Basic Classification Methodology
For a flowchart illustrating the logic of the six all-inclusive Classifications click here
Institutions were included in these categories if they awarded at least 20 research/scholarship doctorates in 2013-14. Professional practice doctoral degrees (J.D., M.D., Pharm.D., Aud.D., DNP, etc.) were not counted for the purpose of this criterion. These categories were limited to institutions that were not identified as Tribal Colleges or Special Focus Institutions.
Level of Research Activity
Doctoral universities were assigned to one of three categories based on a measure of research activity. The research activity scale includes 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 within the assistant, associate and full professor ranks. 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 one of 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 "highest research activity" group, while institutions that were high on at least one (but very high on neither) were assigned to the "higher research activity" group. Remaining institutions and those not represented in the NSF data collections were assigned to the "moderate research activity" 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.
Doctoral degree conferrals by field were based on IPEDS Completions data reporting 2013-14 degree conferrals. Faculty counts were from the IPEDS (HR) staff by occupational category, faculty and tenure status data for Fall 2013. R&D expenditures came from the NSF Survey of Research and Development Expenditures at Universities and Colleges for fiscal year 2014. Research staff data came from the NSF Survey of Graduate Students and Postdoctorates in Science and Engineering for Fall 2013. 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.
As in prior years, although to a lesser extent, there were some cases in which 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). We adopted the allocation scheme developed by the Center for Measuring University Performance [accessed December 3, 2015]). For the staffing data, where aggregate reporting was more pronounced, we used the proportionate distribution of expenditures data to allocate staffing among multiple institutions reported as a single entity on the NSF research staffing survey.
Master's Colleges and Universities
Institutions were included in these categories if they awarded at least 50 master's degrees in 2013-14, but fewer than 20 research doctorates (as defined above). Some institutions with smaller master's programs were also included (see below). These categories were limited to institutions that were not identified as Tribal Colleges or Special Focus Institutions.
Master's program size was based on the number of master's degrees awarded in 2013-14. 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 were initially classified among Master's Colleges and Universities were reclassified or given the option of classification among Baccalaureate Colleges based on their overall profile (see Exception below).
Institutions were included in these categories if bachelor's degrees accounted for at least 50 percent of all degrees awarded and they awarded fewer than 50 master's degrees (2013-14 degree conferrals). In addition, these categories were limited to institutions that were not identified as Tribal Colleges or as Special Focus Institutions.
Institutions in which 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.
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.
In the past two updates (2005 and 2010) 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.
An analysis of the exceptions showed that most institutions meeting these criteria that would fall into the Baccalaureate/Arts & Sciences category, chose to switch into that category. With the 2015 Update, these institutions were defaulted to the Baccalaureate/Arts & Sciences category but institutions could opt to switch to the appropriate Master's category. However, institutions meeting these criteria that would qualify as Baccalaureate/Diverse Fields were defaulted to the appropriate Master's category and could opt to switch from that starting point.
Includes four-year colleges (by virtue of having at least one baccalaureate degree program) that conferred more than 50 percent of degrees at the associate's level (excluding special focus institutions, Tribal Colleges, and institutions that have sufficient master’s or doctoral degrees to fall into those categories. These institutions are divided into two subcategories: Mixed Baccalaureate/Associate’s Colleges are those that conferred more than 10% of degrees at the baccalaureate level or higher (fewer than 90% associate’s degrees); Associate’s Dominant institutions are those that conferred fewer than 10% of degrees at the baccalaureate level or higher (at least 90% associate’s degrees).
For institutions that conferred associate's degrees as the highest degree level offering, the 2015 update employed a new classification methodology. First, the institutions were separated according to whether their total awards (associate's degrees and certificates), were primarily in one or a few disciplinary fields. These fields were identified according to the first four digits of the CIP** code. Any institution offering at least 75% of awards in just one field other than "Liberal Arts & Sciences, General Studies or Humanities", or those offering 70-74% in one field but having awards in no more than 2 other fields, or those offering 60-69% in one field but having awards in no more than 1 other field, were classified into one of four Special Focus groups noted below. Two-year institutions not designated as special focus were classified according to the combination of two factors, each divided into three groups (3x3=9 categories total): program mix and student mix.
The program mix groups, denoted as high transfer, mixed transfer/career & technical, and high career & technical, were determined by the percentage of degrees awarded in fields designated as art & sciences, professional, and career and technical. This designation was derived starting with the arts & sciences and professions distinction used for classifying baccalaureate colleges. The "professional" disciplines were then further distinguished according to the percent of awards (degrees and certificates) nationally, awarded at the associate's degree or less than two-year certificate levels. The detailed disciplinary designations are available in an Excel spreadsheet.
Disciplines for which this percentage was 75 or higher were designated as having a high career & technical program mix. Institutions in which less than 30 percent of awards were in career & technical disciplines were designated as having a high transfer program mix. The remaining institutions, in which between 30 and 49 percent of awards were in career & technical fields, were categorized as mixed transfer/career & technical program mix. This categorization is based on the rationale that the career & technical programs are designed to provide the award recipient with a credential for immediate employment within that field. Awards in other fields (professional and arts & sciences) generally require further education to obtain employment requiring a postbaccalaureate credential in the field. We recognize that many associate's colleges offer awards in the specific field, "Liberal Arts & Sciences, General Studies or Humanities" as a "Transfer Degree." However, in this classification, we take a broader view of transfer preparation to include fields in which the terminal associate's degree or less than two-year certificate is not sufficient for employment in positions within the field that require a postbaccalaureate credential. In creating this classification, we recognize that individual states and individual institutions vary in their policies and practices as to whether such non-career & technical fields (by our definition) prepare students for transfer to a four-year institution.
Student mix, within this classification, is determined by a combination of the proportion of total enrollment accounted for by "degree-seeking" students (as opposed to "non-degree" students), and the ratio of fall headcount to annual unduplicated headcount. Specifically, we multiply these two ratios and designate as "high traditional," student focus, those institutions for which the product is greater than 0.42. Institutions for which the produce is lower than .32 are designated as "high non-traditional," and the remaining institutions are designated as "mixed traditional/nontraditional." The student mix index was created by examining the distribution of students within these institutions across the stated variables as well as, percent part-time students, and the percent students age 25 or older. The derived factor was selected due the comprehensiveness of data availability and the distributional properties that allowed for identification of cutoff points for thirds of the institutions.
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 are defined as members of the American Indian Higher Education Consortium, as identified in the IPEDS Institutional Characteristics data.
**CIP refers to the Classification of Instructional Programs taxonomy maintained by the National Center for Education Statistics.