ACE is restructuring the Carnegie Classification. Will your school benefit?

The labels for Carnegie's updated classification system are not etched in stone, and it awaits feedback from higher education stakeholders about what should be taken into account.

The coveted Carnegie Classification is in for an overhaul as the American Council on Education (ACE) wishes to create a more informed and dynamic hierarchy based on the multifaceted work many institutions do today.

The main component due for a change is its traditional framework, also known as the Basic Classification, which organizes colleges and universities by the highest degree awarded. ACE believes the kind of research and output coming out of today’s postsecondary institutions deserves a richer structure that services institutions’ missions more justly. Consequently, it plans to classify institutions by size, location and the types of academic programs rather than its current single-note structure, such as Baccalaureate Colleges, Doctoral Universities and Special Focus Two-Year.

“For five decades, colleges’ and universities’ reputations have been defined, in large measure, by the amount of research underway and the highest degree conferred,” said Timothy Knowles, president of the Carnegie Foundation, in a press release. “Clearly, these are incomplete measures. They neither reflect the strength nor the diversity of the postsecondary sector.”

In a commitment to recognizing today’s institutions’ nuanced work, ACE will also be looking to implement a new universal Social and Economic Mobility Classification. This classification system comes at a time when institutions and ranking bodies have taken a closer look at how students’ social mobility has advanced through their postsecondary experience.

The labels for Carnegie’s updated classification system are not etched in stone, and it awaits feedback from higher education stakeholders about what should be taken into account. If you would like to provide feedback on what the next iteration should look like, go here. The major changes will be announced in early 2025.

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Re-recognizing research

The 2025 traditional framework will be based on reported data from the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) from three academic years: 2020-21, 2021-22 and 2022-23.

Utilizing this information, ACE plans to adjust its hierarchy of doctoral-granting universities and expand recognition to schools with smaller infrastructures.

In 2025, to be considered an R1 doctoral university—one that exhibits “Very High Research Spending and Doctorate Production”—schools must expense $50 million or more in research spending and award 70 research doctorates. The R2 classification (“High Research Spending and Doctorate Production”) will remain the same: eligible institutions must spend at least $5 million on research and award at least 20 research doctorates.

However, a new classification is opening up that allows institutions that allow non-doctoral institutions that do not possess the same breadth of research in STEM and other disciplines a chance to glimmer. The threshold for the newly formed “Research Colleges and Universities” is that institutions spend more than $2.5 million on research.

ACE stated that undergraduate universities can see a bump in recognition thanks to the “Research Colleges and Universities” classification. Other universities that could potentially benefit are dual mission institutions, which operate as both a community college and a comprehensive baccalaureate college, according to President Carrie Hauser of Colorado Mountain College, a dual mission institution.

About ACE, the Carnegie Classification

Carnegie Classifications are used in research study design to ensure adequate representation of sampled institutions, students or faculty, according to ACE. The framework gives researchers and federal grantmakers an objective, organizational lens to parse through institutions that share similar traits.

Developed by the Carnegie Commission on Higher Education in the early 1970s, ACE took the reins of the model last year.

Alcino Donadel
Alcino Donadel
Alcino Donadel is a UB staff writer and first-generation journalism graduate from the University of Florida. His beats have ranged from Gainesville's city development, music scene and regional little league sports divisions. He has triple citizenship from the U.S., Ecuador and Brazil.

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