May 19, 2022

Reference: 2015 Carnegie Classification of More Than 4,660 U.S. Universities and Colleges Released, Searchable

From Indiana University:

The 2015 edition of the Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education is now available. Produced by an Indiana University research center, it is the most comprehensive review of institutional diversity at more than 4,660 colleges and universities in the United States.


Information about individual institutions and searchable data showing how they compare to their peers are available on a new website,


“Although intended for research and policy purposes, the Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education has become an integral part of the fabric of higher education, as it is used by a variety of organizations for shaping accountability and opportunity,” [Victor H.M.] Borden, [professor of higher education and student affairs at the IU School of Education and the director of the project for the Center for Postsecondary Research] said.

For example, the Association of Research Libraries uses the classifications to determine member eligibility, and many governmental grant programs are aimed at one or another of these classifications.


Key Findings in this Edition

Several institutions moved in and out of the doctoral granting categories from 2010 to 2015. Of the 108 institutions considered among the highest-level research category in 2010, 100 (over 90 percent) remained in that category, commonly known as “R1.” Fifteen institutions moved from level 2 to level 1, while eight moved from level 1 to level 2.

A significant change was made to the “basic” classification. Specifically, the 2015 update includes new associate’s colleges categories, based on program mix and student mix, with “special-focus” two-year colleges placed in separate categories, parallel to how four-year special-focus institutions are designated.

The two largest basic classification aggregate categories — doctoral universities and associate’s colleges — each enroll nearly one-third of all students attending degree-granting institutions. However, in terms of number of institutions, associate’s colleges account for just one-quarter of institutions and doctoral universities, less than one in 14 (7 percent).

Special-focus schools — two-year and four-year programs combined — account for about a third of all institutions but just 5 percent of all enrollments. Examples of such schools include those that offer programs only in health fields or art and design.

Although the classification includes roughly the same number of institutions as in 2010, more than 400 institutions are new to the list; that is, more than 400 institutions were replaced from 2010 to 2015. The dropped institutions include several notable consolidations, such as mergers of public institutions in Georgia and the change in reporting structure of institutions such as Ivy Tech Community College in Indiana, which went from reporting as 14 regional institutions to a single statewide institution.

The 2015 classification employs the most recent available data from the source federal agencies — the National Center for Education Statistics and National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics — and a nonprofit agency, The College Board. These data represent the time period of 2013-14.

While many universities may tout “movement” within these classifications, they are not considered quantitative rankings but rather reflect important qualitative differences for research and policy-making purposes.

Direct to 2015 Carnegie Classifications

Additional Resources

2015 Update Facts and Figures: Descriptive Highlights (10 pages; PDF)
Includes several charts and tables.

Classification Definitions

About Gary Price

Gary Price ( is a librarian, writer, consultant, and frequent conference speaker based in the Washington D.C. metro area. Before launching INFOdocket, Price and Shirl Kennedy were the founders and senior editors at ResourceShelf and DocuTicker for 10 years. From 2006-2009 he was Director of Online Information Services at, and is currently a contributing editor at Search Engine Land.