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University & School Types in the USA

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Types of Schools & Universities in the United States

According to the Washington Post, there are 5,300 colleges and universities in the US, which can be divided into three different types:

  • State Universities
  • Private Universities
  • Community Colleges

Within these types, each college or university has a number of schools, for example a School of Arts or a School of Business.

State Universities

State universities in the United States, or public universities, are founded and subsidized by US state governments. These dynamic and exciting educational institutions closely identify with their state, and often have unique local traditions which connect them to the community.

State universities in the United States usually have many students – sometimes tens of thousands – and offer degrees in hundreds of subject areas. This category of schools produces the highest number of graduate degrees in the United States, and a significant number of undergraduate degrees as well. Many state universities are very involved in research, and may advance knowledge and technology on a local, national, or even international level.

State universities in the USA can be located anywhere, from large, bustling metropolises to tiny towns with more students than permanent residents. There are often multiple campuses located throughout the state, and sometimes multiple state university systems within a state.

The tuition costs at state universities in the United States are usually lower than those of private universities. International students pay the same tuition as the students from out of state, which is about USD$22,958 (four-year colleges). 

State universities are the most popular type of school in the USA for international students. They often have established services and support aimed at helping international students adjust to their new education in a new country. Depending on the university, these may include counseling, immigration and visa advising, workshops on intercultural understanding, and English as a second language courses.

Private Universities

Private universities in the United States are high-quality, exciting educational institutions funded by a combination of donations, tuition fees, research grants, and gifts from alumni. Private schools are normally smaller and tuition fees are often higher than at state universities, but all students pay the same amount, which is around USD$31,231.

Because private universities in the United States do not depend on state funding, they have greater financial flexibility. Within research departments at private universities, there is greater opportunity to explore new ideas and take bold steps in the latest developments of the field. This is encouraging for students within that field, who are supported in taking initiative toward new frontiers.

In addition, the financial flexibility of private universities in the United States more easily allows them to establish international portals for teaching, research, and service. This allows the top minds from many nations to collaborate on ideas, research, and learning.

Private universities in the United States have a reputation for high academic standards, while fostering a sense of close community with smaller-scale campuses, facilitating easy interaction across different disciplines.

Community Colleges

Community colleges in the United States, sometimes also called junior colleges or two-year colleges, are small, community-based institutions that work closely with secondary schools, community groups, and employers. They are the largest and fastest-growing higher education institution in the USA, and offer a wide variety of education programs.

Community colleges can both be private or public, and provide two-year associate degree programs. They are often thought of as the gateway to higher education in the United States, as it is common for students to transfer from a community college to a four-year college or university after two years to complete their bachelors degree. This transfer is made easy by the '2+2' articulation system. Articulation agreements exist between community colleges and four-year colleges and universities, allowing credit earned at community college to be put toward the student’s future education program.

Community colleges in the United States are the ideal high-quality, accredited institution for students to start their higher education in a supportive environment before continuing their degree elsewhere. Class sizes are usually relatively small, and the focus is on the needs of each individual student. In addition, community colleges provide students with associate degree or non degree career training.

International students can find a number of benefits in enrolling at a community college in the United States, such as improving English language skills through a variety of English as a second language courses, and building an understanding of American culture on a community level. Another benefit is the significantly lower tuition cost of community colleges, which helps students save money.

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Last update: 04 Oct 2018

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