Fast Facts About Higher Ed in the Atlanta Region

Atlanta: A Powerhouse of Higher Education

The Atlanta region enjoys a concentration of colleges and universities matched by few U.S. metropolitan areas, landing in the top tier across more than 20 measures of higher education. And Atlanta-area colleges and universities offer an extraordinary mix of missions and campus settings – from downtown campuses to tree-lined quads, from internationally renowned research institutions to small liberal arts colleges, from comprehensive universities to specialized schools of art, theology, technology and medicine.

That’s good news for Atlanta. A highly educated population means a better pool of workforce talent, higher incomes and a broader tax base. A wealth of degree programs means something for everyone, from entering freshmen to adults seeking advanced degrees. And campuses across the region bring arts and entertainment, commerce, research and community service to their neighborhoods.

Key Facts About Higher Ed in the Atlanta Region

  • 57 colleges and universities
  • Almost 1,800 distinct programs of study at the associate’s, bachelor’s, master’s, doctorate and professional levels
  • More than 250,000 students enrolled each year
  • 7th in student enrollment among America’s largest urban areas1
  • 6th in annual college graduates (at the bachelor's level or higher)1
  • Among the top 7 urban centers in number of degrees awarded in fields including engineering, computer sciences, math, physical, biological sciences, health professions, business, arts and theology1

Economic Impact

Colleges and universities in the Atlanta region:

  • are a significant sector of the economy, generating a $10.8 billion impact on the state – 3.2 percent of Georgia’s annual gross product – from spending by institutions, employees, students and visitors, plus the impact of capital expenditures.2
  • create 130,000 jobs across all industries in Georgia2
  • yield $3 billion in state and local taxes paid by Georgians who graduated from or are employed by the region's colleges and universities.2
  • draw 5.7 million visits annually – 1.5 million of them overnight – for campus tours, commencement, alumni events, arts and culture, athletic events and conferences.2

Research Center

Only five U.S. metro areas totaled higher ed research spending of $1 billion or more in 2005. Atlanta was one of them.1

Three local institutions – Georgia Tech, Emory and UGA– ranked among the top 50 U.S. universities for research and development spending in FY 2005, according to the National Science Foundation.3

Together, 11 ARCHE members accounted for $1.2 billion in FY2005 R&D spending.3

Smart Place

Atlanta is a national leader in attracting college-educated 25-34 year olds, according to the Metro Atlanta Chamber of Commerce.4

In the city of Atlanta, 39.9 percent of adults hold at least a bachelor’s degree5, and in metro-Atlanta the figure is 33.3 percent6. The U.S. level is 27.0 percent7.

A Census Bureau analysis ranked the city of Atlanta 6th among cities nationally in the percent of people 25 and older who have completed bachelor’s degrees.8


  1. Higher Education in America’s Metropolitan Areas: A Statistical Profile, ARCHE
  2. How the Atlanta Region’s Colleges and Universities Are Enriching Georgia, ARCHE
  3. Industrial Funding of Academic R&D Rebounds in FY 2005, National Science Foundation
  4. The Young and Restless: How Atlanta Competes for Talent, MACOC
  5.  U.S. Census Bureau American Community Survey, 2006 (City)
  6. U.S. Census Bureau American Community Survey, 2006 (MSA)
  7. U.S. Census Bureau American Community Survey, 2006 (U.S.)
  8. U.S. Census Bureau American Community Survey, 2004

The Atlanta Regional Council for Higher Education (ARCHE) brings together 19 of the Atlanta region’s public and private colleges and universities. ARCHE builds awareness of the size, scope, impact and value of higher education and helps its members share strengths through cooperative programs. Founded in 1938, ARCHE’s membership also includes six affiliated libraries and 13 corporate and nonprofit community partners.


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