Understanding U.S. Higher Education

Compared to most other higher education systems around the world, the U.S. system is largely independent from federal government regulation and is highly decentralized.

It is also incredibly diverse – there are public institutions and private, very large and very small, secular and religiously affiliated, urban, suburban, and rural. Such diversity means that there is a "right fit" institution for every qualified student.

The U.S. Department of Education website presents a general view of U.S. post-secondary education, as well as in-depth information on U.S. educational structure, accreditation practices, and links to state and federal education agencies and organizations.

An important reference for understanding how U.S. institutions of higher education compare to one another is the Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education.  The Carnegie classification system divides all accredited degree-granting institutions into categories that define aspects like the highest level degree they grant or the special fields of study they offer.

The U.S. higher education arena contains a variety of not-for-profit associations that promote the professional development of people within the field of international higher education and work to expand awareness of issues related to it, including international student recruitment, international student admissions and retention, international student services, and comprehensive campus internationalization. Examples of such associations include the American Council of Education (ACE), the American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers (AACRAO); the American Association of State Colleges and Universities (AASCU); the American Association of Community Colleges (AACC); the National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC); NAFSA: Association of International Educators; the National Association of Graduate Admissions Professionals (NAGAP); and the Overseas Association for College Admission Counseling (OACAC).