Institutions in S&E Higher Education

A variety of institutions provide the education necessary to maintain and enhance the U.S. S&E enterprise. Different types of institutions offer access to S&E education for students with varying resources and needs. Open access institutions that offer certificates and degrees below the bachelor’s degree are more available to students with limited financial resources or limited geographic mobility due to family obligations, for example. Four-year institutions include small, liberal arts colleges, which are largely private, nonprofit institutions; broad access public and for-profit universities focused largely on teaching; and selective public and private nonprofit universities that have significant research activity as well as teaching. Moreover, these institutions are interdependent: community colleges train the skilled technical workforce (STW)—people who work in occupations that require specific STEM knowledge and skills but do not require a bachelor’s degree—and research careers begin in these institutions as well. Research universities train community college faculty as well as the scientists and engineers who develop technologies used by skilled technical workers.

In academic year 2021–22, about 6,000 U.S. institutions conferred postsecondary education awards, including certificates and associate’s, bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees (Table HED-1). In addition to the level of awards they confer, institutions vary by control (e.g., whether they are public or private entities and, among private institutions, whether they are for-profit or nonprofit). About a third of all institutions offered awards that required less than 2 years to complete but were not degrees, and most of these (1,600 out of 2,000) were for-profit institutions. In contrast, 60% of doctoral institutions were private nonprofit.

Institutions, by control and highest award conferred: 2021–22


Data are based on institutions eligible to participate in Title IV federal financial aid programs. Certificates include only awards of less than 2 academic years below the associate's degree level. Control refers to whether an institution is operated by publicly elected or appointed officials (public control) or by privately elected or appointed officials and derives its major source of funds from private sources (private control).


National Center for Education Statistics, Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS), Institutional Characteristics Survey.

Science and Engineering Indicators

Institutions’ contributions to S&E and S&E-related knowledge and skill development vary by level and control. Training that leads to employment in the STW, which includes education in both S&E and S&E-related fields, is usually available at certificate- and associate’s-level institutions. Doctoral-level institutions train scientists and college and university faculty to lead S&E and S&E-related research and to teach undergraduates and graduate students. These institutions also provide infrastructure for research and development (R&D) by faculty and students. Associate’s-, bachelor’s-, and master’s-level institutions train students for specific occupations, educate them in the S&E disciplines and research methods necessary for careers in S&E research and teaching at the elementary and secondary levels, and also conduct and support original R&D. S&E degree holders find employment across all sectors of the economy, with most individuals with an S&E bachelor’s degree or higher working at for-profit businesses (see forthcoming Indicators 2024 report “The STEM Labor Force: Scientists, Engineers, and Skilled Technical Workers”).

Minority-Serving Institutions

Relative to all postsecondary institutions, MSIs serve larger proportions of students from specific racial and ethnic groups. The 35 American Indian tribally controlled colleges and universities (TCCUs) and 100 historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs) extant in 2021 were defined as such by the Higher Education Act based on the populations of students they have served since their founding (Table SHED-1). Other types of MSIs—including Alaska Native and Native Hawaiian–serving institutions (ANNHSIs, 16 institutions), Asian American and Native American Pacific Islander–serving institutions (AANAPISIs, 191 institutions), Hispanic-serving institutions (HSIs, 516 institutions), Native American–serving nontribal institutions (NASNTIs, 30 institutions), and predominantly Black institutions (PBIs, 64 institutions)—are defined by the racial and ethnic distribution of their students; designation as one of these institutions can vary from year to year, depending on enrollment. In 2021, there were 811 MSI institutions in the United States, 139 of which had more than one MSI designation. All ANNHSIs, for example, have at least one other MSI designation as well.

In 2021, half of HBCUs were public institutions, and at least two-thirds of the institutions in each of the other MSI categories were also public; the remainder were private nonprofit. None of the MSIs in these categories grant only certificates, but all MSI categories had institutions at the associate’s level or above, with the exception of TCCUs, which had no doctoral institution.

Reflecting the geographic distribution of the racial and ethnic groups they serve, different categories of MSIs cluster in different areas of the country (Figure HED-1). HBCUs and PBIs, for example, cluster in Southeastern states; NASNTIs tend to be in Oklahoma and the Southwest; and TCCUs are found largely in the upper Midwest and northern Plains states.

Minority-serving institutions, by location and type: 2021

(Location and type)