Higher education in the United States includes educational programmes which usually require for admission 12 years of elementary and secondary schooling. It is carried on under a number of forms.
The most common type of higher education is the college. It requires for admission graduation from a standard secondary school; its four-year curriculum leads to the bachelor's degree in arts and sciences.
The American college is known by various titles such as the college of liberal arts, the college of arts and sciences, and the college of literature, science and arts. The college may be the central unit around which the university is organized, or it may be a separate corporate entity, independent from the University.
The university in the United States is an educational institution comprising a college of liberal arts and sciences, a professional school leading to a professional degree and a graduate college (school). A graduate college provides programmes for study and research beyond the levels of the bachelor's and first professional degree.
The word "university", however, is also used in a broader sense, for almost any type of educational institution offering instruction beyond the level of the secondary school.
Thus in the United States there is some confusion in the use of the terms "college" and "university". Some institutions that are in fact colleges of liberal arts have been incorporated in the universities. Some institutions incorporated in colleges are in fact universities with graduate and professional schools.
In addition to colleges and universities there is a large number of professional schools, separate from universities. They provide preparation in one or more professional fields, such as law, music or theology. Junior colleges or professional schools do not offer the full four-year curriculum leading to a degree.
An institute of technology is a degree-granting institution that specializes in science and technology; some of them have graduate study. An institution offering programs of technological study only at the junior college level is known as a technical institution.
The colleges in the United States differ greatly in size - they may include from 100 to 5 000 students and more. Most of the larger institutions fall into the category of universities, the largest being University of California, State University of New York, New York University, Columbia University and others.