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Annual Reports and Information Staff (Annual Reports)
Postsecondary Education

Characteristics of Degree-Granting Postsecondary Institutions

(Last Updated: May 2020)

In academic year 2018–19, some 25 percent of 4-year institutions had open admissions policies (i.e., accepted all applicants), 30 percent accepted three-quarters or more of their applicants, 30 percent accepted from one-half to less than three-quarters of their applicants, and 14 percent accepted less than one-half of their applicants.

In academic year 2018–19, there were approximately 3,700 degree-granting institutions in the United States1 with first-year undergraduates: 2,300 were 4-year institutions offering programs at the bachelor’s or higher degree level and 1,300 were 2-year institutions offering associate’s degrees and other certificates. Some of the differences in the characteristics of 4-year and 2-year institutions may be related to their differing institutional missions. Four-year institutions tend to have a broad range of instructional programs at the undergraduate and graduate levels. Some 4-year institutions have a strong research focus. The instructional missions of 2-year institutions generally focus on providing a range of career-oriented programs at the certificate and associate’s degree levels and preparing students to transfer to 4-year institutions. Degree-granting 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 indicator enroll first-year undergraduates in degree-granting programs unless otherwise noted.

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Figure 1. Number of degree-granting institutions with first-year undergraduates, by level and control of institution: Academic years 2000–01, 2012–13, and 2018–19
Figure 1. Number of degree-granting institutions with first-year undergraduates, by level and control of institution: Academic years 2000–01, 2012–13, and 2018–19

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 data.

SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS), Fall 2000 and Fall 2012, Institutional Characteristics component; and Winter 2018–19, Admissions component. See Digest of Education Statistics 2013, table 305.30; and Digest of Education Statistics 2019, table 305.30.

Figure 2. Percentage distribution of application acceptance rates at degree-granting institutions with first-year undergraduates, by level and control of institution: Fall 2018
Figure 2. Percentage distribution of application acceptance rates at degree-granting institutions with first-year undergraduates, by level and control of institution: Fall 2018

# 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 data. 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 2018–19, Admissions component. See Digest of Education Statistics 2019, table 305.40.

Figure 3. Number of degree-granting institutions, by level and control of institution and enrollment size: Fall 2018
Figure 3. Number of degree-granting institutions, by level and control of institution and enrollment size: Fall 2018

# Rounds to zero.

NOTE: Degree-granting institutions grant associate’s or higher degrees and participate in Title IV federal financial aid programs. Excludes institutions with no enrollment reported separately from the enrollment of an associated main campus. Although rounded numbers are displayed, the figures are based on unrounded data.

SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS), Spring 2019, Fall Enrollment component. See Digest of Education Statistics 2019, table 317.40.


1 Includes the 50 states and the District of Columbia.

2 For more information on Hispanic-Serving Institutions, including a list of eligible Hispanic-Serving Institutions for fiscal year 2016, please see https://www2.ed.gov/about/offices/list/ope/idues/hsidivision.html.

Supplemental Information

Table 305.30 (Digest 2019): Number and percentage of degree-granting postsecondary institutions with first-year undergraduates using various selection criteria for admission, by control and level of institution: Selected years, 2000-01 through 2018-19;
Table 305.40 (Digest 2019): Acceptance rates; number of applications, admissions, and enrollees; and enrollees' SAT and ACT scores for degree-granting postsecondary institutions with first-year undergraduates, by control and level of institution: 2018-19;
Table 312.30 (Digest 2019): Enrollment and degrees conferred in degree-granting women's colleges, by selected characteristics and institution: Fall 2018 and 2017-18;
Table 312.50 (Digest 2019): Fall enrollment and degrees conferred in degree-granting tribally controlled postsecondary institutions, by state and institution: Selected years, fall 2000 through fall 2018, and 2016-17 and 2017-18;
Table 313.10 (Digest 2019): Fall enrollment, degrees conferred, and expenditures in degree-granting historically Black colleges and universities, by institution: 2017, 2018, and 2017-18;
Table 317.40 (Digest 2019): Number of degree-granting postsecondary institutions and enrollment in these institutions, by enrollment size, control, and classification of institution: Fall 2018;
Table 305.30 (Digest 2018): Number and percentage of degree-granting postsecondary institutions with first-year undergraduates using various selection criteria for admission, by control and level of institution: Selected years, 2000-01 through 2017-18;
Table 305.30 (Digest 2013): Number and percentage of degree-granting postsecondary institutions with first-year undergraduates using various selection criteria for admission, by control and level of institution: Selected years, 2000-01 through 2012-13
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