Basic Classification

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

For a flowchart illustrating the logic of the six all-inclusive Classifications click here

Associate's Colleges

Institutions were included if their highest degree conferred was the associate's degree or if bachelor's degrees accounted for less than 10 percent of all undergraduate degrees (according to 2008-09 degree conferrals as reported in IPEDS). As in previous editions, these categories were limited to institutions that were not eligible to be classified as Tribal Colleges or Special Focus Institutions.

The Associate's Colleges categories are based on a classification scheme developed by Stephen Katsinas, Vincent Lacey, and David Hardy at The University of Alabama. Katsinas and Hardy conducted the analysis and provided the institutional classifications. The following criteria determined category assignment in this analysis:

Rural -, suburban -, or urban - serving Urban-serving and suburban-serving institutions are physically located within Primary Metropolitan Statistical Areas (PMSAs) or Metropolitan Statistical Areas (MSAs), respectively, with populations exceeding 500,000 people according to the 2000 Census. Institutions in PMSAs or MSAs with a lower total population, or not in a PMSA or MSA, were classified as rural-serving.

Size (public rural - serving categories) Institutional size is based on full-year unduplicated credit headcount, where small is defined as less than 2,500; medium as 2,500 through 7,500; and large as greater than 7,500. Size is based on IPEDS data for 2008-09.

Single - campus Suburban- and urban-serving colleges were identified as single-campus if they have one primary physical campus under the institution's exclusive control and governance, at which the institution provides all courses required to complete an associate's degree. A single-campus college may offer educational services at more than one site if the other sites are not under the institution's exclusive control and governance, or if all courses required for the associate's degree cannot be completed at the other sites (examples include leased spaces, shared sites or regional education centers that provide offerings of multiple institutions, or satellite locations that do not have the full range of an institution's programs and services).

Multicampus Suburban - and urban - serving colleges were identified as multicampus if (a) they have more than one primary physical campus under the institution's exclusive control and governance, each of which provides all courses required to complete an associate's degree, or (b) they are part of a district or system comprising multiple institutions, at any of which students can complete all requirements for an associate's degree, and that are organized under one governance structure or body. Institutions were not classified as multicampus simply due to control by a single statewide governing board. Multicampus institutions may report their data as separate entities in the IPEDS system, or they may participate as a single reporting entity.

Special Use Colleges were identified as special-use institutions if their curricular focus is narrowly drawn and they are not a part of a more comprehensive two-year college, district, or system.

Other considerations Public 2-year institutions under the governance of a 4-year university or system are included in the "Public 2-year Colleges under Universities" category. Baccalaureate-granting institutions where bachelor's degrees account for fewer than 10 percent of undergraduate degrees are designated as "Primarily Associate's" colleges.

Doctorate-granting Universities

Institutions were included in these categories if they awarded at least 20 research doctorates in 2008-09. First professional and Professional doctoral degrees (J.D., M.D., Pharm.D., Aud.D., DNP, etc.) were not counted for the purpose of this criterion. Institutions which granted fewer than 20 research doctorates can be identified by using Custom Listings to intersect categories of the Basic and Graduate Instructional Program classifications. As in previous editions, these categories were limited to institutions that were not identified as Tribal Colleges or Special Focus Institutions.

Level of research activity Doctorate-granting institutions were assigned to one of three categories based on a measure of research activity. It is important to note that the groups differ solely with respect to level of research activity, not quality or importance.

The analysis examined the following correlates of research activity: research & development (R&D) expenditures in science and engineering; R&D expenditures in non-S&E fields; S&E research staff (postdoctoral appointees and other non-faculty research staff with doctorates); doctoral conferrals in humanities fields, in social science fields, in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) fields, and in other fields (e.g., business, education, public policy, social work). These data were statistically combined using principal components analysis to create two indices of research activity reflecting the total variation across these measures (based on the first principal component in each analysis).

One index represents the aggregate level of research activity, and the other captures per-capita research activity using the expenditure and staffing measures divided by the number of full-time faculty whose primary responsibilities were identified as research, instruction, or a combination of instruction, research, and public service. The values on each index were then used to locate each institution on a two-dimensional graph. We calculated each institution's distance from a common reference point, and then used the results to assign institutions to three groups based on their distance from the reference point. Thus the aggregate and per-capita indices were considered equally, such that institutions that were very high on either index were assigned to the "very high" group, while institutions that were high on at least one (but very high on neither) were assigned to the "high" group. Remaining institutions and those not represented in the NSF data collections were assigned to the "Doctoral/Research Universities" category. Before conducting the analysis, raw data were converted to rank scores to reduce the influence of outliers and to improve discrimination at the lower end of the distributions where many institutions were clustered. Detailed information about how the research activity index was calculated can be found here.

Data sources Doctoral conferrals by field were based on IPEDS Completions data reporting 2008-09 degree conferrals. Faculty counts were from the IPEDS Employees by Assigned Position (EAP) data for Fall 2009. R&D expenditures came from the NSF Survey of Research and Development Expenditures at Universities and Colleges* for fiscal year 2008. Research staff data came from the NSF Survey of Graduate Students and Postdoctorates in Science and Engineering for Fall 2008. These were the most current and complete data available at the time of our analysis, and we judged currency to be more important than temporal alignment of all data sources.

In some cases, the NSF data were reported at a higher level of aggregation than is needed for classification purposes (i.e., a university system comprising multiple campuses that are distinct entities for classification purposes, but that are reported together as a single entity in the NSF data). Because the Graduate Students and Postdoctoral Researchers data were reported by department, we made manual changes to create campus-level records. For the R&D Expenditures data, it was not possible to disaggregate the data at the campus level. We adopted the allocation scheme developed by The Center at the University of Florida (now housed at Arizona State University; see Data Notes [accessed April 15, 2010]).

*Starting with the 2000 edition of the Carnegie Classification, we eliminated the use of federal funding to differentiate doctorate-granting institutions for two reasons. First, federal support is at best a rough proxy for an institution’s research activity that suffers from several weaknesses. Not all research is federally funded, and institutions differ in the proportion of all research that is funded from federal sources. Similarly, academic fields differ in their reliance on federal research funding and also in the costs associated with research. Thus a focus on federal dollars pays greater attention to fields that are heavily dependent on federal funding and also to fields where research requires substantial investments. The federal obligations data are also blind to the pass-through of funds from one institution to another, as happens in the case of large projects involving research teams at different institutions. All of these factors compromise the accuracy of federal obligations as a gauge of overall research activity.

Master's Colleges and Universities

Institutions were included in these categories if they awarded at least 50 master's degrees in 2008-09, but fewer than 20 research doctorates (as defined above). Some institutions with smaller master's programs were also included (see below). As in previous editions, these categories were limited to institutions that were not identified as Tribal Colleges or Special Focus Institutions.

Program size Master's program size was based on the number of master's degrees awarded in 2008-09. Those awarding at least 200 degrees were included among larger programs; those awarding 100–199 were included among medium programs; and those awarding 50–99 were included among smaller programs. The smaller programs group also includes institutions that awarded fewer than 50 master's degrees if (a) their Enrollment Profile classification is Exclusively Graduate/Professional or (b) their Enrollment Profile classification is Majority Graduate/Professional and they awarded more graduate/professional degrees than undergraduate degrees.

Some institutions that had been classified among Master's Colleges and Universities were given the option of classification among Baccalaureate Colleges based on their overall profile (see below).

Baccalaureate Colleges

Institutions were included in these categories if bachelor's degrees accounted for at least 10 percent of all undergraduate degrees and they awarded fewer than 50 master's degrees (2008-09 degree conferrals). In addition, these categories were limited to institutions that were not identified as Tribal Colleges or as Special Focus Institutions.

Among institutions where bachelor's degrees represented at least half of all undergraduate degrees, those with at least half of bachelor's degree majors in arts and sciences fields were included in the "Arts & Sciences" group, while the remaining institutions were included in the "Diverse Fields" group.

Institutions where bachelor's degrees represented at least 10 percent but less than half of undergraduate degrees were assigned to the Baccalaureate/Associate's category.

The analysis of major field of study is based on degree conferral data (IPEDS Completions). Up to two majors can be reported, and both were considered for this analysis. Thus for an institution with 1,000 bachelor's degree recipients, half of whom completed double majors, the analysis would consider all 1,500 majors. The mapping of fields of study to arts & sciences or professions is documented in this Excel file.

Some institutions that had been classified among Master's Colleges and Universities were given the option of classification among Baccalaureate Colleges based on their overall profile. These institutions met the following criteria:

  • FTE enrollment of fewer than 4,000 students
  • Highly residential (Size & Setting classification)
  • (a) Enrollment Profile classification of Very high undergraduate or High undergraduate, combined with No graduate coexistence or Some graduate coexistence (Undergraduate Instructional Program classification), or (b) Enrollment Profile classification of Majority undergraduate combined with No graduate coexistence.

Special Focus Institutions

The special-focus designation was based on the concentration of degrees in a single field or set of related fields, at both the undergraduate and graduate levels. Institutions were determined to have a special focus with concentrations of at least 75 percent of undergraduate and graduate degrees. In some cases the percentage criterion was relaxed if an institution identified a special focus on the College Board's Annual Survey of Colleges, or if an institution's only recognized accreditation was from an accrediting body related to the special focus categories.

Tribal Colleges

Tribal colleges are defined as members of the American Indian Higher Education Consortium, as identified in the IPEDS Institutional Characteristics data.

Methodology notes

We continue to employ the same classification methodologies used in the 2005 edition. The logic for each of the six all-inclusive classifications also remains the same, with the following exceptions due to changes in data reporting:

  1. In the Basic Classification, we used the most recent data from the NSF Survey of Research and Development Expenditures at Universities and Colleges (fiscal year 2008). Due to recent changes in NSF reporting, the data contained disaggregated R&D expenditures in psychology and social sciences, which had been previously grouped within the Science and Engineering (S&E) expenditures (therefore inseparable from the S&E expenditures). Due to this new data regrouping possibility, in the 2010 update of the Basic Classification, R&D expenditures in the fields of psychology and social sciences are subtracted from the Science and Engineering (S&E) expenditures and added to the R&D expenditures in non-S&E fields.

  2. In 2008, the IPEDS Completions survey revised the way it reports doctoral degrees. As a result, the 2008-2009 completions data (IPEDS data name “c2009,” which corresponds to degree conferrals from 2008 to 2009) contains both the “old” doctoral degree categories (doctoral degree and first-professional degree) and the “new” doctoral degree categories (doctoral degree–research/scholarship, doctoral degree–professional practice, and doctoral degree–other). The first-professional degree category was eliminated. Since over 50% of institutions still reported the old doctoral categories, we converted the new doctoral degree categories into the old categories in the 2010 classification update, that is treating doctoral degree–research/scholarship as doctoral degrees, and doctoral degree–professional practice and doctoral degree–other as first-professional degrees.

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