Carnegie Classification

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The Carnegie Classification is the leading framework for describing institutional diversity in U.S. higher education.

Derived from empirical data on colleges and universities, the Carnegie Classification was originally published in 1973, and subsequently updated in 1976, 1987, 1994, 2000, 2005, 2010, 2015 and 2018 to reflect changes among colleges and universities. This framework has been widely used in the study of higher education, both as a way to represent and control for institutional differences, and also in the design of research studies to ensure adequate representation of sampled institutions, students, or faculty.

Since 2005, the Carnegie Classification system has used a structure of six parallel classifications:

  • Basic Classification (the traditional Carnegie Classification Framework)
  • Undergraduate Instructional Program Classification
  • Graduate Instructional Program Classification
  • Enrollment Profile Classification
  • Undergraduate Profile Classification
  • Size & Setting Classification

These classifications provide different lenses through which to view U.S. colleges and universities, offering researchers greater analytic flexibility. These classifications were updated using the most recent national data available as of 2010 and collectively they depict the most current landscape of U.S. colleges and universities.

UW Tacoma’s Profile Across the Six Carnegie Classifications



# of Public Institutions in the US in this Category

  1. Basic

Master’s Colleges & Universities: Larger Programs


  1. Undergraduate Instructional Program

Arts & sciences plus professions some graduate coexistence


  1. Graduate Instructional Program

Postbaccalaureate: Other-dominant, with Arts & Sciences


  1. Enrollment Profile

High Undergraduate


  1. Undergraduate Profile

Four-year, full-time, selective, higher transfer-in


  1. Size and Setting

Four-year, medium, primarily nonresidential


* At least 80 % of bachelor's degree majors were in the arts and sciences, and graduate degrees were observed in up to half of the fields corresponding to undergraduate majors.

Community Engagement Classification

The Carnegie Foundation's Classification for Community Engagement is an elective classification, meaning that it is based on voluntary participation by institutions. The elective classification involves data collection and documentation of important aspects of institutional mission, identity and commitments and requires substantial effort invested by participating institutions. The classification is not an award. It is an evidence-based documentation of institutional practice to be used in a process of self-assessment and quality improvement. In this way, it is similar to an accreditation process of self-study. The documentation is reviewed by a National Review Panel to determine whether the institution qualifies for recognition as a community engaged institution.

There are 359 institutions that hold this elective classification. UW Tacoma received this classification in 2020.

UW Tacoma’s Uniqueness

Number of Public Universities in the US that match all of UW Tacoma’s categories: ZERO

Each institution can now be described more comprehensively by its composite profile in the set of all Carnegie classifications. Across all classifications, the theoretical number of possible classificatory combinations far exceeds the number of US higher education institutions. The higher education landscape is thus "patchy," with certain combinations of Carnegie classifications represented by a number of institutions and other combinations with no institutions at all.

One practical consequence occurs in the process of peer selection — no other institution in the Carnegie database is an exact match for UW Tacoma's profile.


The Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education (n.d.). About Carnegie Classification. Retrieved (October, 2019) from