Colleges and universities in the United States perform many and varied functions and are founded on a variety of legal structures. To define its functions, it is important to understand that the modern college or university is characterized by a wide range of activities from the microcosm of teaching one freshman student to the macrocosm of changing society as a whole. Similarly, the legal structures under which U.S. higher education operates is quite complex, ranging from private to public. Contributing to this complexity is the intricate constitutional, statutory, and common law system of law which underpins governance in this country.