The Carnegie Foundation and the American Council on Education Announce Partnership on the Carnegie Classifications for Institutions of Higher Education
February 09, 2022

The work will include how the Classifications can help to address the national imperative to improve social and economic mobility

The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching and the American Council on Education (ACE) are pleased to announce their collaboration on the next incarnation of the Carnegie Classifications. For the first time, the Universal and Elective Classifications will be brought together in a single organizational home at ACE. The two organizations will also work together to develop new and refined versions of the Classifications to better reflect the public purpose, mission, focus, and impact of higher education.

"The partnership with the American Council on Education is a unique and powerful opportunity to collaborate with institutions of higher education nationwide as we refine and build the Universal and Elective Carnegie Classifications that will guide and serve the field for the next 50 years," said Carnegie President Timothy Knowles.

"We could not be more excited to join forces with the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching to open a new chapter in the evolution of higher education’s gold standard institutional classification system," said Ted Mitchell, president of the American Council on Education. "Together, we are eager to work with the field to create a broad suite of classifications that will paint a more three-dimensional and nuanced picture of institutional achievement."

U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona said that,  "Colleges and universities need to reimagine themselves around inclusivity and student success, not selectivity and reputation," said U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona, "I commend the Carnegie Foundation and the American Council on Education for their vision, and I hope today’s announcement will be the beginning of a new competition among colleges—one that rewards colleges doing the most for upward mobility."

First published in 1973, the Classifications are the nation’s leading framework for describing diverse U.S. higher education institutions in like terms so that their work and impact can be understood in comparison to each other. In considering potential hosts, Carnegie looked for a partner with the credibility and respect of the field, as well as one that had the capacity to administer this complex and extensive program.

"We wanted a partner that shares our vision for a contemporary form of the Classifications that can better and more effectively serve higher education," said Carnegie Senior Vice President Paul LeMahieu. "We also wanted a partner with the credibility and respect of the field, as well as the capacity to lead an initiative as complex as this one. We are excited to have found all this in ACE and its leadership and staff."

This shared vision will be important during a time of heightened focus across the nation on issues of social and economic mobility, diversity, equity, and inclusion. The current moment compels serious attention to the manner in which higher education institutions address these areas. Both the Carnegie Foundation and ACE believe the time is right to transform the Carnegie Classification system to reflect the nation’s pressing social, racial, and economic concerns and challenge higher education institutions and their public, social, and commercial sector partners to meaningfully address them.

"In determining the impact of individual colleges and universities, it is important to consider their success in fostering social and economic mobility for their students," said Mitchell. "We believe that this next incarnation of the Carnegie Classifications will recognize and encourage a wider range of institutional excellence."

As the 50th anniversary of the Carnegie Classifications approaches, ACE and Carnegie will work together to add a new classification examining the extent to which institutions of higher education address their public purpose by enabling social and economic mobility nationwide. To be launched in 2023, the Social and Economic Mobility Classification will reflect an institution’s commitment to and success in achieving those goals while effectively serving a diverse, inclusive student populace.

"Much as the Universal Classification and its companion Elective Classification have exerted considerable influence in the higher education sector, we anticipate even more beneficial influence occasioned by the introduction of a social and economic mobility-focused Classification," said Knowles. "At the heart of it, the Foundation is committed to ensuring the postsecondary sector remains an engine of economic opportunity for all. In partnership with ACE, I expect that, over time, we will more squarely align the Classifications, public policy, capital, and learning with that essential aim." 

About the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching: The mission of the Foundation is to catalyze transformational change in education so that every student has the opportunity to live a healthy, dignified, and fulfilling life. For more information, please visit or follow Carnegie on Twitter @CarnegieFdn.

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