1–68. In 2018, the
American Association of University Professors The American Association of University Professors (AAUP) is an organization An organization, or organisation (Commonwealth English The use of the English language English is a West Germanic languages, West Germanic language fi ...
(AAUP) reported that 73 percent of all faculty positions were filled by adjuncts. According to the
American Federation of Teachers The American Federation of Teachers (AFT) is the second largest teacher's trade union, labor union in America (the largest being the National Education Association). The union was founded in Chicago, Illinois, Chicago with Margaret Haley credited ...
, "nearly 25 percent of adjunct faculty members rely on public assistance, and 40 percent struggle to cover basic household expenses" and just 15 percent of adjuncts said they are able to comfortably cover basic expenses from month to month." Adjunct organizations include the Coalition for Contingent (COCAL), the New Faculty Majority, and
SEIU Service Employees International Union (SEIU) is a labor union A trade union (or a labor union in American English), often simply called a union, is an organization of workers who have come together to achieve many common goals, such as protect ...
Faculty Forward. The
American Federation of Teachers The American Federation of Teachers (AFT) is the second largest teacher's trade union, labor union in America (the largest being the National Education Association). The union was founded in Chicago, Illinois, Chicago with Margaret Haley credited ...
and the
International Brotherhood of Teamsters The International Brotherhood of Teamsters (IBT), also known as the Teamsters Union, is a trade union, labor union in the United States and Canada. Formed in 1903 by the merger of The Team Drivers International Union and The Teamsters National U ...
have also organized contingent academic labor.


Sports

College athletics College athletics encompasses non-Professional sports, professional, College, collegiate and university-level competitive sports and games. World University Games The first World University Games were held in 1923. There were originally called t ...
in the US is a three-tiered system. The first tier consists of elite sports that make a profit. Only a small percentage of sports programs, even in money sports at large universities, make a profit. The second tier includes sports sanctioned by one of the collegiate sport governing bodies that break even or lose money. Some of these collegiate sports governing organizations like the
National Collegiate Athletic Association The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) is a nonprofit organization A nonprofit organization (NPO), also known as a non-business entity, not-for-profit organization, or nonprofit institution, is a legal entity organized and ...
(NCAA) are umbrella
non-profit organization A nonprofit organization (NPO), also known as a non-business entity, not-for-profit organization, or nonprofit institution, is a legal entity organized and operated for a collective, public or social benefit, in contrast with an entity that o ...
s that govern multiple sports. Additionally, the first and second tiers are characterized by selective participation, since only the elite programs in their sport are able to participate; some colleges offer
athletic scholarship An athletic scholarship is a form of scholarship A scholarship is an award of financial aid Student financial aid in the United States is funding that is available exclusively to students attending a Higher education in the United States, ...
s to intercollegiate sports competitors. The third tier includes
intramuralIntramural sports are recreational sports Sport pertains to any form of competitive physical activity or game with separate sliding drawer, from 1390–1353 BC, made of glazed faience, dimensions: 5.5 × 7.7 × 21 cm, ...
and recreational sports clubs, which are available to more of the student body. Competition between student clubs from different colleges, not organized by and therefore not representing the institutions or their faculties, may also be called "intercollegiate" athletics or simply college sports. The most competitive collegiate sport governing body in the first and second tiers is the NCAA, which regulates athletes of 1,268 institutions across the US and Canada. The NCAA uses a three-division system of
Division IDivision 1 and variants may refer to: Association football * Azadegan League, second tier of the men's senior football in Iran * Brisbane Premier League Division 1, second tier of the men's senior football in Brisbane, Queensland, Australia * Danis ...
, Division II, and Division III. Division I and Division II schools can offer scholarships to athletes for playing a sport, while Division III schools cannot offer any athletic scholarships. Division I schools, which generally are larger than either Division II or III institutions, must further meet additional requirements: among them, they must field teams in at least seven sports for men and seven for women or six for men and eight for women, with at least two team sports for each gender. Each division is then further divided into several
conferences A conference is a meeting A meeting is when two or more people A people is a plurality of person A person (plural people or persons) is a being that has certain capacities or attributes such as reason, morality, consciousness or sel ...
for regional league play. The names of these conferences, such as the
Ivy League The Ivy League (also known as The Ancient Eight) is an American collegiate athletic conference An athletic conference is a collection of sports team A sports team is a group of individuals who play sport Sport pertains to any form ...
, are also metonyms for their respective schools. College sports are popular on regional and national scales, at times competing with professional championships for prime broadcast, print coverage. In most states, the person with the highest taxpayer-provided base salary is a public college football or basketball coach. This does not include coaches at private colleges. The average university sponsors at least 20 different sports and offers a wide variety of intramural sports. There are approximately 400,000 men and women student-athletes that participate in sanctioned athletics each year. Varsity
esports Esports (also known as electronic sports, e-sports, or eSports) is a form of competition using video game#REDIRECT Video game A video game is an electronic game that involves interaction with a user interface or input device such as a joy ...
have been growing since the 2010s. As of 2019, there were 125 esports teams at colleges and universities in North America.


Issues confronting higher education in the United States

Entrance routes and procedures for choosing a college or university, their
rankings A ranking is a relationship between a set of items such that, for any two items, the first is either "ranked higher than", "ranked lower than" or "ranked equal to" the second. In order theory, mathematics, this is known as a Strict weak ordering ...
and the financial value of degrees are being discussed. This leads to discussions on socioeconomic status and race ethnicity and gender. From the student perspective, issues include colleges failing to teach
soft skills Soft skills, also known as common skills or core skills, are skills which are desirable in all profession A Profession is a disciplined group of individuals who adhere to ethical standards and who hold themselves out as, and are accepted by t ...

soft skills
such as
critical thinking Critical thinking is the analysis of fact A fact is something that is true True most commonly refers to truth Truth is the property of being in accord with fact or reality.Merriam-Webster's Online Dictionarytruth 2005 In everyday l ...
, the wide ranges of
remuneration Remuneration is the pay or other financial compensation provided in exchange for an employee's ''services performed'' (not to be confused with giving (away), or donating, or the act of providing to). A number of complementary Employee benefit, ben ...

remuneration
and
underemployment Underemployment is the underuse of a worker because a job Employment is the relationship between two parties Image:'Hip, Hip, Hurrah! Artist Festival at Skagen', by Peder Severin Krøyer (1888) Demisted with DXO PhotoLab Clearview; cro ...
among the various degrees, rising tuition and increasing
student loan debt Student debt is a form of debt Debt is an obligation that requires one party, the debtor, to pay money or other agreed-upon value to another party, the creditor. Debt is a deferred payment, or series of payments, which differentiates it fro ...

student loan debt
,
austerity Austerity is a set of political-economic policies that aim to reduce government budget deficits through spending cuts, tax increases, or a combination of both. There are three primary types of austerity measures: higher taxes to fund spending, ...

austerity
in state and local spending, the adjunctification of academic labor, student poverty and hunger, along with credentialism and educational inflation.


See also

*
Academic ranks in the United States Academic ranks in the United States are the titles, relative importance and power of professors, researchers, and administrative personnel held in academia An academy (Attic Greek: Ἀκαδήμεια; Koine Greek Ἀκαδημία) is an instit ...
*
Association of American Universities The Association of American Universities (AAU) is an organization of American research universities A research university is a university that is committed to research as a central part of its mission. They can be public education, public or pr ...
*
Hispanic-serving institution A Hispanic-serving institution (HSI) is defined in federal law as an accredited, degree-granting, public or private nonprofit institution of higher education with 25% or more total undergraduate Hispanic or Latino The term ''Hispanic'' ( es, his ...
*
Historically black colleges and universities Historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) are institutions of higher education in the United States Higher education in the United States is an optional stage of formal learning following secondary education. Higher education is ...
*
List of Catholic universities and colleges in the United States There are 197 US members of ACCU ( Association of Catholic Colleges and Universities) as of 2014. They make up a significant number within the whole amount of Catholic universities and colleges in the world. Adorers of the Blood of Christ *New ...
*
Men's colleges in the United States Men's colleges In higher education Higher education is tertiary education leading to award of an academic degree. Higher education, also called post-secondary education, third-level or tertiary education, is an optional final stage of formal ...
* Political views of American academics *
Tribal colleges and universities In the United States The United States of America (U.S.A. or USA), commonly known as the United States (U.S. or US) or America, is a country Continental United States, primarily located in North America. It consists of 50 U.S. state, stat ...
*
Women's colleges in the United States Women's colleges in the United States are private single-sex U.S. institutions of higher education that only admit female students. They are often liberal arts colleges A liberal arts college or liberal arts institution of higher education is ...


References


Further reading

* *MacLeod, W. Bentley, and Miguel Urquiola. 2021.
Why Does the United States Have the Best Research Universities? Incentives, Resources, and Virtuous Circles.
Journal of Economic Perspectives, 35 (1): 185-206.


External links


U.S. Department of Education - College Affordability and Transparency CenterGuide to U.S. higher education for international students
{{DEFAULTSORT:Higher Education In The United States
United States of America The United States of America (U.S.A. or USA), commonly known as the United States (U.S. or US) or America, is a country Continental United States, primarily located in North America. It consists of 50 U.S. state, states, a Washington, D.C., ...
Universities and colleges in the United States,