Updated: Mar 14
As of 2019-2020 academic year, there are 3,982 degree-granting higher education institutions in the US. With so many colleges and universities available, how do you decide where to go? I will be covering what to look for a in a college in a different post. For now, I want to introduce you to the different types of colleges that exist. Community Colleges
Community colleges are two-year colleges that can serve a variety of functions, such as providing associate degrees, providing general education courses before transferring to a four-year university, and to take non-degree classes for work or just interest. They are typically very large, sometimes with over 30,000 students. Community colleges often get a bad rap, but they serve a very vital purpose in the communities they are located in. They often offer job fairs, health services, libraries, and other services that the community can take advantage of.
Regional colleges typically serve the area where they’re located. They provide a convenient option for students who do not want to travel too far from home. A lot of the time they’re not too expensive, and the added sense of familiarity serves as a plus for many students and families.
Liberal Arts colleges
Liberal arts colleges serve a specific purpose. They focus on interdisciplinary studies for students who want a more well-rounded education. They are typically small and offer generalized degrees. The small faculty-to-student ratios and low cost attract many students, though the higher admission standards makes them more selective than other colleges.
State universities are hard to miss. They are large, have an expansive network of dedicated alumni, and have a football team that your town is either for or against. They offer the largest selection of academic programs and majors, as well as generous in-state tuition costs for residents of the state. They are significant in that they create an entire culture in the town they are located and the towns around them, and many of them focus on research to help advance many fields.
Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) were established before 1964 with the intention of serving the Black community. A quick search online will tell you that there are 106 HBCUs in the United States. They can come in many different forms, from two-year to four-year, public to private. The mission of HBCUs is state to be to provide education to Black Americans, though in their current state they contain students from all races.
Hispanic Serving Institutions
Similar to BHCUs, Hispanic-Serving Institutions (HSIs) primarily serve Hispanic students, often hiring Hispanic and bilingual faculty to serve as a resource for the students that attend.
Proprietary Institutions (for-profit)
Proprietary Institutions, also known as for-profit institutions such as the University of Phoenix, are institutions that are run like businesses. Basically, the owners make a profit out of student fees. At face value, it is easy to see issues with this type of institution, and they indeed have received lots of criticism over the years. Supporters of proprietary institutions claim that universities that operate on a for-profit basis operate more efficiently, with these efficiencies leading to lower fees. Likewise, a profit-motivated university in theory leads to administrators working harder to fit the demands and needs of the students, and they would have the capability to do it much faster than universities running on state funding and endowments.
Independent Institutions (private)
Independent institutions, more commonly referred to as private institutions, operate similarly to public institutions except for the fact that they are less dependent on state and federal funds to operate. Since funding for private universities comes from student fees and tuition and not governing bodies, they are less prone to the limits and restrictions that state governments put on public universities. They are also generally better-funded, as seen by state-of-the-art equipment and campus buildings. The downside to these universities is the cost, as private universities can be quite expensive. Not only that, but private universities can be more controlling of the students they admit and the rules they must follow. For example, private religious universities can require students to attend religious services and to uphold particular practices while they are enrolled there.