Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education®

The Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education is the nation’s leading framework for categorizing diverse U.S. higher education institutions.

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About the Carnegie Classification®

The Carnegie Classification® is the leading framework for recognizing and describing institutional diversity in U.S. higher education. In 1970, the Carnegie Commission on Higher Education began developing a classification of colleges and universities to support its program of research and policy analysis. The framework was first published in 1973 and is now updated every 3 years to reflect changes among colleges and universities.

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246 An icon of two hands praying

Institutions are classified as Special Focus Four-Year: Faith-Related Institutions


Institutions hold the Community Engagement Classification


Small, highly residential institutions primarily offer baccalaureate arts & science degrees

Elective Classifications

The Carnegie Elective Classifications are recognitions earned by institutions that have made extraordinary commitments to their public purpose. Institutions apply for recognition from the Carnegie Foundation through a particular Elective Classification theme and make extraordinary commitments to that theme. There are currently 2 Elective Classifications for which institutions can apply: the Elective Classification for Community Engagement and the Elective Classification for Leadership for Public Purpose.

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Community Engagement Application

View application resources and requirements.

February 1, 2024

Rethinking Higher Education Classifications For Today’s Institutions

By: Alison Griffin My 16-year-old son has a piece of paper, thumbtacked to his bedroom wall: a list of about 30 colleges and universities, carefully ordered alongside checkmarks and crosshatches. Upon first glance, the list wouldn’t make much sense to anyone, but perhaps another teenager. The way in which he has grouped colleges together is based on three things: campus aesthetics, ...

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About the Site

The Carnegie Classification site provides an Institution Search tool that allows users to search and filter institutions based on one or more Carnegie Classifications. You can also find a wealth of knowledge and resources on the Carnegie Classifications at the links below.


Find answers to the most common Carnegie Classification questions.

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Read about the history of Carnegie Classifications.