Research Outline

4-Year Accredited US Universities


The research aims to provide the total number of 4-year accredited universities in the US, which helps with a pitch.

Early Findings

  • The official organization that publishes accredited postsecondary educational institutions in the US is the Department of Education, while the National Centre for Educational Statistics (NCES) is responsible for collecting and reporting the statistics on American educational institutions.
  • According to the latest statistics from NCES, the number of 4-year colleges in the US was 2,832 in the 2016/17 academic year. The number has been in a declining trend since the 2012/13 academic year. In Fall 2018, the number of degree-granting 4-year institutions was approximately 2,698 and the number of 4-year postsecondary institutions with first year undergraduates was 2,330 in the 2018/19 academic year.
  • Under the definition of NCES, only colleges are part of the postsecondary institutions and universities are of colleges. The postsecondary institutions are Title IV institutions, where registered students are allowed to receive federal financial assistance.
  • According to the US Department of Education, the Title IV institutions are accredited institutions rather than programs, the latter does not entitle students to participate in the Federal Student Assistant Program or receive federal financial assistance.
  • According to Statista, the number of higher educational institutions was 4,313 in 2017, which more or less matches 4,360 published by NCES for the 2016/17 academic year. Most colleges are mainly offering undergraduate degrees while universities offer both undergraduate and graduate (Master's and Doctor's) degrees. "Most colleges offer 4-year programs and there are colleges carry the name university and vice versa." Hence, the distinction between colleges and universities is not always clear in the US.
  • Based on the clarification of Statista, the number of 4-year accredited universities offering at least 50 Master's degrees per year and 20 Doctor's degrees per year and are research-oriented was 1,046 in Fall 2018.

Summary of Initial Findings

  • Based on the official statistics from NCES, the number of 4-year accredited universities or colleges (Title IV institutions) was approximately 2,832 in the 2016/17 academic year, which declined to approximately 2,698 in Fall 2018. No statistics found yet on institutions offering Bachelor's degrees that are classified as universities.