2025 Basic Classification

Given the increasingly dynamic and multifaceted nature of higher education over the past 50 years, the American Council on Education and the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching are modernizing the classification structure for the 2025 Carnegie Classifications.

The 2025 Carnegie Classifications will include an update of the traditional classification framework, known as the Basic Classification, which was developed by the Carnegie Commission on Higher Education in the early 1970s to support its research program. The Basic Classification was originally published for public use in 1973, and subsequently updated in 1976, 1987, 1994, 2000, 2005, 2010, 2015, 2018, and 2021. The 2025 update will shift to more multidimensional categories that better reflect the breadth and diversity of colleges and universities today.

In addition to the Basic Classification, the 2025 Carnegie Classifications will also include a new Social and Economic Mobility classification, which will organize institutions by looking at student characteristics, access, and outcomes. More information about this classification design will be released in early 2024.

Updates for 2025

On November 1, 2023, ACE and the Carnegie Foundation announced updates to the 2025 classifications, which will include a revised Basic Classification and new Social and Economic Mobility classification. For more information about the changes, please see the press release and the FAQ.

Additionally, the organizations announced updates to the research designations, which will be listed separately from the Basic Classification. To see those updates, please visit the research designations page.

The 2025 Basic Classification will be based on a three-year average of reported data. The classifications will use data that institutions report to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) from academic years 2020-21, 2021-22, and 2022-23.

The next release of the classifications will follow a similar cadence as recent releases, with institutions receiving the opportunity to review their classification in late 2024 and early 2025 before they are finalized in spring 2025. During the review process, institutions who believe their three-year rolling average presents an anomaly may appeal to use their most recent year (2022-23) of data.

Provide feedback for the 2025 classification methodology

The core purpose of the Carnegie Classification system is to organize the landscape of American colleges and universities by creating groups of similar types of institutions, and it is meant to be a descriptive tool. There are 33 groups in the current system, which organizes most institutions primarily by academic program concentration or the highest degree awarded.

The 2025 Carnegie Classifications will shift to a more multidimensional approach, organizing institutions by multiple characteristics to create peer groups. Over the past 18 months, we have gathered feedback from institutional leaders, researchers, and other users of the classifications about the dimensions and characteristics they would find most helpful, and while we have put much thought into the new organization, in order to make these descriptions most useful and accurate, we would welcome ideas from institutions and users of the classifications. We are particularly interested in hearing your thoughts about:

  • Which dimensions or characteristics would maximize the creation of peer groups of institutions (e.g., size, highest degree awarded, location, resources)
  • How those dimensions would be defined (e.g., how to define location)
  • How many dimensions and how many groupings would be most useful (e.g., three dimensions that create 48 groupings, five dimensions that create 100 groupings)
  • Whether certain types of institutions, such as colleges that primarily award associate degrees, should have different characteristics in creating peer groups
  • What additional data would be helpful for users to create custom groupings (e.g., religious affiliation, MSI status)
  • How certificate or other non-degree program data should be utilized
  • The continued development or release of data that was incorporated in the other universal classifications (i.e., Undergraduate Instructional Program, Graduate Instructional Program, Enrollment Profile, Undergraduate Profile, Size and Setting)
  • What should be the name of this classification, which has been known as the Basic Classification since 2005
  • Other topics related to classification usage or design preferences

Our feedback window has closed. Please email carnegie@acenet.edu with any questions regarding the 2025 Basic Classification.