Number of Colleges Declines, While Credentials Awarded Rises

November 16, 2016

The number of postsecondary institutions in the United States declined by 1.8 percent from 2014-15 to 2015-16, with all of the decline occurring in the for-profit sector of higher education, new federal data show. The data, contained in an annual report from the U.S. Education Department's National Center for Education Statistics, show that the number of U.S. institutions that award federal financial aid declined from 7,151 to 7,021. The number of public institutions actually increased by one from 2014-15 to 2015-16, while the number of private nonprofit colleges grew from 1,827 to 1,859. The number of for-profit institutions fell from 3,360 to 3,197.

The same report shows that the number of degrees and other credentials conferred by American postsecondary institutions grew by 1.2 percent from 2013-14 to 2014-15, from 4.525 million to 4.581 million. Public institutions accounted for a disproportionate share of the increase -- roughly 3 percent -- while there was a more modest rise at private nonprofit institutions (2.6 percent) and a sizable drop at for-profit colleges. 

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