Catholic Higher Education

More than 200 colleges and universities in the United States are designated by their religious congregations or bishops as Catholic institutions. View a U.S. map showing Catholic colleges and universities in the country, or search among all Catholic institutions.

Among their common characteristics:

In 2014, the Congregation for Catholic Education released "Educating Today and Tomorrow: A Renewing Passion," written to reflect on the contemporary importance of Catholic education. Read the U.S. response to this document from ACCU... Ed-Today-Tomorrow


What makes our institutions Catholic?

In 1990, Pope John Paul II issued Ex corde Ecclesiae, an apostolic constitution that identifies the common characteristics of all Catholic colleges and universities. According to that document, Catholic institutions of higher learning are defined by:

  1. Shared Christian vision and goals.
  2. Reflection in the light of faith.
  3. Fidelity to tradition.
  4. Commitment to service.

Catholic colleges and universities are not for Catholics only. We welcome collaborators who value our vision and our traditions.

More fast facts about Catholic higher education:

  • Catholic college and university enrollment increased by 15.1 percent since 2001.
  • An average of 65 percent of undergraduate students at Catholic colleges and universities are Catholic.
  • Catholic colleges and universities are frequently cited in U.S. News & World Report as "Best Buy" schools, and are consistently cited by the Templeton Foundation as "Character-Building Schools."
  • In the United States, Catholic institutions of higher learning include: five medical schools, 28 law schools, 25 schools of engineering, 128 schools of nursing, 163 schools of education, 14 women's colleges, and two aviation programs. The Carnegie Commission classifies 24 Catholic institutions as doctoral universities, with nine classified as having high or very high research activity.
  • The median student-faculty ratio at an ACCU member college is 12:1 and the mean is 12.4:1. (IPEDS, Variable EF2012D) Fall 2012.
  • The Catholic University of America in Washington is the only Catholic university sponsored and partially funded directly by the Church. The majority of Catholic colleges and universities are sponsored by their founding religious congregations.

Hear ACCU President Michael Galligan-Stierle, Ph.D., and several Catholic college and university presidents on Higher Education Talk Radio. Shows include:


What makes our institutions special?

A 2013 ACCU analysis of student data shows that Catholic colleges and universities have baccalaureate degree attainment rates better than any other sector of higher education. Innovative approaches to helping students, coupled with a commitment to the inherent value of every person, result in supportive environments that promote success. (Read just a sampling of student success stories here.)

Infographic1Download our new infographic showing how "Catholic Higher Education Offers Value"!

In addition, research has consistently shown that Catholic colleges and universities meet not only the academic but also the spiritual needs of students. One study found that 59 percent of Catholic higher education graduates said they benefited significantly from on-campus opportunities for spiritual development. Comparatively, only 9 percent of graduates from non-Church-related private schools and 16 percent of public college graduates cited the same benefit. (Source: Hardwick Day. A Comparative Advantage Alumni Study, December 2011.)

Similarly, a UCLA study on spirituality found that 8 of every 10 undergraduates indicated an interest in spirituality. Yet not all faculty surveyed said they encourage students' spiritual development. At public colleges, just 23 percent of professors promote those conversations, compared with 62 percent of Catholic college faculty. (Source: Higher Education Research Institute, University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA).The Spiritual Life of College Students; Higher Education Research Institute, UCLA. Spirituality and the Professoriate. See

Hear for yourself the ways that Catholic colleges and universities shape the lives of their students. Watch a video featuring five recent graduates describing "Catholic Higher Education: In Our Own Words."


“The Marianist Contribution to the Gifts and Challenges
of Catholic Higher Education Today"

Watch ACCU President Michael Galligan-Stierle, Ph.D., discuss the essential characteristics of Catholic higher education and how those ideas are advanced through a Marianist lens at St. Mary's University in San Antonio.



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