American Council on Education

To refine the Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education, including the creation of a classification that measures the success of institutions in fostering social and economic mobility for traditionally underserved students

  • Amount $500,000
  • City Washington, DC
  • Investigator Mushtaq Gunja
  • Year 2022
  • Program Higher Education
  • Sub-program

For the past four-and-a-half decades, the Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education has been the leading framework for recognizing and describing institutional diversity in U.S. higher education. Its uses and influence are wide-reaching. From federal government funding formulas to national higher education rankings, to higher education scholarly research, the Classifications serve as a foundation for how to organize and describe individual educational institutions and institutional sectors. They also often serve to hierarchically organize institutions, which can lead to perverse incentives. One of the most well-known is the race to become an "R1" university (classified as having "very high research activity") and thus tap into federal and other dollars earmarked for institutions of that category. Given the value of an R1 designation, many argue that institutions put aside other important work to prioritize acquiring the coveted R1 status.This grant supports a joint effort by the American Council on Education and the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching to refine the Carnegie Classification system by adding a new universal Social and Economic Mobility classification that recognizes those colleges and universities who have been successful in fostering social and economic mobility for traditionally underserved students. This new classification would lift up those institutions who are doing important work to promote racial equity and economic mobility, give federal agencies and private funders alike an easy way to identify these institutions for funding, and would hopefully incentivize non-designated institutions to adopt institutional practices that would earn them the classification, much like the R1 designation influences institutional priorities today. In addition to the new Classification, the project team will also review and revise the Carnegie Basic Classification and launch a new system of Elective Classifications.Grant-funded activities include ACE's convening of an esteemed technical review panel that includes leading economists and other quantitative researchers, the formation of the creation of at least four governance and advisory groups, including one made up of institutional leaders (e.g., college presidents), and the development and implementation of a robust outreach and dissemination plan.

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