Higher education is an integral part of American culture, providing individuals with the knowledge, skills, and expertise to succeed in their chosen fields. With hundreds of colleges and universities spread throughout the United States, it can be challenging to determine which institutions stand out from the rest. In this article, we will delve into the 50 largest colleges in the United States based on total enrollment.
From competitive private universities to public institutions with massive student bodies, we will explore the unique characteristics that make these colleges stand out and provide insights into what draws students to these institutions. Whether you are a high school senior preparing to apply for college or a curious reader seeking more information on the higher education landscape in the United States, this article will provide a comprehensive overview of the largest colleges in the country.
All the colleges below have substantial student populations, listed in descending order. They’re also regionally accredited, meeting overseeing agencies’ rigorous standards and inspections.
Each school offers graduate and undergraduate degree programs unless stated otherwise. The enrollment figures are from 2021, recorded by the National Center for Education Statistics. Among the 50 profiles, you’re bound to see several where you want to apply!
1. Western Governors University (Millcreek, UT)
WGU is a young institution established in 1997 by 19 US governors. It leads the largest colleges in the nation, serving 150,116 students. WGU is an online school with degree programs in education, healthcare, nursing, IT, and business. Moreover, WGU is unique in providing competency-based education. Students complete courses when they pass evaluations rather than finishing a semester.
2. Southern New Hampshire University (Manchester, NH)
SNHU has both a campus and online school, conferring degrees at all levels. The university conducts 300 career-centered programs, imparting the credentials employers seek in job applicants. SNHU specializes in healthcare, business, engineering, education, social sciences, and technology. The student population is 145,553.
3. Grand Canyon University (Phoenix, AZ)
At this private Christian university, students enjoy the support of a close-knit spiritual community. GCU has 200+ educational programs, including those leading to jobs in high demand. Also granted are certificates and degrees in Theology and Ministry. Students, numbering 103,072, can earn their degrees on campus or online.
4. Liberty University (Lynchburg, VA)
The passionate mission of LU is empowering students with the knowledge, skills, and Christ-centered values to serve others with excellence. LU has over 700 academic programs, awarding degrees at all levels. The most popular fields are behavioral sciences, education, business, law, healthcare, aeronautics, and divinity. The student population is 94,709.
5. Pennsylvania State University (State College, PA)
US News praises Penn State for its undergraduate programs in business, engineering, computer science, and nursing. Students, totaling 88,914, can earn their degrees online and at 20 regional campuses. While Penn State ranks fifth among the largest colleges, it has eight student communities, uniting various minority groups.
6. Arizona State University (Tempe, AZ)
At ASU, the student-to-faculty ratio is 18:1! This public university offers cutting-edge research opportunities. Moreover, it provides customized learning through its 800+ academic programs. ASU has an online platform, four campuses, and 77,881 students.
7. Texas A & M University (College Station, TX)
TAMU leads the largest colleges in Texas. At its founding in 1876, the university was known as the Agricultural and Mechanical College, accounting for the “A” and “M” in its name. Currently, the TAMU network includes 11 universities, two campuses, and 72,530 students. The majors most chosen are biomedical sciences, psychology, agricultural business, and nutrition.
8. University of Central Florida (Orlando, FL)
UCF comprises 13 colleges, an online platform, and 240+ degree programs. The top five are social work, public administration, nursing, hospitality and tourism, and criminal justice. Meanwhile, UCF is affordable, with a student enrollment of 70,310.
9. Dallas College (Dallas, TX)
This is a large community college with a student body of 69,171. DC provides academic programs online and at its seven campuses. It offers associate degrees, a B.A.S. in Education, one- and two-year certifications, and low-cost tuition. Students can choose from 300+ majors.
10. Lone Star College (The Woodlands, TX)
Serving northern Houston, LSC is another sizeable community college. It grants associate’s degrees and four bachelor’s degrees in Nursing, Cybersecurity, Emergency Management, and Energy, Manufacturing, and Trades Management. LSC encompasses an online program and eight campuses, with a student body of 68,653.
11. Ohio State University (Columbus, OH)
OSU is one of the largest colleges in Ohio, having a student body of 61,677. Still, class sizes are small, with a student-to-faculty ratio of 18:1. The university operates a state-of-the-art medical center, cancer hospital, and research facility. Meanwhile, OSU has six campuses and an Agricultural Technical Institute, offering 200+ majors.
12. New York University (New York, NY)
NYU has more international students, totaling 58,226, than any other US university. It comprises a main campus in New York City, branch campuses in Shanghai and Abu Dhabi, and 12 study sites worldwide. Additionally, NYU offers 270+ degree-awarding programs, many available online. At the NYC campus, the student-to-faculty ratio is 9:1.
13. Florida International University (Miami, FL)
FIU is a leading public research institution with two campuses, an online platform, and 56,664 students. The university provides over 190 programs of study, with 130 conducted online. The international business undergraduate program is #2 in the nation, ranked by US News. FIU’s Wine & Food Festival is a fun annual tradition, raising $34 million since 2002.
14. University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign (Urbana, IL)
As one of the largest universities in the Midwest, UI has 11 colleges and three schools, totaling 56,607 students. Most renowned are the Colleges of Medicine, Fine & Applied Arts, Law, Media, Veterinary Medicine, and Engineering. UI offers 150 career-focused programs. Meanwhile, it houses Memorial Stadium, the thrilling Big Ten Conference football game site.
15. University of Florida (Gainesville, FL)
At UF, the student satisfaction level is 94 percent! UF grants bachelor, graduate, and professional degrees through its 300 campus and online programs. The most popular are Pharmacy, Law, Medicine, Veterinary Medicine, and Dentistry. UF serves 55,781 students, with a student-to-faculty ratio of 17:1.
16. University of Maryland Global Campus (College Park, MD)
At UMGC, students can earn a degree or certificate at any educational level. The university has an online platform, a College Park campus, and divisions in Asia and Europe. With hybrid learning, students meet both in person and online. UMCG provides reduced tuition for veterans, active-duty service members, and their families. The global student population is 55,323.
17. University of Washington (Seattle, WA)
UW leads the largest colleges in the Northwest in research grants, with a student body of 52,434. UW is also valued for its exceptional medical center and school. Meanwhile, it has top-rated engineering, business, social work, nursing, and law programs. The university conducts its degree programs online and at three local campuses.
18. University of Minnesota-Twin Cities (Minneapolis, MN)
UMTC is affordable, providing financial aid or work-study allotments to 75 percent of its students. Moreover, UMTC has distinguished schools in medicine, engineering, law, agriculture, and veterinary medicine. Students, numbering 52,376, can pursue their degrees on campus, online, and abroad.
19. University of Texas at Austin (Austin, TX)
With a focus on research, UT pioneers advancements in computer science and green technologies. It has a main campus in Austin with 18 schools and colleges, all linked by a tunnel system. UT offers 100+ degree programs, with law and medicine as the most popular. Students, numbering 51,991, can also earn their degrees online.
20. Rutgers University-New Brunswick (Piscataway, NJ)
Here’s where college football began! RUNB tops the list of the largest colleges in New Jersey, with a student body of 50,804. This research university has five campuses and an online platform, offering 100+ majors and 250+ graduate programs. Additionally, RUNB provides internships with eminent employers in NYC and Philadelphia.
21. Purdue University (West Lafayette, IN)
Purdue, dubbed the “Cradle of Astronauts,” has world-class aviation technology and aeronautical engineering programs. Meanwhile, Purdue offers 210+ career-based programs. Its students, totaling 50,344, can find their niche in 900 school organizations and 18 intercollegiate sports teams. Yet, the student-to-faculty ratio is small, just 13:1.
22. University of Michigan-Ann Arbor (Ann Arbor, MI)
U-M is nestled in the best small college town in America. It’s also affordable, with two out of three first-year students awarded financial aid. The Ann Arbor campus has 19 colleges and schools, conducting 275+ degree programs. U-M has 50,278 students. Those with kids have close access to the state’s foremost children’s hospital.
23. University of South Florida (Tampa, FL)
This is a relatively young, modern university established in 1956. USF has low tuition rates for Florida residents and competitive costs for non-residents. Students can choose from 200+ majors. USF encompasses three campuses, online degree programs, and a student population of 49,708.
24. Michigan State University (East Lansing, MI)
MSU pledges a caring, respectful campus community to its students, numbering 49,659. MSU includes 17 colleges, an online platform, hybrid learning, and study abroad. Its nuclear physics graduate program ranks #1 in the nation. Moreover, MSU’s job placement rate is 94 percent!
25. University of Southern California (Los Angeles, CA)
Students at USC, totaling 49,318, treasure its lovely weather, vibrant campus life, and meaningful traditions. USC is a private research university comprising 22 schools and an online platform. Students can pick from 150+ degree programs.
26. American Public University (Charles Town, WV)
APUS supports military service members, veterans, and their immediate families. It has an online platform granting certificates and degrees at all levels to its 48,298 students. APUS also provides resources that help military members optimize their benefits.
27. University of Arizona (Tucson, AZ)
The acceptance rate at UA is 87 percent! Moreover, nine out of 10 students receive financial assistance. UA is a public research university. It features a Tucson campus and an online platform offering 150+ majors. The student population is 48,274.
28. University of Houston (Houston, TX)
UH ranks third among the largest colleges in Texas. The university includes a sprawling campus, 16 schools and colleges, online courses, and study abroad. UH offers 276 degree-awarding programs, top-rated in business, law, environmental education, and health research. Students, totaling 47,031, have 500 school organizations from which to choose.
29. University of Wisconsin-Madison (Madison, WI)
The Princeton Review lauds UW for its scenic lakeside campus, dedicated professors, and the kindness of its students, numbering 47,016. UW has 13 colleges and schools, an online platform, and opportunities to study abroad.
30. University of California-Los Angeles (Los Angeles, CA)
UCLA is a “Public Ivy” school, rivaling the achievements and status of Ivy League institutions. It grants degrees in 250+ fields. Foremost is its world-class music, film, and television programs, with internships at area studios. Meanwhile, UCLA has a top-ranking medical school and programs in nursing, computer science, and entertainment law. The student body totals 46,116.
31. University of Texas at Arlington (Arlington, TX)
UTA serves 45,949 students, many engaged in the school’s local outreaches. The university features online programs and a beautiful urban campus. In 2022, Military Times ranked UTA #4 for veterans. The school is also renowned for its programs in the health professions, business, engineering, and IT.
32. Indiana University-Bloomington (Bloomington, IN)
If you apply to UCLA’s film, television, or music department, consider IU as well. This university receives accolades for its comparable programs. Or pursue a degree from IU in 200+ fields of study, either on campus, online, or abroad. The most popular majors are foreign languages, nuclear physics, social psychology, and environmental policy. Meanwhile, IU students, numbering 45,328, are characteristically warm and friendly.
33. Florida State University (Tallahassee, FL)
One of FSU’s medical achievements is formulating Taxol, an anti-cancer drug. FSU students, totaling 45,130, can pursue 283 majors while earning degrees at all educational levels. The university’s leading fields are psychology, finance, criminal justice, and marketing. FSU has a Tallahassee campus and an online program with opportunities to study abroad.
34. University of California-Berkeley (Berkeley, CA)
At Berkeley, engineering is the most lauded degree program. Berkeley also ranks in the top six schools nationwide for biology, chemistry, and computer science. The student population is 45,036. The university comprises 14 schools and colleges, an online platform, and the option to study abroad.
35. Brigham Young University-Idaho (Rexburg, ID)
BYU bases its educational approach on the teachings of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS). Roughly 98 percent of the students are LDS members, paying lower tuition than non-members. BYU has a campus and online platform with a student body of 44,304.
36. Miami Dade College (Miami, FL)
At MDC, the college’s acceptance rate is 100 percent, with a student enrollment of 44,002. As a community college, MDC grants associate and bachelor degrees and career certificates. The school includes eight campuses and an online platform, offering 300 majors. Approximately 93 percent of MDC students graduate debt-free.
37. Georgia Institute of Technology (Atlanta, GA)
GT has the nation’s largest colleges in computing and engineering. Meanwhile, it provides exceptional degree programs in design, business, and the sciences. Also stellar is the football team, ranking #12 in the Atlantic Coast Conference. Students, totaling 43,859, can earn their degrees on campus or online.
38. Valencia College (Orlando, FL)
This eminent community college has 130+ programs, awarding associate and bachelor degrees. VC encompasses seven local campuses and an online platform. Its tuition and fees are half those of a state university. Still, VC students, numbering 43,599, gain the same high-quality education. The most sought-after careers are business administration, RN, and radiation therapy.
39. Kennesaw State University (Kennesaw, GA)
KSU conducts 180+ graduate, undergraduate, and certificate programs. Meanwhile, KSU is a first-class doctoral research facility. Its three campuses are roughly 15 miles from the friendly city of Atlanta. Students, numbering 42,899, can also study online or abroad. The most popular careers are teaching, nursing, business, and engineering.
40. University of North Texas (Denton, TX)
Dr. Phil earned his doctoral degree here! UNT has two campuses, an online platform, and 42,441 students. It offers graduate, undergraduate, and certificate programs taught by student-focused staff. UNT also prioritizes research and sustainability, operating a dedicated recycling program and vehicles fueled with biodiesel.
41. University of California-San Diego (La Jolla, CA)
UCSD features an idyllic coastal location with panoramic ocean views. Many students, totaling 41,885, are avid surfers at nearby Black’s Beach. UCSD offers 100+ degree programs. The most sought-out majors are computer science, economics, and cognitive science.
42. Utah Valley University (Orem, UT)
UVU grants degrees and certificates at all educational levels. Students, numbering 41,262, revel in the university’s breathtaking views of the Wasatch Mountains. Many engage in mountain biking, water sports, hiking, and skiing. UVU also distinguishes itself as one of the safest universities in the nation, maintained by its high moral standards.
43. California State University-Fullerton (Fullerton, CA)
Currently, CSUF claims the #2 spot for the “Best Online Master’s in Business Programs” in California, ranked by US News. The university has eight schools and colleges and an online platform offering 110 majors. CSUF has 40,738 students, and the student-to-faculty ratio is 18:1.
44. Texas Tech University (Lubbock, TX)
Research drives TTU, particularly in the fields of wind energy, grid computing, and epidemiology. TTU has five branch campuses in Texas. The Lubbock campus has enthralling Spanish Renaissance architecture! TTU offers in-person, hybrid, and online degree programs. Students, totaling 40,542, can also pursue educational opportunities abroad.
45. University of Cincinnati (Cincinnati, OH)
UC’s students, numbering 40,329, can pick from 300 majors. Roughly a century ago, UC created the cooperative education learning model. Students alternate semesters studying on campus and working at a host company. By this, they gain over a year of valuable work experience. Many of UC’s degree programs require cooperative education to graduate. UC awards degrees through its campus, online, and study abroad programs.
46. California State University-Long Beach (Long Beach, CA)
CSULB has a sweeping campus with magnificent ocean views! Also spectacular are its award-winning gardens. Meanwhile, the university is renowned for its art school. Other sought-out majors are computer science, criminal justice, and environmental science. The student population is 40,190.
47. University of Georgia (Athens, GA)
UGA features a high-ranking Law School and College of Education. Moreover, it creates forward-thinking agricultural and sea-based projects, part of its mission as a land and sea grant university. UGA has an extensive campus, an online platform, and a student body of 40,118. Popular majors include biology, finance, and psychology.
48. California State University-Northridge (Northridge, CA)
CSUN serves the deaf student community through its National Center for Deafness. It’s also unique in offering a dual BA/JD degree through a partnership with Southwestern Law School. The university provides undergraduate, graduate, and two Doctor of Education programs in audiology and physical therapy. CSUN has 40,108 students.
49. University of California-Davis (Davis, CA)
UC Davis is a public research university. It is one of the ten campuses of the University of California system and is known for its programs in agriculture, veterinary medicine, and environmental science. The campus spans 5,300 acres and is home to over 40,050 students.
50. University of Colorado – Boulder (Boulder, CO)
The University of Colorado Boulder, commonly known as CU Boulder, is a prestigious public research university. With a history dating back to 1876, the university is the flagship institution of the University of Colorado system and has a strong reputation for academic excellence, research, and innovation. CU Boulder offers over 150 academic programs across various disciplines and is particularly well-known for its programs in environmental science, engineering, and physics. The university is also home to a vibrant student community, with over 39,000 students.