Since 1970, the Carnegie Classification system has functioned as a roadmap detailing the several thousand institutions that make up the American higher education landscape. Established and maintained by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, the classification has provided a methodology that sorts and organizes colleges and universities into categorical groupings based on institutional characteristics.
Last month, the Carnegie Foundation announced that it was transferring responsibility of the classification system to the Center for Postsecondary Research at Indiana University Bloomington. With the classification system retaining the Carnegie name, the Center for Postsecondary Research (CPR) is set to take full responsibility for it on Jan. 1, 2015.
“It’s really a great catch for us. It’s something that complements well the array of projects we have going here,” says Dr. Victor Borden, a professor of educational leadership and policy studies at the Indiana University Bloomington School of Education and the director of the Carnegie Classification project at the Center for Postsecondary Research.
Borden is leading a research staff that has begun working on a Carnegie Classification website transfer and they will be updating it through much of the coming year. The classification project “really does leverage the assets that we have as a research center,” he said.
“We have a pretty good solid infrastructure to build on and [the Carnegie Classification] is a great addition to it,” Borden added.
Carnegie Foundation president Anthony S. Bryk has described the center as highly prepared to administer the Carnegie Classification system given that its faculty and research staff has extensive experience working with national higher education data, including the National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE), and that CPR’s mission aligns with the foundation’s focus on promoting student success through institutional effectiveness.
“Both organizations are in agreement that gathering and using data is essential for sound decision-making and institutional improvement. Both organizations are involved in work related to student access, assessment, learning and persistence,” Bryk said in a statement.
Gay Clyburn, associate vice president of public affairs at the Carnegie Foundation, told Diverse that the organization has had a long history of developing and spinning off higher education-related institutions.
“The reason the Carnegie Foundation was created was because Andrew Carnegie wanted a pension plan for college and university faculty members. So he created what is now TIAA-CREF (Teachers Insurance and Annuity Association – College Retirement Equities Fund),” she explained.
With higher education institutions in the 21st century grappling with demands for greater accountability and institutional innovation, Clyburn said Carnegie officials recognized that turning the classification system over to a research organization which could re-evaluate and revise it made sense to them.
“We felt that it was about time based on the changing landscape in higher education to take another look at the Carnegie Classification. And frankly that would be a rather time-consuming and rather expensive endeavor,” she said, noting that foundation officials saw the CPR as an organization “who could take that challenge on.”
Although Carnegie is providing some transition funding, the center has secured a four-year $500,000 grant from the Lumina Foundation through its Degree Qualifications Profile Initiative.
“With that money we’ve proposed to [Lumina] that we would revise the Carnegie Classification. … We’ll be doing a non-revision update right away” that will be published in late 2015, he said, noting that the CPR will be fully revising the classification system over a longer period of time with it likely seeing publication by 2020. Beyond 2018, the CPR will be responsible for making the classification system project financially sustainable.
“[Lumina is] interested in us considering how we can better accommodate, for example, non-degree credentials but more generally to better accommodate the whole landscape of credentials — degree and non-degree,” Borden explained.
A prolific scholar and influential higher education researcher, Borden is known to Diverse readers as the author of the Top 100 Degree Producer rankings of the institutions that confer the most undergraduate and graduate degrees on minority students. Dr. Charlie Nelms, a former Indiana University administrator and a former president of North Carolina Central University, says the Carnegie Classification’s move to the CPR is “appropriate and fitting … given the long and distinguished record of Vic Borden, George Kuh, Don Hossler and those people who’ve been affiliated with the higher education program” at Indiana University.
“This is the home of the Project on Academic Success that Don Hossler led. It is the home of NSSE and other surveys of engagement … I think [the new Carnegie Classification project] will enable all of higher education to benefit from the expertise and the track record of the people at the Center for Postsecondary Research,” Nelms said.