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 2022 enrollment.
Read on to find out the biggest 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 Biggest Colleges in the US by Undergraduate Population
Below is a list of the 50 biggest 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 Arizona State University, with right around 65,500 undergraduate students; No. 3 University of Central Florida (UCF), with over 58,600 undergraduate students; No. 4 Texas A&M, with more than 57,500 undergraduate students; and Liberty University with just shy 49,000 undergraduates.
|Rank||College/University||State||Type||Undergraduate students||Graduation Rate|
|1||Southern New Hampshire University||New Hampshire||4-year, Private not-for-profit||140,865||41%|
|2||Arizona State University||Arizona||4-year, Public||65,492||67%|
|3||University of Central Florida||Florida||4-year, Public||58,662||76%|
|4||Texas A & M University-College Station||Texas||4-year, Public||57,512||84%|
|5||Liberty University||Virginia||4-year, Private not-for-profit||48,906||66%|
|6||Ohio State University||Ohio||4-year, Public||46,123||88%|
|7||Florida International University||Florida||4-year, Public||45,688||69%|
|8||Brigham Young University-Idaho||Idaho||4-year, Private not-for-profit||43,023||54%|
|9||Pennsylvania State University||Pennsylvania||4-year, Public||41,745||83%|
|10||The University of Texas at Austin||Texas||4-year, Public||41,309||88%|
|11||University of Minnesota-Twin Cities||Minnesota||4-year, Public||39,248||84%|
|12||Michigan State University||Michigan||4-year, Public||39,201||82%|
|13||Kennesaw State University||Georgia||4-year, Public||38,927||46%|
|14||University of Arizona||Arizona||4-year, Public||38,751||68%|
|15||Purdue University||Indiana||4-year, Public||38,593||83%|
|16||University of South Florida||Florida||4-year, Public||38,047||74%|
|17||University of Houston||Texas||4-year, Public||37,943||63%|
|18||Rutgers University-New Brunswick||New Jersey||4-year, Public||36,344||84%|
|19||University of Wisconsin-Madison||Wisconsin||4-year, Public||36,306||89%|
|20||University of Washington-Seattle Campus||Washington||4-year, Public||36,213||84%|
|21||Indiana University-Bloomington||Indiana||4-year, Public||35,660||81%|
|22||California State University-Fullerton||California||4-year, Public||35,432||69%|
|23||University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign||Illinois||4-year, Public||35,120||85%|
|24||University of Florida||Florida||4-year, Public||34,552||90%|
|25||Texas State University||Texas||4-year, Public||33,834||56%|
|26||University of California-San Diego||California||4-year, Public||33,096||88%|
|27||University of North Texas||Texas||4-year, Public||33,023||59%|
|28||Florida State University||Florida||4-year, Public||32,936||85%|
|29||California State University-Long Beach||California||4-year, Public||32,931||73%|
|30||University of Michigan-Ann Arbor||Michigan||4-year, Public||32,695||93%|
|31||Texas Tech University||Texas||4-year, Public||32,579||64%|
|32||University of California-Berkeley||California||4-year, Public||32,479||94%|
|33||The University of Alabama||Alabama||4-year, Public||32,458||73%|
|34||University of California-Los Angeles||California||4-year, Public||32,423||92%|
|35||San Diego State University||California||4-year, Public||32,194||78%|
|36||California State University-Northridge||California||4-year, Public||32,181||56%|
|37||University of California-Davis||California||4-year, Public||31,532||86%|
|38||Brigham Young University||Utah||4-year, Private not-for-profit||31,411||79%|
|39||University of Colorado Boulder||Colorado||4-year, Public||31,034||75%|
|40||Louisiana State University||Louisiana||4-year, Public||30,952||70%|
|41||The University of Texas at Arlington||Texas||4-year, Public||30,791||53%|
|42||University of Georgia||Georgia||4-year, Public||30,714||88%|
|43||Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University||Virginia||4-year, Public||30,434||86%|
|44||University of Maryland-College Park||Maryland||4-year, Public||30,353||89%|
|45||The University of Texas at San Antonio||Texas||4-year, Public||29,686||54%|
|46||University of Cincinnati||Ohio||4-year, Public||29,663||72%|
|47||New York University||New York||4-year, Private not-for-profit||29,401||87%|
|48||Georgia State University||Georgia||4-year, Public||28,924||55%|
|49||California State University-Sacramento||California||4-year, Public||28,921||54%|
|50||Oregon State University||Oregon||4-year, Public||28,905||70%|
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 (43,023) than the flagship Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah (31,411); 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: 9 colleges and universities
Texas: 8 colleges and universities
Florida: 5 colleges and universities
Georgia: 3 colleges and universities
- Arizona: 2 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 35,432 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 32,181 undergrads; and California State University, Long Beach (CSULB), with 32,931 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 57,512 undergrads. The second largest university in Texas is the University of Texas at Austin, with an undergraduate population of 41,309. And the third largest university in Texas is the University of Houston, with an undergraduate population of 37,943.
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 58,662. Florida’s No. 2 largest university is Florida International University (FIU), with 45,688 undergrads. And Florida’s third largest university is the University of South Florida (USF), with 38,047 undergrads.
Largest Colleges in Georgia
Georgia has three of the largest colleges in the US, with Kennesaw State University sporting an undergraduate population of 38,927. The second largest college in Georgia is the University of Georgia (UGA), with an undergraduate population of 30,714. Lastly, the third largest university in Georgia is Georgia State University (GSU), with an undergraduate population of 28,924.
Largest Colleges in Arizona
Arizona is home to two of the biggest colleges in the US. In fact, the state is home to the No. 2 biggest college in the US overall — Arizona State University — which has an undergraduate population of 65,492. This is followed by the University of Arizona, with an undergraduate population of 38,751.
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 38,593 undergrads. The second largest university in Indiana is Indiana University in Bloomington, with an undergraduate population of 35,660.
Largest Colleges in Michigan
Michigan is home to two of the largest colleges in the US. Michigan State University, with an undergraduate population of 39,201, is the biggest university in Michigan. The second largest college is the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor, with an undergraduate population of 32,695.
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 46,123. Ohio’s second largest university is the University of Cincinnati, with an undergraduate population of 29,663.
Largest Colleges in Virginia
Virginia is the last state to have more than one of the largest colleges in the US. The No. 1 biggest college in Virginia is Liberty University, with an undergraduate population of 48,906. Virginia’s second largest university is Virginia Tech, with an undergraduate population of 30,434.
The Biggest Colleges in the US by Graduation Rate
Looking at the biggest universities in the US by graduation rate generates an interesting list of colleges. Sometimes when it college has a large student population, its graduation rate may be less-than-average, but this correlation mainly holds when the school has a poor student teacher ratio; meaning, there are too many students for every teacher, which can make one-on-one time difficult to come by for struggling students.
Here’s a look at the top-10 biggest colleges in the US ranked by graduation rate:
|College/University||State||Type||Undergraduate students||Graduation Rate|
|University of California-Berkeley||California||4-year, Public||32,479||94%|
|University of Michigan-Ann Arbor||Michigan||4-year, Public||32,695||93%|
|University of California-Los Angeles||California||4-year, Public||32,423||92%|
|University of Florida||Florida||4-year, Public||34,552||90%|
|University of Maryland-College Park||Maryland||4-year, Public||30,353||89%|
|University of Wisconsin-Madison||Wisconsin||4-year, Public||36,306||89%|
|University of California-San Diego||California||4-year, Public||33,096||88%|
|University of Georgia||Georgia||4-year, Public||30,714||88%|
|Ohio State University||Ohio||4-year, Public||46,123||88%|
|The University of Texas at Austin||Texas||4-year, Public||41,309||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: The University of Southern California (USC), George Mason University (GMU), and NC State University at Raleigh. 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 students||Graduation Rate|
|1||Southern New Hampshire University||New Hampshire||4-year, Private not-for-profit||164,091||41%|
|2||Liberty University||Virginia||4-year, Private not-for-profit||96,709||66%|
|3||Arizona State University||Arizona||4-year, Public||80,065||67%|
|4||Texas A & M University-College Station||Texas||4-year, Public||74,014||84%|
|5||University of Central Florida||Florida||4-year, Public||68,346||76%|
|6||Ohio State University||Ohio||4-year, Public||60,540||88%|
|7||New York University||New York||4-year, Private not-for-profit||59,144||87%|
|8||University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign||Illinois||4-year, Public||56,916||85%|
|9||Florida International University||Florida||4-year, Public||55,609||69%|
|10||University of Florida||Florida||4-year, Public||55,211||90%|
|11||University of Minnesota-Twin Cities||Minnesota||4-year, Public||54,955||84%|
|12||The University of Texas at Austin||Texas||4-year, Public||52,384||88%|
|13||University of Washington-Seattle Campus||Washington||4-year, Public||52,319||84%|
|14||Purdue University||Indiana||4-year, Public||51,528||83%|
|15||University of Michigan-Ann Arbor||Michigan||4-year, Public||51,225||93%|
|16||Rutgers University-New Brunswick||New Jersey||4-year, Public||50,637||84%|
|17||Pennsylvania State University||Pennsylvania||4-year, Public||50,028||83%|
|18||Michigan State University||Michigan||4-year, Public||50,023||82%|
|19||University of South Florida||Florida||4-year, Public||49,600||74%|
|20||University of Arizona||Arizona||4-year, Public||49,403||68%|
|21||University of Wisconsin-Madison||Wisconsin||4-year, Public||48,956||89%|
|22||University of Southern California||California||4-year, Private not-for-profit||48,945||92%|
|23||Indiana University-Bloomington||Indiana||4-year, Public||47,005||81%|
|24||University of Houston||Texas||4-year, Public||46,700||63%|
|25||University of California-Los Angeles||California||4-year, Public||46,430||92%|
|26||University of California-Berkeley||California||4-year, Public||45,307||94%|
|27||University of North Texas||Texas||4-year, Public||44,767||59%|
|28||Florida State University||Florida||4-year, Public||44,161||85%|
|29||The University of Texas at Arlington||Texas||4-year, Public||43,946||53%|
|30||Kennesaw State University||Georgia||4-year, Public||43,190||46%|
|31||Brigham Young University-Idaho||Idaho||4-year, Private not-for-profit||43,023||54%|
|32||University of California-San Diego||California||4-year, Public||42,006||88%|
|33||University of Cincinnati||Ohio||4-year, Public||41,155||72%|
|34||University of Maryland-College Park||Maryland||4-year, Public||40,792||89%|
|35||University of Georgia||Georgia||4-year, Public||40,607||88%|
|36||California State University-Fullerton||California||4-year, Public||40,386||69%|
|37||Texas Tech University||Texas||4-year, Public||40,378||64%|
|38||University of California-Davis||California||4-year, Public||39,679||86%|
|39||University of Colorado Boulder||Colorado||4-year, Public||39,585||75%|
|40||George Mason University||Virginia||4-year, Public||39,049||71%|
|41||California State University-Long Beach||California||4-year, Public||38,973||73%|
|42||The University of Alabama||Alabama||4-year, Public||38,644||73%|
|43||Texas State University||Texas||4-year, Public||38,171||56%|
|44||Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University||Virginia||4-year, Public||38,170||86%|
|45||California State University-Northridge||California||4-year, Public||37,579||56%|
|46||San Diego State University||California||4-year, Public||37,402||78%|
|47||Louisiana State University||Louisiana||4-year, Public||37,348||70%|
|48||North Carolina State University at Raleigh||North Carolina||4-year, Public||36,700||85%|
|49||Georgia State University||Georgia||4-year, Public||36,516||55%|
|50||University of California-Irvine||California||4-year, Public||35,937||87%|
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 96,709, far higher than its undergraduate population of 48,906. Liberty University also happens to be one of the most conservative colleges in the US.
Patterns Among the Biggest Colleges in the US
Out of the 98 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 98 schools:
35 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).
22 of them are located in small cities (an example of NCES’s “small city” is University Park, Pennsylvania, home to Penn State).
11 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 98 colleges and universities in this study with undergraduate populations of at least 20,000, the average graduation rate is 72%. 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 98 schools with at least 20,000 undergraduate students, 92 of the schools are public colleges and universities, while only 6 are private nonprofit:
Southern New Hampshire University
Brigham Young University – Idaho
Brigham Young University
New York University
- University of Southern California
The Bottom Line on the Biggest 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.