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Carnegie Releases Revised Basic Classification

March 2, 2006

The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching released an extensive revision to what is now being referred to as the “basic” classification system. The original framework was created in 1970 as a way to differentiate colleges and universities for research purposes. Since its inception, the framework has undergone periodic revisions (1976, 1987, 1994, and 2000). The newest (2006) version classifies 4,231 colleges and universities. 

The most significant changes to the basic classification include:

  • Associate's Colleges are broken into subcategories for the first time. The subcategories are based mostly on size and location.

  • A new measure of research activity is used to differentiate Doctorate-Granting Institutions. Three categories have been created: research universities with very high research activity, research universities with high research activity, and doctoral/research universities.

  • Master's Colleges and universities are split into three subcategories based on the number of master’s degrees awarded.

The categories, shown below, are presented by the foundation in order of each major group’s share of higher education enrollment. Thus, associate’s colleges are listed first, followed by doctorate-granting institutions, master’s level institutions, and so forth.

2006 Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education

Associate’s Colleges
Associate’s—Public Rural Small
Associate’s—Public Rural Medium
Associate’s—Public Rural Large
Associate’s—Public Suburban Single Campus
Associate’s—Public Suburban Multicampus
Associate’s—Public Urban Single Campus
Associate’s—Public Urban Multicampus
Associate’s—Public Special Use
Associate’s—Private Not-for-profit
Associate’s—Private For-profit
Associate’s—Public 2-year Colleges under Universities
Associate’s—Public 4-year, Primarily Associate’s
Associate’s—Private Not-for-profit 4-year, Primarily Associate’s
Associate’s—Private For-profit 4-year, Primarily Associate’s

Doctorate-Granting Universities
Research Universities (very high research activity)
Research Universities (high research activity)
Doctoral/Research Universities

Master’s Colleges and Universities
Master’s Colleges and Universities (larger programs)
Master’s Colleges and Universities (medium programs)
Master’s Colleges and Universities (smaller programs)

Baccalaureate Colleges
Baccalaureate Colleges—Arts & Sciences
Baccalaureate Colleges—Diverse Fields
Baccalaureate/Associate’s Colleges

Special Focus Institutions
Theological seminaries, Bible colleges, and other faith-related institutions
Medical schools and medical centers
Other health profession schools
Schools of engineering
Other technology-related schools
Schools of business and management
Schools of art, music, and design
Schools of law
Other special-focus institutions

Tribal Colleges

More details on the new classifications, including the five additional classification schemes introduced in November, can be found on the foundation’s Web site.