Aug 13, 2012

Just the Facts: The Nation's Largest Universities

Liberty University
As you’ve probably noticed, we’re in the middle of ranking wars.

Princeton Review, USNWR, Newsweek, and even Forbes target this time of year to present college-bound students with their picks for top colleges in categories relevant to factors they consider important in college search and selection.

And so we learn about campus beauty, drinking habits, and dedication to sustainability. We get insight into the opinions of current students, college administrators, and alums.

But it’s mostly just that—opinion—not much more accurate than what you or I may think on any given day.

So to counter some the more “subjective” lists generated by publications looking to increase sales, I’m using this week to present a few more objective “rankings” based on more measurable or concrete facts.

Size Matters
When deciding on a college, students have a range of sizes to consider—from tiny Deep Springs College (26 students) to massive Arizona State University (72,254).

Locally, college-bound students may be attracted to Randolph College, in Lynchburg, Virginia with a total enrollment of 576 (including 5 master’s degree students) or Liberty University, also in Lynchburg, which now enrolls over 64,000 students and is the largest private university in the country.

It’s no secret that the size of a class completely changes the culture of a school. Going to a college with 200 freshmen is entirely different from going to a university with 10,000 per class. And this covers everything from personal interaction with professors to the availability of specialized majors or undergrad research opportunities.

According to the most recent information from the National Center for Educational Statistics (NCES), the largest postsecondary institution in the US is the University of Phoenix (online campus) with 307,871 students.  Arizona State comes in a distant second.

But if casts of thousands are not a problem, here is the list of the nation’s largest degree-granting 4-year nonprofit institutions (total enrollment or fall 2011):
  1. Arizona State University:  72,254 (58,404 undergrad)
  2. Liberty University:  64,096 (40,355)
  3. University of Central Florida:  58,465 (49,972)
  4. Ohio State University, Main Campus:  56,867 (42,916)
  5. University of Minnesota, Twin Cities:  52,557 (34,812)
  6. University of Texas at Austin:  51,112 (38,437)
  7. Texas A & M University:  50,230 (39,867)
  8. University of Florida:  49,589 (32,598)
  9. Michigan State University:  47,825 (36,557)
  10. Pennsylvania State University, Main Campus:  45,628 (38,954)
  11. Florida International University:  44,616 (35,888)
  12. University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign:  44,407 (32,256)
  13. New York University:  43,911 (22,280)
  14. Indiana University, Bloomington:  42,731 (32,543)
  15. University of Michigan, Ann Arbor:  42,716 (27,407)
  16. University of Maryland University College:  42,713 (28,119)
  17. University of Washington, Seattle campus:  42,444 (29,022)
  18. University of Wisconsin, Madison:  41,946 (29,880)
  19. Florida State University:  41,087 (32,201)
  20. Purdue University, Main campus:   40,849 (31,988)

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