Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education®

Last Updated 04/07/2024

A framework used to categorize nearly 4,000 thousand higher education institutions in the United States.  Carnegie Classifications are used in the study of higher education, including in research study design to ensure adequate representation of sampled institutions, students, and/or faculty. First published in 1973, the framework is updated every 3 years to reflect changes among colleges and universities.

There are two types of classifications: (1) Universal classifications are 6 types of organizational groupings and labels given to all degree-granting institutions in the U.S.:  Basic, Undergraduate Instructional Program, Graduate Instructional Program, Enrollment Profile, Undergraduate Profile, Size and Setting. Classifications are based on the data the institutions report to federal sources, including the National Center for Education Statistics and National Science Foundation. (2) Elective includes 2 types that institutions must apply for: Classification for Community Engagement and Classification for Leadership for Public Purpose. These require documentation of institutional policy and practices focusing on areas such as institutional culture and mission, curricular and co-curricular programming, continuous improvement activities, and the recruitment and reward of faculty, staff, and students.

In 2022, the American Council on Education (ACE) began a partnership with the Carnegie Foundation to take stewardship of both the Universal classifications (previously managed by Indiana University-Bloomington), and the Elective classifications. ACE and the Carnegie Foundation are collaborating on the vision and future of the framework including revising the methodology for the Basic classification, adding a Social and Economic Mobility Universal classification, and expanding the suite of Elective classifications.

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