Home Higher Education

Higher Education

Post-secondary institutions of higher education in the United States are generally grouped into these categories.

Trade Schools

Certificate Granting Non-Profit

Certificate Granting For-Profit

Community Colleges

Two-Year Private Non-Profit

Two-Year Private For-Profit

Two-Year Public Non-Profit

Private Colleges and Universities

Four-Year Private Non-Profit

Four-Year Private Non-Profit Master’s Degree Granting

Four-Year Private Non-Profit Doctoral Degree Granting

Four-Year Private For-Profit

Four-Year Private For-Profit Master’s Degree Granting

Four-year Private For-Profit Doctoral Degree Granting

Public Colleges and Universities

Four-Year Public Non-Profit

Four-Year Public Non-Profit Master’s Degree Granting

Four-Year Public Non-Profit Doctoral Degree Granting

Generally, all states require that any entity offering a post-secondary certificate or degree be licensed by the state where they are located or based. If they have multiple locations within a state, those locations may require separate licenses or may be licensed to operate under the home institution’s license. If an entity has multiple locations in multiple states, each state is likely to require licensure to operate in that state.

As online education grew, some states required licensure even if the institution offering the programs was based outside of their state. Eventually, NC-SARA was formed. NC-SARA is a state authorization reciprocity agreement signed by 49 states indicating that whenever there are consumer-facing issues related to online programs, the state authorizing agency where the online program originated will be responsible for coordinating with the state where the issue(s) occurred.

Most states require post-secondary institutions to be accredited within a certain period after receiving licensure approval. To be eligible to participate in Federal Student Aid (FSA) or Title IV programs, the U.S. Department of Education requires that an institution be accredited by an agency recognized by the Department as being able to assure that the institution is compliant with Title IV rules and regulations. Generally, all higher education rules and regulations at the federal level stem from the Higher Education Act originally passed in 1965 and reauthorized eight times since.

Colleges and universities range in size from a student population in the hundreds to more than 100,000. They may also have a singular program focus, i.e., business or nursing, or offer hundreds of degrees and certificates through multiple schools and departments.

Colleges that participate in Title IV (FSA) programs must submit data to the U.S. Department of Education several times a year. Much of that data is maintained in the Integrated Postsecondary Data System (IPEDS). While IPEDS is generally used by Department of Education staff, accrediting bodies, and researchers, there are two consumer facing sources of institutional data maintained by the federal government. The first is College Navigator and the second is The College Scorecard. Many states have created databases and consumer dashboards to measure progress of their public institutions. The National Student Clearinghouse is a non-profit organization founded by the higher education community to collect, audit, and publish data from colleges and universities quicker than the U.S. Department of Education. More than 97 percent of all colleges and universities participate in National Student Clearinghouse data collection initiatives.

Many colleges and universities have Schools of Education. Not all of them have higher education degree programs, but for those that do, the following subject areas may be represented in specific courses, certificates, concentrations, minors, majors, or degrees.

Leadership and Administration in higher education

Admissions and Enrollment Management

Academic Advising



Campus Housing and Off-campus housing

Finance and Budgeting

Financial Aid and Student Loans

Federal Student Aid

State Funded Student Aid

College and University Teaching and Learning

Faculty Development

Higher Education Policy and Law

Higher Ed Programs and Program Development

Online and Distance Education

International and Comparative Higher Education

Student Affairs and Student Services

Student Persistence and Student Retention

Diversity, equity, and inclusion in higher education

Higher Education Funding

Tuition Discounting

Over the years, many higher education professional associations have formed. Some of these organizations lobby the federal and state politicians who regulate higher education. Others provide professional education and news and do not conduct lobbying. Some of the well-known higher education professional associations include:

American Association of Community Colleges (AACC)

American Council on Education (ACE)

American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers (AACRAO)

American Association of State Colleges and Universities (AASCU)

American Council of Trustees and Alumni (ACTA)

American Educational Research Association (AERA)

American University Professors Association (AAUP)

Association of American Universities (AAU)

Association of Catholic Colleges and Universities (ACCU)

Association of Community College Trustees (ACCT)

Association of Governing Boards of Universities and Colleges (AGB)

Association of Public and Land-grant Universities (APLU)

Council of Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA)

National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC)

National Association of College and University Business Officers (NACUBO)

National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities (NAICU)

National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators (NASFAA)

National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA)

Most people who attended college think about college from their personal experiences. Not all the subject areas that may be studied formally or informally are areas that they associate or remember from college. However, higher education is in the news on a regular basis. Some of the more frequently published topics include:

College Rankings


Artificial Intelligence in Higher Ed Classrooms

Open Educational Resources and OER

Online Program Managers (OPM)

Course Sharing




Workforce Education

College Closures and Mergers

Colleges in Financial Trouble

College Graduate Earnings

Student Loan Debt

Higher Ed Disruption

Value and ROI of Higher Education

Employer Tuition Reimbursement

Free College

Free Community College

Ed Tech in Higher Ed

State Funding

Student Loan Forgiveness

There are several publications dedicated to covering higher education. These include:

The Chronicle of Higher Education

Inside Higher Ed

Education Dive

Some of the newspapers with national coverage have education reporters. These include:

New York Times

Washington Post

Wall Street Journal

There have been many books written about higher education. Some of these books are written by insiders like college presidents, administrators, and faculty members. Others have been written by reporters who cover higher education, policymakers who regulate higher education institutions, or politicians who have participated in higher education legislation. The books listed below have either been recently published or are recognized as reputable sources for detailed information about many higher education topics.

Academically Adrift: Limited Learning on College Campuses

After the Ivory Tower Falls

Communicate for a Change

Credentials – Understand the Problems. Identify the Opportunities. Create the Solutions

The College Devaluation Crisis

The Great Upheaval

The Innovative University: Changing the DNA of Higher Education

Regardless of your level of interest, as a casual observer or professional in the field, there are more than enough topics and issues to keep you engaged for a lifetime. I hope that this page is helpful for locating information relevant to your area of interest.