The 3 Largest College Campuses in Nevada Are Practically Their Own Cities

Written by Micky Moran
Published: November 7, 2023
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Nevada has a reputation for offering some of the glitziest and most glamorous nights possible, juxtaposed against the harsh backdrop of the desert. However, that’s just one side of its thriving economy. With nearly 300,000 small businesses and 4 Fortune 500 company headquarters, opportunities to use a college degree abound, making it the perfect place to get started. The combination of upscale living and some of the best college programs in the country makes Nevada appealing to many new students every year.

Nevada’s educational system is rather simple, offering 2-year and 4-year public institutions, plus a few smaller schools. The oldest is the University of Nevada in Reno, constructed in 1874. However, with plans to continue expanding, none of these colleges or universities are ready to stop growing. Let’s take a look at the biggest college campuses in Nevada.

Demographic Data on Colleges and Universities in Nevada

  • Total student population: 115,556 students
  • Total colleges: 38
  • Public colleges: 7
  • Private colleges: 31
  • Percentage of students among Nevada population: 3.73%

Nevada’s college students primarily come from within the state, accounting for 88.3% of their total student body. Of all Nevada high school graduates, about 25% go to an out-of-state college instead of attending locally.

Nevada’s Largest Colleges by Acreage

Largest: Nevada State University – 511 Acres

Nevada State University is one of the newest campuses built within the state.

©John Novak / CC BY 2.0 – License

If you want to walk the campus of Nevada’s largest college campus, look no further than Nevada State University. This public college made history as Nevada’s first official state college when it opened in 2002. During its construction, committees argued that Henderson should receive recognition in the name of the college with the idea that other state colleges are in Nevada’s future. The Nevada Legislature passed legislation in July 2023 to change the name to Nevada State University.

The Liberal Arts and Sciences building was the first permanent building established. It is 42,000 square feet of classrooms, labs, and faculty offices. The master plan of the college is to expand to cover 6 million square feet of their campus, allowing them to host up to 30,000 students.

The university is located in Henderson and encourages students to enjoy local events and culture. Henderson’s population is 310,000, and the student body of NSU is only a small percentage. With plentiful hiking trails through the mountains, locals can participate in conservation efforts to support local wildlife and their habitats.

University of Nevada, Las Vegas Campus – 358 Acres

Sunny view of the UNLV Campus at Las Vegas, Nevada

UNLV’s campus is just a few blocks from the Strip, offering quick access to Las Vegas’s exciting nightlife.

©Kit Leong/Shutterstock.com

The Las Vegas campus of the University of Nevada has a Latin motto – “Omnia Pro Patria” – which means “All For Our Country.” Located in Paradise, the main campus stretches across 358 acres of the state, while the Shadow Lane campus is just 18.2 acres. It also hosts Nevada’s only law school – the William S. Boyd School of Law. The first official building of the college was Frazier Hall, which was funded in 1955 by State Senator Mahlon Brown. Local legislature initially named it Nevada Southern University, but the name changed after its status upgraded to match another college on this list – the University of Nevada, Reno.  

Students have a choice of over 350 degrees to study for. With at least an 80% acceptance rate, UNLV currently has a population of 28,600 students. As of 2023, they have the second-highest-ranked hotel administration program in the world, surpassed only by EHL Hospitality Business School in Switzerland. The current plans to expand with the Northern Campus are almost twice the size of its main campus, making it the largest college campus in Nevada.

University of Nevada, Reno Campus – 200 Acres

Aerial View of a University in Reno, Nevada

Six Pulitzer Prize winners earned their degrees from the University of Nevada, Reno.

©Jacob Boomsma/Shutterstock.com

The first university that the state ever approved was the University of Nevada, Reno (UNR). Established in 1987, the drive to this campus takes you through the self-proclaimed “Biggest Little City in the World” – Reno. Until 1965, it was the only University of Nevada in the state. When the southern campus separated into the now-University of Nevada, Las Vegas campus, it became the University of Nevada, Reno.

The first official building of the campus was Morrill Hall in 1887, marking the south end of the institution. Over the years, the administration expanded Mackay football stadium from 7,500 to 27,000 seats and installed a 108,000-square-foot fitness center for students. On the outskirts of the college at Wayne L. Prim Campus, you are within walking distance from Lake Tahoe, a highly popular alpine lake with plenty of water activities to enjoy on the weekends.

Instead of getting a view of Las Vegas’s downtown area, this campus overlooks Manzanita Lake, giving you a view of local ducks, turtles, fish, and other wildlife.

Largest College Campuses As Big As Cities

CollegeSize of Campus
1Nevada State University511 acres
2University of Nevada – Las Vegas358 acres
3University of Nevada – Reno200 acres

The photo featured at the top of this post is © Bernard Spragg / CC0 – License / Original


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About the Author

Micky Moran is a writer at A-Z Animals primarily covering mammals, travel, marine life, and geography. He has been writing and researching animals and nature for over 5 years. A resident of Arizona, he enjoys spending time with family, going on adventures across the United States with his wife and kids by his side.

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