The United States of America which is popularly referred to as the ‘United States (U.S) or ‘America’, is a federal republic which comprises of 50 states, a federal district, five major territories and various possessions. The 48 contiguous states and Washington, D.C., are in central North America between Canada and Mexico. The state of Alaska is in the northwestern part of North America and the state of Hawaii is an archipelago in the mid-Pacific.
Higher education in the United States is an optional final stage of formal learning following secondary education. Higher education, also referred to as post-secondary education, third stage, third level, or tertiary education occurs most commonly at one of the 4,726 Title IV degree-granting institutions, either colleges or universities in the country. These may be public universities, private universities, liberal arts colleges, or community colleges. High visibility issues include greater use of the Internet, such as massive open online courses, competency-based education, cutbacks in state spending, rapidly rising tuition and increasing student loans.
Strong research and funding have helped make American colleges and universities among the world's most prestigious, making them particularly attractive to international students, professors and researchers in the pursuit of academic excellence.
Colleges and universities in the U.S. vary in terms of goals: some may emphasize a vocational, business, engineering, or technical curriculum (like polytechnic universities and land-grant universities) while others may emphasize a liberal arts curriculum. Many combine some or all of the above, being a comprehensive university.
In the US, the term "college" refers to either one of three types of education institutions: stand-alone higher level education institutions that are not components of a university, including 1) community colleges, 2) liberal arts colleges, or 3) a college within a university, mostly the undergraduate institution of a university. Unlike colleges versus universities in other portions of the world, a stand-alone college is truly stand-alone and is not part of a university, and is also not affiliated with an affiliating university. Almost all colleges and universities are coeducational.

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