The Largest Colleges in the US

The United States is home to some massive colleges. Find out which colleges and universities have the largest number of undergraduate and graduate students.

The Largest Colleges in the US
Timur Shakerzianov

What is the largest university in the US? It’s a commonly asked question, mainly as a form of trivia. But it is an interesting question, especially considering how many large colleges there are in the country, not to mention the explosion of online colleges, which makes the question more complex to answer.

In order to identify the largest colleges in the US, BrokeScholar sourced the latest data from the National Center for Educational Statistics (NCES) on four-year public and private nonprofit colleges and universities and broke down the data by undergraduate population; these colleges also had to award bachelor’s degrees to be considered in the study as well as have campus housing, to exclude distance-only (online) colleges. The NCES’s latest student population data is from fall 2020 enrollment.

Read on to find out the largest colleges in the US.

The Largest Colleges in the US

First, we’ll begin with the biggest colleges in the US with no qualifications besides the ones mentioned in the introductory paragraph (four-year public or private nonprofit institutions that award bachelor’s degrees). After this list, we’ll get into more detailed and qualified breakdowns of the largest colleges in the US. 

The Largest Colleges in the US by Undergraduate Population

Below is a list of the 50 largest colleges in the US, in order of undergraduate population. Now, you’ll notice that the top college in this list of the largest colleges in the US is Southern New Hampshire University (SNHU). This college is tricky because it is both a brick-and-mortar four-year private nonprofit school, but also has a massive online class-base. Hence, for this first list of the biggest universities in the US, SNHU is included. More traditional colleges and universities then follow SNHU, such as No. 2 Penn State, with just under 75,000 undergraduate students; No. 3 Arizona State University (ASU), with more than 63,000 undergraduate students; No. 4 University of Central Florida (UCF), with just over 61,000 undergraduate students; and No. 5 Texas A&M, with more than 55,000 undergraduate students.

Rank

College/University

State

Type

Undergraduate students

Graduation Rate

1

Southern New Hampshire University

New Hampshire

4-year, Private not-for-profit

111,599

39%

2

The Pennsylvania State University

Pennsylvania

4-year, Public

74,446

72%

3

Arizona State University Campus Immersion

Arizona

4-year, Public

63,124

66%

4

University of Central Florida

Florida

4-year, Public

61,401

75%

5

Texas A & M University-College Station

Texas

4-year, Public

55,568

83%

6

Florida International University

Florida

4-year, Public

49,049

67%

7

Liberty University

Virginia

4-year, Private not-for-profit

47,988

62%

8

Ohio State University-Main Campus

Ohio

4-year, Public

46,984

88%

9

Brigham Young University-Idaho

Idaho

4-year, Private not-for-profit

44,481

50%

10

The University of Texas at Austin

Texas

4-year, Public

40,048

88%

11

University of Houston

Texas

4-year, Public

39,165

62%

12

University of South Florida

Florida

4-year, Public

38,582

75%

13

Michigan State University

Michigan

4-year, Public

38,491

82%

14

Kennesaw State University

Georgia

4-year, Public

37,390

49%

15

California State University-Fullerton

California

4-year, Public

36,975

71%

16

University of Minnesota-Twin Cities

Minnesota

4-year, Public

36,061

84%

17

Rutgers University-New Brunswick

New Jersey

4-year, Public

35,844

84%

18

Purdue University-Main Campus

Indiana

4-year, Public

35,706

83%

19

University of Arizona

Arizona

4-year, Public

35,357

64%

20

The University of Texas at Arlington

Texas

4-year, Public

35,064

51%

21

University of Florida

Florida

4-year, Public

34,931

91%

22

California State University-Northridge

California

4-year, Public

34,916

54%

23

California State University-Long Beach

California

4-year, Public

34,216

75%

24

University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign

Illinois

4-year, Public

33,683

85%

25

Brigham Young University

Utah

4-year, Private not-for-profit

33,376

77%

26

Texas Tech University

Texas

4-year, Public

33,269

63%

27

Texas State University

Texas

4-year, Public

33,193

57%

28

Indiana University-Bloomington

Indiana

4-year, Public

32,986

81%

29

University of North Texas

Texas

4-year, Public

32,814

60%

30

University of Wisconsin-Madison

Wisconsin

4-year, Public

32,688

89%

31

Florida State University

Florida

4-year, Public

32,543

83%

32

University of Washington-Seattle Campus

Washington

4-year, Public

32,244

84%

33

University of California-San Diego

California

4-year, Public

31,842

89%

34

The University of Alabama

Alabama

4-year, Public

31,670

72%

35

University of California-Los Angeles

California

4-year, Public

31,636

92%

36

San Diego State University

California

4-year, Public

31,491

76%

37

University of Michigan-Ann Arbor

Michigan

4-year, Public

31,329

94%

38

University of California-Davis

California

4-year, Public

31,162

87%

39

University of Maryland-College Park

Maryland

4-year, Public

30,875

88%

40

University of California-Berkeley

California

4-year, Public

30,799

93%

41

University of Colorado Boulder

Colorado

4-year, Public

30,307

74%

42

Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University

Virginia

4-year, Public

30,020

87%

43

The University of Texas at San Antonio

Texas

4-year, Public

29,959

51%

44

University of Cincinnati-Main Campus

Ohio

4-year, Public

29,933

73%

45

University of Georgia

Georgia

4-year, Public

29,765

88%

46

University of California-Irvine

California

4-year, Public

29,638

84%

47

California State University-Sacramento

California

4-year, Public

29,296

57%

48

Georgia State University

Georgia

4-year, Public

28,787

56%

49

California State Polytechnic University-Pomona

California

4-year, Public

27,912

70%

50

Louisiana State University and Agricultural & Mechanical College

Louisiana

4-year, Public

27,825

69%

There are some interesting details that emerge from this first list of the largest colleges in the US. First off, there’s the fact that Brigham Young University (BYU)’s Idaho campus in Rexburg actually has more undergraduate students (44,481) than the flagship Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah (33,376); also interesting here is that BYU’s Idaho campus has only undergraduate students, while the main BYU campus in Utah has both undergraduates and graduate students.

The Largest Universities in the US by State

Looking at the largest universities in the US by state reveals which US states are home to the largest colleges by undergraduate student population:

  • California: 11 colleges and universities

  • Texas: 8 colleges and universities

  • Florida: 5 colleges and universities

  • Georgia: 3 colleges and universities

  • Indiana: 2 colleges and universities

  • Michigan: 2 colleges and universities

  • Ohio: 2 colleges and universities

  • Virginia: 2 colleges and universities

Largest Colleges in California

In California, the largest college is California State University, Fullerton (CSUF), with 36,975 undergraduate students. The California State University system is home to three of California’s biggest colleges by undergraduate population, the other two being: California State University, Northridge (CSUN), with 34,916 undergrads; and California State University, Long Beach (CSULB), with 34,216 undergrads.

Largest Colleges in Texas

In Texas, it is Texas A&M University that ranks as the state’s No. 1 largest college in terms of undergraduate population, with 55,568 undergrads. The second largest university in Texas is the University of Texas at Austin, with an undergraduate population of 40,048. And the third largest university in Texas is the University of Houston, with an undergraduate population of 39,165. 

Largest Colleges in Florida

Florida is home to five of the largest universities in the US, with its No. 1 school being the University of Central Florida (UCF); this institution has an undergraduate population 61,401. Florida’s No. 2 largest university is Florida International University (FIU), with 49,049 undergrads. And Florida’s third largest university is the University of South Florida (USF), with 38,582 undergrads.

Largest Colleges in Georgia

Georgia has three of the largest colleges in the US, with Kennesaw State University sporting an undergraduate population of 37,390. The second largest college in Georgia is the University of Georgia (UGA), with an undergraduate population of 29,765. Lastly, the third largest university in Georgia is Georgia State University (GSU), with an undergraduate population of 28,787.

Largest Colleges in Indiana

Indiana is home to two of the largest universities in the US. Indiana’s largest college by undergraduate population is Purdue University (main campus in West Lafayette), with 35,706 undergrads. The second largest university in Indiana is Indiana University in Bloomington, with an undergraduate population of 32,986.

Largest Colleges in Michigan

Michigan is home to two of the largest colleges in the US. Michigan State University, with an undergraduate population of 38,491, is the biggest university in Michigan. The second largest college is the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor, with an undergraduate population of 31,329. 

Largest Colleges in Ohio

Yet another Midwest state, Ohio, is home to two of the largest colleges in the US. Ohio’s largest university is the Ohio State University, with an undergraduate population of 46,984. Ohio’s second largest university is the University of Cincinnati, with an undergraduate population of 29,933. 

Largest Colleges in Virginia

Virginia is the last state to have more than one of the largest colleges in the US. The No. 1 largest college in Virginia is Liberty University, with an undergraduate population of 47,988. Virginia’s second largest university is Virginia Tech, with an undergraduate population of 30,020.

The Largest Colleges in the US by Graduation Rate

Looking at the biggest universities in the US by graduation rate generates an interesting list of colleges. Out of all the colleges analyzed in this study, the top-10 biggest universities in the US with the highest graduation rates reside in California. However, of the largest universities in the US, the state that is home to the college with the highest graduation rate is Michigan. Here’s a look at the top-10 largest colleges in the US ranked by graduation rate:

Rank

College/University

State

Type

Undergraduate students

Graduation Rate

1

University of Michigan-Ann Arbor

Michigan

4-year, Public

31,329

94%

2

University of California-Berkeley

California

4-year, Public

30,799

93%

3

University of California-Los Angeles

California

4-year, Public

31,636

92%

4

University of Florida

Florida

4-year, Public

34,931

91%

5

University of California-San Diego

California

4-year, Public

31,842

89%

5

University of Wisconsin-Madison

Wisconsin

4-year, Public

32,688

89%

7

University of Georgia

Georgia

4-year, Public

29,765

88%

7

University of Maryland-College Park

Maryland

4-year, Public

30,875

88%

7

Ohio State University-Main Campus

Ohio

4-year, Public

46,984

88%

7

The University of Texas at Austin

Texas

4-year, Public

40,048

88%

It is quite impressive to have colleges and universities with undergraduate populations of nearly 30,000 or more have such high graduation rates. The four lowest-ranking colleges on this top-10 list are all tied at a graduation rate of 88%, which is excellent.

The Largest Colleges in the US by Total Student Population

Now, we’re going to lay out the largest colleges in the US by total student population — both undergraduate students and graduate students. This list consists overwhelmingly of the same colleges and universities as the first list of the 50 biggest universities in the US by undergraduate population, but with the addition of a few schools not on the other list: New York University (NYU), George Mason University (GMU), Temple University. The main difference between the two lists of the largest universities in the US is the ordering of the schools. Below is a table of the largest colleges in the US by total student population:

Rank

College/University

State

Type

Total student population

Graduation Rate

1

Southern New Hampshire University

New Hampshire

4-year, Private not-for-profit

134,345

39%

2

Liberty University

Virginia

4-year, Private not-for-profit

93,349

62%

3

The Pennsylvania State University

Pennsylvania

4-year, Public

89,816

72%

4

Arizona State University Campus Immersion

Arizona

4-year, Public

74,795

66%

5

University of Central Florida

Florida

4-year, Public

71,881

75%

6

Texas A&M University-College Station

Texas

4-year, Public

70,418

83%

7

Ohio State University-Main Campus

Ohio

4-year, Public

61,369

88%

8

Florida International University

Florida

4-year, Public

58,836

67%

9

University of Florida

Florida

4-year, Public

53,372

91%

10

New York University

New York

4-year, Private not-for-profit

52,775

87%

11

University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign

Illinois

4-year, Public

52,679

85%

12

University of Minnesota-Twin Cities

Minnesota

4-year, Public

52,017

84%

13

University of South Florida

Florida

4-year, Public

50,626

75%

14

The University of Texas at Austin

Texas

4-year, Public

50,476

88%

15

Rutgers University-New Brunswick

New Jersey

4-year, Public

50,411

84%

16

Michigan State University

Michigan

4-year, Public

49,695

82%

17

University of Washington-Seattle Campus

Washington

4-year, Public

48,149

84%

18

The University of Texas at Arlington

Texas

4-year, Public

48,072

51%

19

University of Michigan-Ann Arbor

Michigan

4-year, Public

47,907

94%

20

University of Houston

Texas

4-year, Public

47,090

62%

21

Purdue University-Main Campus

Indiana

4-year, Public

46,655

83%

22

University of Arizona

Arizona

4-year, Public

45,601

64%

23

University of Wisconsin-Madison

Wisconsin

4-year, Public

44,640

89%

24

University of California-Los Angeles

California

4-year, Public

44,589

92%

25

Brigham Young University-Idaho

Idaho

4-year, Private not-for-profit

44,481

50%

26

Florida State University

Florida

4-year, Public

43,569

83%

27

Indiana University-Bloomington

Indiana

4-year, Public

43,064

81%

28

University of California-Berkeley

California

4-year, Public

42,327

93%

29

California State University-Fullerton

California

4-year, Public

42,051

71%

30

Kennesaw State University

Georgia

4-year, Public

41,181

49%

31

University of North Texas

Texas

4-year, Public

40,953

60%

32

University of Cincinnati-Main Campus

Ohio

4-year, Public

40,826

73%

33

University of Maryland-College Park

Maryland

4-year, Public

40,709

88%

34

California State University-Northridge

California

4-year, Public

40,381

54%

35

Texas Tech University

Texas

4-year, Public

40,322

63%

36

California State University-Long Beach

California

4-year, Public

40,069

75%

37

University of California-San Diego

California

4-year, Public

39,576

89%

38

University of Georgia

Georgia

4-year, Public

39,147

88%

39

University of California-Davis

California

4-year, Public

39,074

87%

40

George Mason University

Virginia

4-year, Public

38,541

70%

41

The University of Alabama

Alabama

4-year, Public

37,840

72%

42

Texas State University

Texas

4-year, Public

37,812

57%

43

University of Colorado Boulder

Colorado

4-year, Public

37,437

74%

44

Temple University

Pennsylvania

4-year, Public

37,236

75%

45

Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University

Virginia

4-year, Public

37,024

87%

46

Brigham Young University

Utah

4-year, Private not-for-profit

36,461

77%

47

Georgia State University

Georgia

4-year, Public

36,360

56%

48

San Diego State University

California

4-year, Public

36,334

76%

49

University of California-Irvine

California

4-year, Public

36,303

84%

50

San Jose State University

California

4-year, Public

36,208

69%

Once again, Southern New Hampshire University tops the list, showing off its unique combination of being both a major online and on-campus college. However, the No. 2 biggest university in the US in this new list is now Liberty University, which has a total student population of 93,349, far higher than its undergraduate population of 47,988. Another notable college to rank high among the largest colleges in the US by total student population is New York University (NYU), which has an undergraduate population of 27,444, but a total student population of 52,775. 

Patterns in the Largest Colleges in the US

Out of the 102 colleges and universities that are four-year public or private nonprofit schools with minimum undergraduate populations of at least 20,000, some noticeable patterns emerge. For instance, out of these 102 schools:

  • 36 of them are located in large cities (an example of NCES’s “large city” is Columbus, Ohio, home to Ohio State University).

  • 21 of them are located in in midsize cities (an example of NCES’s “midsize city” is Tempe, Arizona, home to Arizona State University).

  • 20 of them are located in small cities (an example of NCES’s “small city” is University Park, Pennsylvania, home to Penn State).

  • 12 of them are located in large suburbs (an example of NCES’s “large suburb” is Alafaya, Florida, a large suburb Orlando and home to the University of Central Florida).

  • 4 of them are located in distant towns (an example of NCES’s “distant town” is Pullman, Washington, home to Washington State University).

  • 3 of them are located in midsize suburbs (an example of NCES’s “midsize suburb” is Santa Barbara, home to University of California, Santa Barbara).

  • 2 of them are located in small suburbs (an example of NCES’s “small suburb” is the location of Cal Poly in San Luis Obispo).

Another interesting statistic is the average graduation rate. Taking all of the 102 colleges and universities in this study with undergraduate populations of at least 20,000, the average graduation rate is 71%. This graduate rate is better than the average for all colleges and universities in the US. 

What’s more, and this shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise, is the breakdown of four-year public institutions versus private nonprofit institutions. Out of the 102 schools with at least 20,000 undergraduate students, 93 of the schools are public colleges and universities, while only 5 are private nonprofit: 

  • Southern New Hampshire University

  • Liberty University

  • Brigham Young University – Idaho

  • Brigham Young University

  • New York University

One more interesting pattern to note is which colleges and universities have the biggest difference between their total student populations and their undergraduate populations. Here’s a table below of the largest colleges in the US ranked by their difference between total student population and undergraduate population:

Rank

College/University

State

Type

Total student population

Undergraduate students

Difference between Total and Undergraduate

1

Liberty University

Virginia

4-year, Private not-for-profit

93,349

47,988

45,361

2

New York University

New York

4-year, Private not-for-profit

52,775

27,444

25,331

3

Southern New Hampshire University

New Hampshire

4-year, Private not-for-profit

134,345

111,599

22,746

4

University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign

Illinois

4-year, Public

52,679

33,683

18,996

5

University of Florida

Florida

4-year, Public

53,372

34,931

18,441

6

University of Michigan-Ann Arbor

Michigan

4-year, Public

47,907

31,329

16,578

7

University of Minnesota-Twin Cities

Minnesota

4-year, Public

52,017

36,061

15,956

8

University of Washington-Seattle Campus

Washington

4-year, Public

48,149

32,244

15,905

9

The Pennsylvania State University

Pennsylvania

4-year, Public

89,816

74,446

15,370

10

Texas A & M University-College Station

Texas

4-year, Public

70,418

55,568

14,850

11

Rutgers University-New Brunswick

New Jersey

4-year, Public

50,411

35,844

14,567

12

Ohio State University-Main Campus

Ohio

4-year, Public

61,369

46,984

14,385

13

The University of Texas at Arlington

Texas

4-year, Public

48,072

35,064

13,008

14

University of California-Los Angeles

California

4-year, Public

44,589

31,636

12,953

15

University of South Florida

Florida

4-year, Public

50,626

38,582

12,044

16

University of Wisconsin-Madison

Wisconsin

4-year, Public

44,640

32,688

11,952

17

Arizona State University Campus Immersion

Arizona

4-year, Public

74,795

63,124

11,671

18

University of Illinois Chicago

Illinois

4-year, Public

33,518

21,921

11,597

19

University of California-Berkeley

California

4-year, Public

42,327

30,799

11,528

20

George Mason University

Virginia

4-year, Public

38,541

27,104

11,437

You’ll notice the top three schools are all four-year private nonprofit universities. Liberty University has the largest difference — 45,361 students — with 93,349 total students versus 47,988 undergraduates. No. 2 NYU has a difference of 25,331, with 52,775 total students versus 27,444 undergraduates. And No. 3 SNHU has a difference of 22,746, with 134,345 total students versus 111,599 undergraduates.

The Bottom Line on the Largest Colleges in the US

Overwhelmingly, the largest colleges in the US are four-year public institutions, with just a handful of private nonprofit schools having more than 20,000 undergraduate students. The good news about the biggest universities in the US is that they have an average graduation rate that is quite good, a mark of their solid academic records and quality education programs. If you’re deciding on whether to go to a public versus private college, and you’re looking for a school with lots of students, then naturally a public college or university is likely your best option. That being said, sheer size shouldn’t be your only criteria when choosing the right college for you. Either way, this study is just one of many BrokeScholar college studies that you can check out and get insights into the world of higher education and various interesting patterns and themes that emerge.