Carnegie Classifications

The Carnegie Classifications of Institutions of Higher Education® (CCIHE) are the nation’s leading framework for describing diverse U.S. higher education institutions, so that their work and impact can be understood in relation to each other. Launched in 1970, CCIHE was first published in 1973 and has been periodically updated to reflect changes among colleges and universities.

Intended to support research and policy analysis, the Carnegie Classification uses empirical data about characteristics of students and faculty and the work of the institutions to identify categories of institutions based on function and mission, including doctoral-granting institutions, comprehensive universities and colleges, liberal arts colleges, two-year colleges and institutes, professional schools, and other specialized institutions. CCIHE has grown to include classifications based upon instructional program, enrollment profile, size and setting, and certain elective classifications for Community Engagement and Leadership for Public Purpose.

As CCIHE turns 50, Carnegie and the American Council of Education (ACE) have joined forces to bring together the various classifications into a suite of indices that, taken collectively, will provide a broad base of dimensions along which universities may define themselves and demonstrate how they are pursuing their missions. This will involve taking a broad look at the ways in which classification systems can promote institutional diversity and excellence in a number of domains, such as access, teaching, learning outcomes, social and economic mobility of students, and community and civic development and service.

Building from this shared vision, Carnegie and ACE will undertake the development of a broader suite of classifications, starting with the Social and Economic Mobility Classification that will challenge higher education institutions to meaningfully address the nation’s pressing social, racial, and economic concerns. Other possible elective classifications include ones that attend to extraordinary commitment to and investment in sustainability, indigenous-serving institutions, as well as international expressions of the classifications.

The Carnegie’s partnership with the American Council on Education is a unique and powerful opportunity to collaborate with institutions of higher education nationwide. Over time, this partnership can support institutions to mine and share effective practices; catalyze networks of institutions that learn and improve together; and identify and amplify the work of postsecondary education institutions that effectively serve Black, Latinx, Indigenous, and first-generation students.