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Indicators

Characteristics of Degree-Granting Postsecondary Institutions
(Last Updated: May 2016)

In 2014–15, some 29 percent of 4-year institutions had open admissions policies (accepted all applicants), an additional 28 percent accepted three-quarters or more of their applicants, 30 percent accepted from one-half to less than three-quarters of their applicants, and 13 percent accepted less than one-half of their applicants.


In 2014–15, there were 4,207 degree-granting institutions with first-year undergraduates, including 2,603 4-year institutions offering programs at the bachelor’s or higher degree level and 1,604 2-year institutions offering associate’s degrees. Comparisons by institutional level (i.e., between 2-year and 4-year institutions) may be limited because of different institutional missions. The instructional missions of 2-year institutions generally focus on student instruction and related activities that often include providing a range of career-oriented programs at the certificate and associate’s degree levels and preparing students for transfer to 4-year institutions. Four-year institutions tend to have a broad range of instructional programs at the undergraduate level leading to bachelor’s degrees. Many 4-year institutions offer graduate level programs as well, and some 4-year institutions have a strong research focus. These institutions may be governed by publicly appointed or elected officials, with major support from public funds (public control), or by privately elected or appointed officials, with major support from private sources (private control). Private institutions may be operated on a nonprofit or for-profit basis. All institutions in this analysis enroll first-year undergraduates in degree-granting programs.

Figure 1. Number of degree-granting institutions with first-year undergraduates, by level and control of institution: Academic years 2000–01 and 2014–15

Figure 1. Number of degree-granting institutions with first-year undergraduates, by level and control of institution: Academic years 2000–01 and 2014–15

NOTE: Degree-granting institutions grant associate’s or higher degrees and participate in Title IV federal financial aid programs. Excludes institutions not enrolling any first-time degree/certificate-seeking undergraduates.
SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS), Fall 2000, Institutional Characteristics component; and Winter 2014–15, Admissions component. See Digest of Education Statistics 2015, table 305.30.


In 2014–15, the number of private nonprofit institutions (1,366) was 1 percent lower than in 2000–01 (1,383), and the number of public institutions (1,583) was 4 percent lower than in 2000–01 (1,647). In contrast, the number of private for-profit institutions nearly doubled (from 687 to 1,258) between 2000–01 and 2014–15. The number of public 4-year institutions increased by 14 percent from 580 institutions to 664 institutions between 2000–01 and 2014–15. During the same time period, the number of public 2-year institutions decreased by 14 percent from 1,067 to 919 institutions. Between 2013–14 and 2014–15 the number of public 4-year institutions increased by 2 percent from 651 to 664 institutions, whereas the number of public 2-year institutions decreased by 2 percent from 933 to 919 institutions. The number of private for-profit 4-year institutions increased by 217 percent from 207 to 656 institutions between 2000–01 and 2014–15. During the same time period, the number of private for-profit 2-year institutions increased by 25 percent from 480 to 602 institutions. However, between 2013–14 and 2014–15 the number of private for-profit 4-year institutions decreased by 6 percent from 701 to 656 institutions and the number of private for-profit 2-year institutions decreased from 644 to 602 institutions.


Figure 2. Percentage distribution of application acceptance rates at 4-year degree-granting institutions with first-year undergraduates, by control of institution: Academic year 2014–15

Figure 2. Percentage distribution of application acceptance rates at 4-year degree-granting institutions with first-year undergraduates, by control of institution: Academic year 2014–15

NOTE: Degree-granting institutions grant associate’s or higher degrees and participate in Title IV federal financial aid programs. Excludes institutions not enrolling any first-time degree/certificate-seeking undergraduates. Although rounded numbers are displayed, the figures are based on unrounded estimates. Detail may not sum to totals because of rounding.
SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS), Winter 2014–15, Admissions component. See Digest of Education Statistics 2015, table 305.40.


In 2014–15, approximately 29 percent of 4-year institutions with first-year undergraduates had open admissions policies (accepted all applicants). A higher percentage of private for-profit 4-year institutions (66 percent) than private nonprofit (15 percent) and public (19 percent) 4-year institutions had open admissions policies in 2014–15. In 2014–15, a higher percentage of public and private for-profit 4-year institutions reported having open admissions policies than in 2013–14. In 2013–14, some 18 percent of public institutions and 65 percent of private for-profit institutions had open admissions policies. While 29 percent of all 4-year institutions had open admissions policies in 2014-15, another 28 percent accepted three-quarters or more of their applicants, 30 percent accepted from one-half to less than three-quarters of their applicants, and 13 percent accepted less than one-half of their applicants.


Figure 3. Percentage distribution of application acceptance rates at 2-year degree-granting institutions with first-year undergraduates, by control of institution: Academic year 2014–15

Figure 3. Percentage distribution of application acceptance rates at 2-year degree-granting institutions with first-year undergraduates, by control of institution: Academic year 2014–15

#Rounds to zero.
NOTE: Degree-granting institutions grant associate’s or higher degrees and participate in Title IV federal financial aid programs. Excludes institutions not enrolling any first-time degree/certificate-seeking undergraduates. Although rounded numbers are displayed, the figures are based on unrounded estimates. Detail may not sum to totals because of rounding.
SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS), Winter 2014–15, Admissions component. See Digest of Education Statistics 2015, table 305.40.


In contrast with 4-year institutions, a majority of 2-year institutions (91 percent) had open admissions policies in 2014–15. Open admissions policies were in operation at 98 percent of public 2-year institutions and 84 percent of private for-profit 2-year institutions compared to 56 percent of private nonprofit 2-year institutions. Although a majority of 2-year institutions had open admissions policies in 2014–15, an additional 6 percent of 2-year institutions accepted three-quarters or more of their applicants, 2 percent accepted from one-half to less than three-quarters of their applicants, and 1 percent accepted less than one-half of their applicants.


Figure 4. Percentage of 4-year degree-granting institutions with first-year undergraduates using various admissions requirements, by control of institution: Academic year 2014–15

Figure 4. Percentage of 4-year degree-granting institutions with first-year undergraduates using various admissions requirements, by control of institution: Academic year 2014–15

#Rounds to zero.
1 Test of English as a Foreign Language.
2 Includes SAT, ACT, and other admission tests.
3 Formal demonstration of competencies (e.g., portfolios, certificates of mastery, assessment instruments).
NOTE: Degree-granting institutions grant associate’s or higher degrees and participate in Title IV federal financial aid programs. Excludes institutions not enrolling any first-time degree/certificate-seeking undergraduates. Although rounded numbers are displayed, the figures are based on unrounded estimates.
SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS), Winter 2014–15, Admissions component. See Digest of Education Statistics 2015, table 305.30.


In 2014–15, some 71 percent of 4-year institutions had admission requirements for applicants. Admission requirements include the submission of information such as secondary school administrative records, Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) scores, secondary school grades, admission test (such as the SAT or ACT) scores, recommendations, and college preparatory program information. Reflecting the high percentage of institutions with open admissions policies, a lower percentage of private for-profit 4-year institutions had admission requirements than public and private nonprofit 4-year institutions (33 percent versus 81 and 85 percent, respectively). Among 4-year institutions, the percentages of public and private nonprofit institutions that required secondary school records for admission (both 78 percent) were more than twice the percentage of private for-profit institutions requiring them (32 percent). The percentages of public and private nonprofit 4-year institutions that required TOEFL scores (69 and 66 percent, respectively) were more than twice the percentage of private for-profit 4-year institutions requiring them (27 percent). Among 4-year institutions, the percentages of public and private nonprofit institutions that required secondary grades (both 69 percent) were more than 7 times the percentage of private for-profit 4-year institutions requiring them (9 percent). Among 4-year institutions, 76 percent of public institutions required admission tests such as the SAT or ACT, compared with 60 percent of private nonprofit and 1 percent of private for-profit institutions. Among 4-year institutions, 44 percent of public institutions required college preparatory program information compared with 24 percent of private nonprofit institutions. In 2014–15, recommendation letters were required by 11 percent of public 4-year institutions, 51 percent of private nonprofit institutions, and 2 percent of private for-profit institutions.


Glossary Terms

Data Source

Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS)