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Carnegie Foundation Classifications to Receive Changes

The American Council on Education (ACE) and the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching (Carnegie Foundation) are making changes to how U.S. higher ed institutions are classified.Dr. Timothy KnowlesDr. Timothy KnowlesDan Daly

The Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education (Carnegie Classifications) – a framework that has been in use for five decades – currently employs a system that generally sorts schools based on the highest degree a school awards. Come early 2025, classifications will go beyond just single labels to reflect additional aspects of a school’s mission and incorporate factors such as school size, location, and types of academic programs.

The classifications will also alter what constitutes an ‘R1: Very High Research Spending and Doctorate Production’ school. Before, the distinction between R1 and R2 was ambiguous, and the number of schools labeled R1 was capped. With the 2025 changes, R1 will mean any school with $50 million in total research spending and 70 research doctorates.

The changes will additionally recognize research done at schools that do not offer many or any doctorates. Any school with at least $2.5 million on research will receive the “Research Colleges and Universities” designation.

The exact labels and designation criteria are yet to be finalized, and the Carnegie Foundation is seeking feedback.

These changes to the groupings are the first in a series to modernize the Carnegie Classifications. Later, ACE will release a framework for a new universal Social and Economic Mobility Classification.

“For five decades, colleges and universities’ reputations have been defined, in large measure, by the amount of research underway and the highest degree conferred. Clearly, these are incomplete measures. They neither reflect the strength or diversity of the postsecondary sector,” said Carnegie Foundation President Dr. Timothy Knowles. “The 2025 Carnegie Classifications will create a more robust picture of higher education across the U.S. and make visible those institutions that demonstrably accelerate educational and career opportunities for students.”

The Thurgood Marshall College Fund (TMCF) praised the clarity the new designations may bring. The organization’s HBCUs had voiced a need for transparency to ACE and the Carnegie Foundation in meetings, said TMCF President and CEO Dr. Harry L. Williams.

“During those meetings, a consistent message about the need for greater transparency in the Carnegie methodology was delivered by HBCU leaders and taken seriously into consideration by ACE and the Carnegie Foundation,” Williams said. “The increased transparency of this process will give colleges who desire to reach R1 status a clear picture of what is required and allow leadership to better develop their strategic plans and marshal resources to achieve their institutional goals.”


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