How many Catholic colleges are operating in the United States?

According to the National Center for Education Statistics IPEDS database, there are a total of 262 Catholic institutions of higher education in the United States, plus five Catholic institutions that do not report data to IPEDS.* Of the 262 reporting colleges and universities:

  • 245 are degree-granting; the remaining institutions offer postsecondary programs that do not result in an associate degree or higher.
  • 16 institutions grant associate degrees. All but four of these are nursing programs associated with Catholic hospitals.
  • 19 institutions grant only graduate degrees. Of these, 16 are seminaries or other theological schools; three are specialized professional schools.
  • 211 Catholic institutions enroll undergraduate students in programs leading to a bachelor's degree; 12 of these grant only a bachelor's degree; 13 institutions award associate and bachelor's degrees.
  • 204 Catholic colleges and universities award graduate degrees; 88 of these award either a research doctorate or professional doctoral degree.

*Updated November 2012.

For more information about Catholic seminaries, please visit the National Catholic Educational Association (NCEA). 

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How many students are enrolled?

According to the U.S. Department of Education’s IPEDS system, during the 2011–12 academic year, Catholic higher education educated more than 940,000 students (12-month unduplicated headcount).  The mean enrollment at a Catholic higher education institution was 3,575 students; the median was 2,481 students. Overall student enrollment has grown dramatically over the past ten years. For the 2000–2001 academic year, 577,961 students were enrolled (graduate and undergraduate). See the table below for the top ten Catholic colleges and universities with the largest student enrollment for the 2011–12 academic year.

1 DePaul University IL 30,369
2 St. Leo University FL 26,687
3 Saint John's University (NY) NY 23,363
4 Saint Louis University MO 20,547
5 Georgetown University DC 20,533
6 Loyola University-Chicago IL  18,273
7 Fordham University NY 17,522
8 Boston College MA 16,483
9 Regis University CO 14,641
10 University of Dayton OH 13,572

Source: U.S. Department of Education, IPEDS Data Analysis System.
Variable: 12-month unduplicated headcount total (academic year 2010–11).

According to the National Center for Education Statistics' 2011 Digest of Education Statistics, during the 2010-11 academic year, 62.9% of students enrolled in Catholic universities and colleges were female; 37.1% were male. The ratio of males to females in Catholic colleges and universities is 1:1.7. Undergraduate students constitute 65.7% of the students enrolled in Catholic higher education.  In the 25 years between 1980 and 2005, enrollment in Catholic universities and colleges has increased by 60.9%. In that same period of time, 10 new Catholic universities and colleges have been founded.[1]

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How many students at Catholic higher education institutions are Catholic?

Data from the Higher Education Research Institute (HERI) annual survey, The American Freshman, include 46 Catholic colleges and universities (or about 22% of the total U.S. Catholic colleges and universities) that submitted data, representing more than 66,000 students [2] across the country. From 2005 to 2007, there is insignificant change in the percentage of freshmen who self-identify as Catholic at Catholic colleges and universities. Generally, around 60% of incoming freshmen at four-year Catholic colleges and universities self-identify as Catholic. This figure is about the same for the reported religious identity of these freshmen’s parents:

Catholic Religious Identification of the Freshman Class and Parents: 2005-2007















Four-year Catholic colleges










Four-year other religious colleges










Four-year non-sectarian colleges










Four-year public colleges










Source: The American Freshman: National Norms for Fall 2005, 2006, and 2007.  

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 What is the average tuition at a Catholic college or university?

According to IPEDS data, the average tuition and fees at Catholic colleges and universities for the 2011-2012 academic year was $26,300, with a minimum of $4,900 and a maximum of $42,200.  However, nearly all campuses offer extensive programs of financial aid to reduce the cost of attendance.  The average total cost for an undergraduate attending the median Catholic College or University in 2011-12 after grants and scholarships was $20,170.

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How much financial aid do students at Catholic institutions typically receive?

Catholic colleges and universities had at least 40 percent of full-time, first-time undergraduates receiving Pell Grants (the federal need-based grants program for low-income students). In addition, 96 percent of all full-time, first-year students at Catholic campuses receive some form of financial aid, with the amount of aid awarded across all Catholic colleges averaging $16,295. As a portion of this, institutional aid is awarded to 88 percent of students on U.S. Catholic campuses, averaging about $12,100 .

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How does enrollment in a Catholic elementary or high school affect undergraduate enrollment in a Catholic university or college?

D’Antonio et al. find that 42% of all Catholics who attended a Catholic college completed all or most of their education at Catholic schools (p. 160). The authors also state that 79% of current Catholic attendees at a Catholic college or university said they had attended a Catholic elementary school, and 65% had attended a Catholic high school.[3] For more information about Catholic elementary or secondary school, visit the website of the National Catholic Education Association.

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What was the first Catholic college or university in the United States?

The first Catholic higher education institution in the United States was Georgetown University, Washington, DC, founded by Bishop John Carroll in 1789 and operated by the Society of Jesus (Jesuits).  The newest institution is Holy Spirit College, Atlanta, GA, founded in 2010.  Three Catholic colleges or universities have emerged as higher education institutions since 2005.

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Do Catholic colleges and universities enjoy sizable endowment levels?

According to the federal IPEDS database, about half (49.7%) of all Catholic institutions of higher education in the United States have endowments less than the comparatively modest level of $25 million.

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Are U.S. Catholic higher education institutions ‘international’?

Yes. According to the Institute of International Education,[4] Catholic higher education institutions give students opportunities to study abroad and welcome international students to their campuses.

Students at Catholic higher education institutions are able to expand their education internationally.  The Center for Academic Mobility at the Institute for International Education reports that in 2010-11, the undergraduate study abroad participation rate for ACCU members was 28.7% -- three times the national rate of 9.1%. In 2010-11, 23,264 undergraduates from ACCU studied abroad.

In addition:

  • Of the top 20 doctoral institutions sending a high percentage of undergraduates abroad, five are Catholic Universities (University of San Diego,  University of Notre Dame, Georgetown University, University of St. Thomas (MN), and Boston College)
  • Of the top 20 master’s institutions engaging a high percentage of undergraduates students in study abroad, another five were Catholic Universities (University of Dallas, Loyola University of Maryland; Saint Mary's College of California, Salve Regina University, and Gonzaga University).

As a percentage of their total undergraduate population, the following Catholic colleges had more than 50% of undergraduate students participating in international studies by the time of graduation:

  • University of San Diego - 86.8%
  • University of Dallas -86.7%
  • Saint Mary’s College of California – 61.8%
  • University of Notre Dame – 59.7%
  • Georgetown University - 52.7%

Catholic higher education institutions also bring international students to their campuses. In the 2011-12 academic year, Santa Clara University hosted 985 international students on campus. Also among the top ranked institutions hosting international students, are two other Catholic colleges: College of St. Benedict/St. John’s University: 268; and La Roche College, 230.

Several Catholic college campuses have been recognized for exemplary programs of international study with the Senator Paul Simon Award of the Association of International Educators.   They include the College of Saint Benedict/Saint John's University (2012), Providence College (2012), University of San Diego (2011), Loyola University of Maryland (2010), La Roche College (2010), Saint Norbert College (2004), University of Notre Dame (2004).

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Are there any two-year Catholic colleges?

Yes.  According to the NCES IPEDS data, there are more than 5,100 students enrolled at 16 Catholic two-year colleges. The median enrollment is 492, and the average cost of tuition and fees is $9,835.

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Are there Catholic Colleges associated with medical facilities in the United States?

According to 2010-2011 IPEDS data, 25 Catholic colleges are tied to medical facilities, enrolling nearly 8,000 students. The mean enrollment is 319 students, ranging from six students to 1,345 students.  In addition, many campuses offer programs in Nursing (undergraduate and graduate) and other health professions.  There are five medical schools associated with Catholic Universities in the U.S. and three dental schools.

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What percentage of the world's Catholic colleges and universities are located in the United States?

According to the Vatican's Congregation for Catholic Education, approximately 12.5% of the world's Catholic colleges and universities are located in the United States.  There are approximately 1,861 Catholic colleges and universities worldwide.

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Have a question not answered here? Send it to accu@accunet.org.

 [1] Snyder, Thomas D., Sally A. Dillow, and Charlene M. Hoffman. July 2007. Digest of Education Statistics, 2006. (NCES 2007- 017) National Center for Education Statistics, Institute of Education Sciences, US Department of Education. Washington, DC: US Government Printing Office.
[2] Weighted participants. For more information on the methodology and weighting techniques, visit: http://www.gseis.ucla.edu/heri/heri.html 
[3] D'Antonio, William V., James D. Davidson, Dean R. Hoge, and Mary L. Gautier.  2007.  American Catholics Today: New Realities of their Faith and their Church.  Lanham, MD:  Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc.
[4] Institute for International Education, Open Doors 2012: Report on International Educational Exchange. See: http://www.iie.org/Research-and-Publications/Open-Doors


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