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Type of Universities and Colleges

There are more than 4,000 higher education institutions in the United States, reflecting several different types of educational organizations.

Colleges, Universities and Institutes

Degree-granting institutions in the United States can be called colleges, universities, or institutes.  Colleges tend to be small and offer only undergraduate programs, while universities also offer graduate degrees and tend to be larger.  An institute usually specializes in degree programs in a group of closely related subject areas such as institutes of technology and institutes of fashion.

Public or State Universities

These are founded and subsidized by U.S. state governments (for example, California, Michigan, or Texas) to provide low-cost education to residents of that state.  Public universities tend to be large and tuition costs are generally lower than those of private universities.  Also, in-state residents (those who live and pay taxes in that particular state) pay lower tuition than out-of-state residents.  International students are considered to be out-of-state residents, and they may have to fulfill higher admission requirements than in-state residents.

Private Universities

These schools are funded by a combination of endowments, tuition fees, research grants, and gifts from their alumni.  Tuition fees tend to be higher than at public universities, but there is no distinction between state and non-state residents.  Colleges with a religious affiliation and single-sex colleges are private.

Community Colleges

There are more than 1,700 two-year colleges that provide associate degree programs, as well as technical and vocational programs.  Community colleges can be public or private institutions and are sometimes called junior colleges or two-year colleges.  Tuition costs are often lower compared to four-year institutions, and many have agreements that allow students on transfer programs to move easily into the third year of a bachelor’s degree at the local state university.   For more information see American Association of Community Colleges

Short-term University Study

This includes programs such as intensive English Language instruction, summer session studies, and student exchange programs.  These programs are short, ranging from a few weeks to a few months, and they do not lead to a degree.   For more information see EducationUSA