Classification Description

Community Engagement Elective Classification

Please Note: The deadline for submitting for applications for the 2015 Elective Community Engagement Classification and Re-Classification closed on April 15, 2014

The classification for Community Engagement is an elective classification, meaning that it is based on voluntary participation by institutions. The elective classification involves data collection and documentation of important aspects of institutional mission, identity and commitments, and requires substantial effort invested by participating institutions. It is an institutional classification; it is not for systems of multiple campuses or for part of an individual campus.

The classification is not an award. It is an evidence-based documentation of institutional practice to be used in a process of self-assessment and quality improvement. The documentation is reviewed to determine whether the institution qualifies for recognition as a community engaged institution.

The Community Engagement Classification takes place on a five-year cycle. The last time institutions received the classification was in 2010. 2015 is the next opportunity for classification. Because the classification requires gathering and providing evidence of community engagement by a campus through an application, the process begins two years prior to the classification date. For example, for the 2020 classification cycle (classified campuses announced in January of 2020) the applications will be available in the spring of 2018.

Classification Definition

Community engagement describes collaboration between institutions of higher education and their larger communities (local, regional/state, national, global) for the mutually beneficial exchange of knowledge and resources in a context of partnership and reciprocity.

The purpose of community engagement is the partnership of college and university knowledge and resources with those of the public and private sectors to enrich scholarship, research, and creative activity; enhance curriculum, teaching and learning; prepare educated, engaged citizens; strengthen democratic values and civic responsibility; address critical societal issues; and contribute to the public good.

2015 Classification: Campus Classification and Re-Classification

First Time Classification

For the 2015 classification, campuses that have not previously received the classification will need to submit an application using what is referred to as the "first-time documentation framework." A PDF version of the Documentation Framework to be used for planning purposes only is available here. There is also a guide attached to this version to assist institutions in the documentation planning process. (To download a copy of the supplemental 2015 Partnership Grid, please click here.)


For the 2015 classification, institutions that received the classification in 2006 and 2008 and are seeking to retain the classification will be able to re-apply through a reclassification process. A PDF version of the application for reclassification to be used for planning purposes only is available. (To download a copy of the supplemental 2015 Partnership Grid, please click here.)

Institutions that received the classification in 2010 will not need to do anything in 2015. 2010 classified campuses will retain the classification until 2020. To be reclassified in 2020, the 2010 campuses will need to reapply through a reclassification process announced in 2018.

Starting with the 2010 classification cycle, campuses that receive the Community Engagement classification retain it for 10 years. At that time, the campus will either need to reclassify or will no longer have the classification. For example, a campus that receives the classification in 2015 will be classified until 2025 and will be given the opportunity to reclassify for the 2025 classification cycle.

Campuses that elect not to reclassify in the cycle that requires reclassification will be considered first-time applicants in subsequent classification cycles. For example: Campus X was classified in 2008 and needs to reclassify in 2015 in order to retain the classification. The campus does not reclassify in 2015, and as of January 1, 2015, no longer has the classification. If the campus requests an application for the 2020 cycle, the campus is considered a first-time applicant and receives the first-time documentation framework.

Application and Application Fee

Institutions seeking the Community Engagement Classification will be charged a modest application fee designed to cover the costs of administering the classification

Between the dates of May 1, 2013 and June 30, 2013, institutions can request an application. Campuses will submit a “Request for Application Form” and payment to the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. When both the “Request for Application Form” and payment are received, the institution will receive a web link to access an electronic application.

This process is the same for both First-Time Classification and Re-Classification.

* No institution will be prevented from participating in the classification due to inability to pay the application fee. Institutions may submit a Waiver of Fee Request along with their Request for Application Form. These will be available on May 1.


2015 Community Engagement Classification Timeline
January 2013 Announcement 2015 process
May 1 - June 30, 2013 Request for application (payment of fee and release of application)
April 15, 2014 Applications Due/Reviewing begins
December 2014 Review Process completed/ campuses notified
January 2015 2015 classification results announced

Resources: Resources regarding the Community Engagement Classification are available on this page and on the NERCHE website.

Effective Approaches for Applicants

  1. The First-Time Classification Framework is available on the Carnegie Foundation website with an embedded “guide” for applicants. It is advisable for applicants undertaking the Re-Classification Framework to consult the First-Time Classification for information from the “guide”.
  2. Because this is an institutional classification, evidence for community engagement often comes from many parts of the campus as well as from community partners. Campuses that have been successful in achieving the classification report that it has been highly beneficial to form a cross-institutional team with community representation to work on the application. (See Zuiches, James J. et al. (2008). Attaining Carnegie's Community-Engagement Classification. Change: The Magazine of Higher Learning, 40 (1), pp. 42-45; also available on the NERCHE website under Carnegie Classification resources)
  3. An authentic understanding of community engagement is enhanced when campuses describe successes as well as activities that didn't go as planned. The latter provide opportunities for learning and improvement and can be described accordingly.
  4. Each section of the application has word limits. While it is understandable that you will want to tell everything about your campus’s community engagement activity, it is necessary to be judicious in selecting the most important and compelling evidence for the application.

National Advisory Panel


Please contact John Saltmarsh ( or Amy Driscoll ( with questions and inquiries about the classification process.

Classified Campuses

Community Engagement Voices

As we seek to enhance [students'] academic success and civic-minded preparedness in a world that is growing more mutually dependent every year, this review process provides clear evidence of how important this city and metropolitan area are to this university and our willingness to share the responsibility and efforts needed for mutual success in the future.

– University Of Houston
More Voices

Community Engagement Institutions

See the full list of all institutions classified in 2006, 2008, and 2010. Download list

News & Announcements

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Carnegie Selects Colleges and Universities for 2010 Community Engagement Classification More

Classifications FAQs

Answers to questions you may have about the Carnegie Classifications. More

Reading Room

Rethinking and Reframing the Carnegie Classification
Alexander C. McCormick and Chun-Mei Zhao

Carnegie's Community-Engagement Classification: Intentions and Insights (PDF)
Amy Driscoll

Attaining Carnegie's Community-Engagement Classification (PDF)
James J. Zuiches and the NC State Community Engagement Task Force
from Change (January/February 2008)

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