Categorizing Colleges

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The purpose of grouping colleges into ranking categories is to compare schools with similar missions: national universities against national universities, liberal arts colleges against liberal arts colleges.

To sort colleges and universities into the appropriate categories for the upcoming Best Colleges rankings, we will use the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching’s recently announced 2006 “Basic” classification system. This new classification will be the first change in Carnegie categories since 2000 and will surely result in some schools changing from one ranking category to another and other schools being ranked for the very first time. For example, some universities have added doctoral programs--which could move a school previously listed in the Universities-Master’s category into the National category. And other institutions have become bachelor’s-granting schools for the first time.

The Carnegie Classifications have been the basis of the Best Colleges ranking categories since at least 1987 and are generally considered the standard for higher-education research. For example, the U.S. Department of Education and many associations use them to organize their data and to determine the college’s eligibility for grant money. In short, the Carnegie categories are the accepted standard in higher education.

How will you be able to tell whether a school has changed ranking categories or is new to the upcoming Best Colleges rankings? We will clearly footnote schools that have switched categories or appear for the first time.