Classification Description

Size & Setting Classification


The Size and Setting Classification describes institutions’ size and residential character. Because residential character applies to the undergraduate student body, exclusively graduate/professional institutions are not included. For detailed information regarding how this classification is calculated, please see the Size and Setting Methodology.

Size matters. It is related to institutional structure, complexity, culture, finances, and other factors. Indeed, it is probably the most influential omitted variable in the 1970 classification framework. Residential or nonresidential character reflects aspects of the campus environment, student population served, and the mix of programs and services that an institution provides.

Four-year institutions are divided into four categories of full-time equivalent (FTE*) enrollment and three categories of residential character. Neither characteristic implies differences in the quality of undergraduate education, but an institution’s location along the two continua generally corresponds to a distinctive mix of educational challenges and opportunities. Because few two-year institutions serve a residential population, these institutions are classified solely based on FTE enrollment.

The residential character measure is based on two attributes: the proportion of degree-seeking undergraduates who attend full-time and the proportion living in institutionally-owned, -operated, or -affiliated housing. It is important to note the variety of situations of students who do not live in college or university housing. Some are true “commuting” students, while others may live with other students in rental housing on the periphery of campus, and still others are distance education students who rarely or never set foot on a campus. A chart illustrating the residential character categories can be found here.

The categories are as follows:

VS2: Very small two-year
Fall enrollment data show FTE* enrollment of fewer than 500 students at these associate’s degree granting institutions.

S2: Small two-year
Fall enrollment data show FTE* enrollment of 500–1,999 students at these associate’s degree granting institutions.

M2: Medium two-year
Fall enrollment data show FTE* enrollment of 2,000–4,999 students at these associate’s degree granting institutions.

L2: Large two-year
Fall enrollment data show FTE* enrollment of 5,000–9,999 students at these associate’s degree granting institutions.

VL2: Very large two-year
Fall enrollment data show FTE* enrollment of at least 10,000 students at these associate’s degree granting institutions.

VS4/NR: Very small four-year, primarily nonresidential
Fall enrollment data show FTE* enrollment of fewer than 1,000 degree-seeking students at these bachelor’s degree granting institutions. Fewer than 25 percent of degree-seeking undergraduates live on campus** and/or fewer than 50 percent attend full time (includes exclusively distance education institutions).

VS4/R: Very small four-year, primarily residential
Fall enrollment data show FTE enrollment of fewer than 1,000 degree-seeking students at these bachelor’s degree granting institutions. 25-49 percent of degree-seeking undergraduates live on campus** and at least 50 percent attend full time.

VS4/HR: Very small four-year, highly residential
Fall enrollment data show FTE enrollment of fewer than 1,000 degree-seeking students at these bachelor’s degree granting institutions. At least half of degree-seeking undergraduates live on campus** and at least 80 percent attend full time.

S4/NR: Small four-year, primarily nonresidential
Fall enrollment data show FTE enrollment of 1,000–2,999 degree-seeking students at these bachelor’s degree granting institutions. Fewer than 25 percent of degree-seeking undergraduates live on campus** and/or fewer than 50 percent attend full time (includes exclusively distance education institutions).

S4/R: Small four-year, primarily residential
Fall enrollment data show FTE enrollment of 1,000–2,999 degree-seeking students at these bachelor’s degree granting institutions. 25-49 percent of degree-seeking undergraduates live on campus** and at least 50 percent attend full time.

S4/HR: Small four-year, highly residential
Fall enrollment data show FTE enrollment of 1,000–2,999 degree-seeking students at these bachelor’s degree granting institutions. At least half of degree-seeking undergraduates live on campus** and at least 80 percent attend full time.

M4/NR: Medium four-year, primarily nonresidential
Fall enrollment data show FTE enrollment of 3,000–9,999 degree-seeking students at these bachelor’s degree granting institutions. Fewer than 25 percent of degree-seeking undergraduates live on campus** and/or fewer than 50 percent attend full time (includes exclusively distance education institutions).

M4/R: Medium four-year, primarily residential
Fall enrollment data show FTE enrollment of 3,000–9,999 degree-seeking students at these bachelor’s degree granting institutions. 25-49 percent of degree-seeking undergraduates live on campus** and at least 50 percent attend full time.

M4/HR: Medium four-year, highly residential
Fall enrollment data show FTE enrollment of 3,000–9,999 degree-seeking students at these bachelor’s degree granting institutions. At least half of degree-seeking undergraduates live on campus** and at least 80 percent attend full time.

L4/NR: Large four-year, primarily nonresidential
Fall enrollment data show FTE enrollment of at least 10,000 degree-seeking students at these bachelor’s degree granting institutions. Fewer than 25 percent of degree-seeking undergraduates live on campus** and/or fewer than 50 percent attend full time (includes exclusively distance education institutions).

L4/R: Large four-year, primarily residential
Fall enrollment data show FTE enrollment of at least 10,000 degree-seeking students at these bachelor’s degree granting institutions. 25-49 percent of degree-seeking undergraduates live on campus** and at least 50 percent attend full time.

L4/HR: Large four-year, highly residential
Fall enrollment data show FTE enrollment of at least 10,000 degree-seeking students at these bachelor’s degree granting institutions. At least half of degree-seeking undergraduates live on campus** and at least 80 percent attend full time.


* FTE: Full-time equivalent enrollment was calculated as full-time plus one-third part-time.

** On campus is defined as institutionally-owned, -controlled, or -affiliated housing.


Classifications are time-specific snapshots of institutional attributes and behavior based on data from 2008 and 2010. Institutions might be classified differently using a different time frame.

News & Announcements

Updated Carnegie Classifications Show Increase in For-Profits, Change in Traditional Landscape. More

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)

Carnegie Classifications Mailing List

emailJoin our Mailing List
Sign up for our enewsletters to stay connected and informed about our work.