Carnegie Classifications Reimagined


​​​​​​​​​​​​​​Aired December 5, 2023

Jon, Sarah, and Mushtaq are thrilled to mark the 100th episode milestone of dotEDU! Also, ACE President Ted Mitchell joins Mushtaq and Jon to dive into the upcoming changes to the renowned Carnegie Classifications along with Timothy Knowles, president of the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching.

Here are some of the links and references from this week’s show:

Carnegie Classifications To Make Major Changes in How Colleges and Universities Are Grouped and Recognized, Set Clear Threshold for Highest Level of Research
ACE | Nov. 1, 2023

A New Approach to Categorizing Colleges
Inside Higher Ed | Nov. 1, 2023 

Changes to the Next Iteration of the Carnegie Classifications: We Want Your Feedback
Carnegie Classifications | Nov. 1, 2023

The Carnegie Foundation and the American Council on Education Announce Partnership on the Carnegie Classifications for Institutions of Higher Education
ACE | Feb. 9, 2022

Hosts and Guests
Timothy Knowles
President, Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching
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Timothy Knowles - President, Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching - Guest
Timothy Knowles
President, Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching

 Read this episode's transcript

Jon Fansmith: Hello, and welcome to the 100th episode of dotEDU, the higher education policy podcast from the American Council on Education. You can't see it, but my co-hosts, Mushtaq Gunja and Sarah Spreitzer are here smiling cheek to cheek over our 100th episode. So I guess guys, the question I'd have is, did you ever think we'd get to 100 episodes?

Sarah Spreitzer: I mean, I would say no. I would also say I heard on the 100th episode, we don't actually have to record a podcast. We'll just do some sort of clip show, right? Isn't that what we said?

Jon Fansmith: No. And again, this goes back to your lack of preparation for these podcasts, which we were talking about offline. But in fact, we have a fantastic episode for our 100th episode. We are joined a little bit later by the president of the Carnegie Foundation, Tim Knowles, and president of the American Council on Education, Ted Mitchell -- shouldn't stumble over his name -- who are going to be talking with us about the Carnegie Classifications, a subject Mushtaq is joining me for with all of his expertise too. So a great episode that people should definitely listen for, but it is our 100th episode and it's exciting. I mean, I'm legitimately surprised in a really positive way we're here at 100 going strong. It's great working with you guys on this.

Mushtaq Gunja: So I prepared for this 100th episode two trivia questions around that important number 100, around the centennial. For Sarah Spreitzer.

Sarah Spreitzer: Really?

Mushtaq Gunja: One, no. One of the questions is for you, Sarah, one for Jon.

Sarah Spreitzer: Okay.

Mushtaq Gunja: Sarah, who is the only basketball player to score 100 points in a game?

Sarah Spreitzer: Okay, and this is obviously for the podcast fans because I know nothing about sports, nothing. So I will just say Larry Bird, which probably dates me.

Mushtaq Gunja: So the answer's not that. You're going to keep thinking. I'm going to give you some hints. He's tall. He was a Philadelphia 76er, very famous. I mean, not that Larry Bird is not famous. He's very famous too, but also very famous. You get 30 seconds to Google this. Sarah, while I ask Jon. Jon, what is the Centennial State? Which state's nickname is the Centennial State?

Jon Fansmith: Oh man, these are tough questions, Mushtaq. Well, I mean, the other one I could have easily answered the other question.

Mushtaq Gunja: I know that Sarah Spritzer knows the answer to the Centennial State question.

Sarah Spreitzer: Really? I do?

Mushtaq Gunja: Sarah! Play along.

Jon Fansmith: Missouri. I'm going to say Missouri.

Mushtaq Gunja: It's Colorado for the Centennial State, Sarah who scored?

Jon Fansmith: Wilt Chamberlain.

Mushtaq Gunja: Wilt Chamberlain. That is true. See, this is what happens. This is also why I haven't actually been on 100 episodes. You guys brought me in midstream, and I'm assuming that this show of trivia probably will now get me off of the podcast before we get to 150 or 200.

Jon Fansmith: I want to be abundantly clear Mushtaq, we have had two other prior co-hosts, both outside of the government relations sphere, both left ACE rather than continue with the podcast. So the only way you're escaping is by actually leaving the organization.

Sarah Spreitzer: Don't give him any ideas. What are you doing?

Mushtaq Gunja: So friends, you guys have been at this for 100 episodes. Do you guys have favorite episodes, favorite moments from the last five years? Could it be five years, four years? Five years?

Jon Fansmith: Years, right? This is our fifth season. Four and a half years, five seasons. That sounds right.

Sarah Spreitzer: Yeah, I mean, I think the podcast really helped in some ways keep me sane during COVID. I don't know why. It was just nice to see you guys and to continue with that kind of spot of normalness in the work from home.

Jon Fansmith: Yeah, I mean, along Sarah's lines, it sounds probably a little cliche and more sentimental than I generally am, but it's been really nice working with the two of you with, our previous co-hosts, but also we get really interesting people on and a lot of times actually the conversations we have preparing for the podcast, I probably shouldn't say this, I'm sure producers don't like this. Those are such wide-ranging, engaging conversations. You get to know people in a way that we don't necessarily get to in our normal line of work. And that's been great for me. It's in a lot of ways, pulls me in a lot of different directions, exposes me to things that my day-to-day might not. So it's just been a great experience and probably too many different good guests to cite.

Mushtaq Gunja: One of the things that I really, really appreciate about the podcast is just being able to ask you what's going on on the hill. I ask that genuinely from a place of not knowing as much as I want to know, and I'm so happy to be able to come to the podcast and be able to just hear in a couple of minutes what a nice succinct explanation of whatever crazy act Spreitzer is looking at. So this month is the DETERRENT Act, which I literally would know nothing about.

Sarah Spreitzer: I don't want to talk about it anymore. Yes, it has to do with foreign gift reporting. I thought you were going to say you don't want to ever hear anything more about accreditation or appropriations from Jon Fansmith.

Jon Fansmith: He gave up on that a while ago.

Mushtaq Gunja: Well, this is the thing. I get to now hear about it in two, three minute bite chunks as opposed to diving deeper in. But I learned a ton. I know 90 percent of the stuff that I need to know probably in the two or three minutes, and I really, really do appreciate it and I love getting to hang out with the producers too, and they do all the great work behind the scenes, our technical folks and the people that prepare us all. So Audrey, Laurie, Jack, Malcolm, Anthony Trueheart, everybody that works on this podcast, we're just so grateful for all of you. And some of those people are here today with us. Is that right?

Jon Fansmith: Yeah, we have a couple. Audrey, Malcolm?

Audrey Hamilton: I know you're going to make us come out of hiding and actually go on the podcast. Yeah, this is Audrey. I've been producing the podcast since the beginning, so this is really exciting for me. I just want to say thank you to all of you for listening. Our listeners have been growing this whole time, so that's just been so exciting for us to see that you all like what we're doing and keep listening. So thank you so much. This has been really, really, really fun. And of course I get to sit here and take a break from the actual work of the day and then watch you guys talk, listen to you guys talk about things that I find sometimes confusing, but often very, very, very interesting and enlightening, and I get to bring that to our audience. So that's fun. So thank you.

Malcolm Moore: Yeah, I agree with Audrey. This is Malcolm, and I've been working on the podcast since we've started and it's been a very amazing journey and through all the different iterations and all of the changes when we had to figure out, Hey, how are we going to keep recording with COVID? And we've been able to keep it going and it's been a joy and just the ability to continue working and building this with you all and then bringing in Anthony and he came in and hit the ground running and it's been amazing. And this has been one of the highlights of just our time here at ACE. And so it's been great getting to this milestone together.

Jon Fansmith: And it bears repeating and repeating and repeating, but there are so many amazing people you just heard from Audrey, you just heard from Malcolm, but Laurie Arnston, Anthony Trueheart, Jack Nicholson, who have been here behind us making us sound so good frankly in spite of us, not because of us. They are the real reasons that this podcast is the success that it is. And we are so lucky to have such a talented team behind them pushing us, getting the content out to you in the format that does making it sound as good as it does. So we're a really lucky team to have the team we have on this podcast.

Mushtaq Gunja: And just, I want to shout out Rebecca Morris who helps along the way as well, and our old co-hosts, the ones that I guess I sort of replaced, Jon Turk and Lorelle Espinosa. Love you guys, miss you guys. And I know that you're listening every other week fortnightly to this podcast as it comes out. So thank you. And to all our listeners, we've had a lot of fun over the last 100 years, or 100 years feels like, over the last 100 episodes. But if there are guests, if there are topics that you would like us to tackle, please send in suggestions. I know that we ask for that all the time, but we would love to keep going for another 100 episodes and we would love to make sure that we're doing it in a way that meets what you want to hear. So thanks guys.

Sarah Spreitzer: And Mushtaq, I would just end with a thank you to both you and Jon for being the co-host, but I also have a trivia question for you.

Mushtaq Gunja: Oh, dear God.

Sarah Spreitzer: So one of the things, I don't know if our podcast audience knows that Mushtaq tried out and was on Jeopardy for an episode, so I just Googled Jeopardy questions, Mushtaq, and one this is in the category ends with a, and I think it's very appropriate for our 100th episode, very celebratory. So here's the question, whether flavored with strawberry, peach or banana, a margarita always contains this.

Mushtaq Gunja: Oh dear God. So Sarah, you may or may not know that I don't drink at all. So it contains an umbrella.

Sarah Spreitzer: Actually, I wonder if you could argue that that does fit under the category ends with a, but the answer was tequila.

Mushtaq Gunja: Tequila, yeah. My potent potables knowledge is very poor. But for the rest of you on this podcast who've helped, I hope you have a little drink, a champagne. Is that what people drink for the 100th episode?

Jon Fansmith: It is. And thanks everyone who's come on as a guest too worth mentioning. And we will be right back after the break with Ted, Tim and Mushtaq.


Jon Fansmith: And welcome back. As Mushtaq and I teased at the start of the episode for our special 100th episode--still have trouble saying 100 episodes--we are joined by two very special guests today, Tim Knowles and Ted Mitchell. Ted and Tim, welcome to our podcast.

Tim Knowles: Thank you for having me.

Ted Mitchell: Yep, great to be here.

Jon Fansmith: You both seem very excited to be here, and I know that's because we have a very exciting topic to talk about. Something Mushtaq has been keeping in our ears for a while and I think has been teasing the audience with dribs and drabs throughout our podcast episodes. But to that point, Mushtaq, maybe I will let you tee up the conversation we're having today and give a brief summary of what we're going to be talking about.

Mushtaq Gunja: Sure. Yeah. So early last month, November 1st, we made an announcement, the Carnegie Foundation, American Council on Education made an announcement about the future of the Carnegie Classifications as it relates to this thing that we know that many of us love, many of us hate, the basic classifications. So we made some changes around, or we announced the changes that we are going to make around, the basic classification, what every institution in this country that grants degrees gets. And then also some changes around the methodology for R1 and R2 and how we just generally think about research in the classifications.

So excited to be able to dive into the topic. Excited to be on this side of the hosting thing. It's cool to be able to answer questions as opposed to ask questions. And in that vein, let me ask a couple of questions just to start, Tim, you, my friend, have been at the Carnegie Foundation at the helm of the Carnegie Foundation now for a couple of years, and you inherited the Carnegie Classifications, right? They've been at the foundation for 48, 50 years at this point now. How did you approach these classifications? What was your first impression of what these do in the world, what they can be in the world?

Tim Knowles: Well, thanks Mushtaq and Jon, first of all, it's a privilege to be here for the centennial Podcast. So my first impressions when I got to the foundation of the classifications was this is an incredibly important inheritance. It was like finding a chest of gold in the back garden. And I know that some of your listeners are probably saying, wait, wait, wait, what you, you're comparing buried treasure to a way of organizing higher education in our nation. That seems, Tim, a stretch. But over the last 50 years, as you know well, Mushtaq, and Ted may know better than any of us, the classifications have become an incredibly important to the sector, first and foremost, to scholarship and understanding what the American higher education sector looks like. But then things that not everyone sees are they are also anchoring some of the most controversial rankings in the nation. They are taken into consideration in terms of large flows of public capital and they've led to higher ed institutions themselves behaving in particular ways. So they're really high leverage in those senses.

And my other impression is, in large part to having early conversations with Ted at the beginning of my tenure. was really that they needed re-imagining for the next 50 years. And that was something that catalyzed really productive and provocative conversations between Ted, the team at ACE and Carnegie, which has led us, I think, in part to where we are.

Jon Fansmith: And Ted, Tim, I think really well described his experience with coming into the role at the Carnegie Foundation has and how he perceived the classifications, his experience with them. You've had experience with the classifications in a variety of different roles before they came to ACE you were a college president, senior administrator at the Department of Education. Can you talk a little bit about what that did in terms of shaping your perspective of the classifications?

Ted Mitchell: Yeah, I think it's really interesting. Alfred North Whitehead quipped at one point that nobody really knows who discovered water, but he guaranteed it wasn't a fish. And I think in all of us who have spent time for the last 50 years in higher education, the Carnegie Classifications have been a bit like the water, that they surround us. I could take this metaphor and draw it, I can't connect it to treasure chests just yet, but I'm going to work on it throughout the podcast. But it's been a way of thinking that we have never questioned. At the same time, I think especially when I came to ACE, where we represent a two-year, four-year, public and private institutions, it became really clear that over time the institutions had evolved in a way that wasn't reflected in the classifications. And so the classifications became a thing rather than just an environment.

And so when Tim and I first got together, and Tim and I have been friends and known each other for a long time, it was a remarkable convergence of need. Carnegie really taking a look at this and saying it's 50 years old, it doesn't reflect the diversity of higher education. It creates impediments around the progress of some. And we'll get to that in a moment. And from the ACE perspective saying it really isn't who we are anymore. And then a piece that we'll get to in just a few moments is it really has always been about inputs and not outcomes. And I think that one of the things that Carnegie and ACE agreed on very early in our conversations is that we needed to move from a classification system that was solely based on a very narrow set of inputs to one that was more broadly considering the work that institutions do.

Jon Fansmith: And I know we want to hear a little bit more about the work that's underway. And to be fair, you both sort of teased this, but Tim and Ted, I wanted to give you an opportunity to frame particularly, was there a particular inspiration, was there a particular moment? Was there this hallelujah moment or what was the evolution of thinking that said, "Look, we really need to start making changes in what we're doing here."

Tim Knowles: I think as Ted said, first thing was anything that's been around for half of a century really requires a careful look. And so that was really the motivation number one, higher ed has changed markedly in those 50 years and the classifications needed to catch up. I had a conversation with the president of an extraordinary HBCU with a profound and rich history of innovation, intellectual breakthroughs, and he said his university had been carefully looking at what it would require to become an R1 institution, a Research One institution. And he had concluded that it would take 100 years to get there. That caused pause and perhaps it was slightly hyperbole, but embedded, there was a set of concerns about how are we recognizing extraordinary work both on the research front and on all the other contributions that post-secondary institutions to make to our country. And whether it really did require a step back and in collaboration with the sector, in collaboration with the best thinkers in the country, thinking about new methodologies again for the next 50 years.

Ted Mitchell: And I think if I could add to Tim's observation, when you think about that conversation, there's a remarkable phrase in there about getting to R1, which I think was also a motivator for ACE because we, again, looking at the broad sweep of institutions, we began to recognize that this idea of getting to R1 was coming to dominate strategic planning by institutions, coming to inform, if not distort investments that institutions were making all against this goal of becoming a part of something that originally was a category, just “let's describe people." And so over the 50 years, really the R1 in particular had become quite normative. There are other places in the classifications where this normativity--we want to be something, so let's move ourselves there--has really become a bit of a problem and has defocused institutions in some ways by focusing them so uniquely on meeting the qualifications, by the way, very opaque qualifications for becoming R1.

Jon Fansmith: Yeah. And Mushtaq, I'm going to take advantage of having you as a guest rather than a host right now, but Ted and Tim have walked us through a little bit of how we got to the understanding that there was a necessity to make changes. Do you want to explain to the audience exactly what those changes look like?

Mushtaq Gunja: Sure, no, absolutely. And I'll try to be a little bit brief because probably this could go for 20 or 30 minutes. Let me just do it in a three-minute snapshot if that's okay. I want to jump off something that Tim said, which was, anything that's been around for 50 years probably needs to be re-looked at. And I guess I want to go back to the main purpose of a classification system, which I think is to group like things together. And I think 50 years ago when the classifications were first created in 1973, I think they did a pretty decent job of grouping like-institutions together.

But then higher ed changed tremendously over the last 50 years. And institutions are just so different than they used to be. We have community colleges that are offering baccalaureate degrees, we have doctoral universities that are offering certificates. Everybody's just moving all over the place. Institutions have grown in terms of the types of degrees that they offer, types of certificates, non-degree credentials that they're offering. And the classifications just didn't keep up. The classifications originally and for the last 50 years have organized institutions primarily by the highest degree that they offer.

The first part of the change that we are making going forward is we are going to classify institutions not just by the highest degree they offer, but by a range of possible dimensions. Think instead something that's a little bit more Myers-Briggsy, instead of just dividing the world into extroverts and introverts, we're going to give institutions multiple labels. So you're not just an extrovert, you're an ENFJ, or in this case we could describe an institution as being highest degree master's, primary degree bachelor's, a large institution in terms of size and in a rural setting. And there's seven or eight or nine possible descriptors that we could use. But we know that we're going to move away from just a single label.

So I think we're going to put this in the show notes, but we are going to be asking for feedback from the field about exactly which labels to use. And we have a whole set of sub questions that we've been asking for feedback from. Thank you to all of you who've already given us some feedback. We've gotten dozens of responses to some very detailed questions. That's great. Would love to hear from you.

But the first move is a move away from single label that organizes institutions by highest degree to something that's multidimensional. Amazing. Second thing that we are doing is re-imagining the way that we think about research. So Ted talked about the move up to and into R1 status, and Ted is, I mean probably everybody that's listening to this podcast sort of knows how normative that R1 part of the classification has become. I think part of the reason that it became so normative was its opaqueness. I think it took on a little bit of a mystical quality. You don't know exactly how you get there, you know, got to do sort of a lot. It must mean something really amazing to be able to get to this category. And indeed the methodology that we employed for the last several cycles was pretty darn complicated. You had to be a very particular type of institution to be an R1. You had to be for the most part, a big flagship type or Ivy League type sort of institution that granted degrees across a whole range of fields that did both science and engineering and non-science and engineering work. And even then you had to sort of do some weirdness around calculating how well your neighbors did and then trying to do better than them.

We're going to do away with all of that for "getting into," I'm putting that in quotes, R1. We are moving to a simple threshold approach where any institution that expends more than $50 million worth of research expenditures in a year and grants more than 70 doctoral PhDs, research doctorates, will be an R1 institution. That's it. And it will make the category much cleaner and clearer.

Now, this has very important downstream effects because there are a set of institutions that have been focused on their mission, on a very particular type of work. So think your STEM institutions, think North Carolina A&T, an excellent institution that in its name is a STEM-focused institution, they were going to have a very hard time becoming an R1 institution under our old methodology because their focus on science hurt them. They needed to create programs in social science and humanities for them to become an R1. I think this new methodology will allow, this new, fairly clear threshold, will allow an institution just to double down on the things that they do well, to be the best versions of themselves. We're not going to ask institutions to change their missions to become an R1. I think that's incredibly important, on the one hand.

The other way we're re-imagining research is we really want to recognize that there's research happening all over the higher ed ecosystem. We said that higher ed has changed so much in the last 50 years. It's so true. There was a time in 1973 where almost all of the research was happening at our R1 and R2 institutions. These days, there's three times the amount of research that is happening in our non R1 and R2s, then is happening in the R2 institutions actually. Billions of dollars worth of research is happening at institutions that are focused on undergrads that are not trying to be doctoral universities. And we have not recognized that in the Carnegie Classifications at all in the last 50 years. And I think not recognizing the research that's happening everywhere has actually helped lead to this chase to try to be an R1 or an R2, because otherwise there's no way in which you could have your research recognized.

So we are also now, the second part of the research work, is we're creating a new category, research colleges and university category that recognizes the research that's happening at all of our institutions that are doing research, and that can be community colleges and it can be tribal universities and it can be our baccalaureate institutions. So Ted, I'm going to pick on you for a second, Occidental College, a college that is focused primarily on undergrads isn't trying to be a doctoral university is doing research. They're doing really important research that helps the community, it furthers knowledge and maybe most importantly, it's about helping undergrads in their research work. And we're going to be able to recognize that now for the first time. And I couldn't be more excited about that last part of the announcement as well. So maybe that was five minutes. I'm sorry, Jon, but as you can tell, I'm thrilled to be able to make these announcements.

Jon Fansmith: No, I always am amazed by your ability to very succinctly explain what's going on in a way that's not too jargony. So I assume that's just your great training on this podcast.

Mushtaq Gunja: I learned it all from Tim. And I do want to say one other thing, which is, and I'm not saying this just because you're here, but the foundation has been just such great partners in this work. I mean, I learned so much from the folks at the foundation every day and their willingness and interest in looking at something that's been around for so long has had so much cachet and to be willing to reimagine. It's really inspiring and really have enjoyed working with you and the team Tim.

Tim Knowles: And Mushtaq and Ted, the same goes, I mean, Carnegie could not do this without ACE. The kind of intentionality and care that you've taken to engage stakeholders in the process in particular is one of the benchmarks of what I think will be a very successful set of outcomes for the sector. So I appreciate you.

Ted Mitchell: Well, and I'll pile on the work with Tim and with the foundation. It really has been extraordinary. And I think as we think about the change that we're hoping to make in the world, that is a change in institutional behavior, a change in the distribution of philanthropic and public capital. A partnership between 100-year-old, 110-year-old foundation and 105-year-old association is really the right way to get this accomplished. This is not a flighty fly-by-night thing. This is not something that somebody put together in a backroom. These are two heavyweight organizations coming together to say, we need to change the way we think about our institutions.

Jon Fansmith: And I don't want to be the person interrupting all of this nice love and positivity, but as we all know-

Ted Mitchell: It is your job.

Jon Fansmith: It is kind of my job. That's why I work in government relations. I'm always spoiling the party. But change is exciting. Change can also be a little bit difficult. And we've talked a lot about where we saw the problems. Mushtaq did his usual brilliantly succinct way explaining the changes that are being proposed to address them. I think the next question is, I know there's been lots of consultation. I've seen Mushtaq's spreadsheet of hundreds of institutions, thousands of people he is talked to. I know you both Tim and Ted have done a lot of that work as well. But what are the expectations looking at this looking forward? What do we hope to see institutions do? What do we expect we'll see in the field? Smooth sailing? Do you anticipate any bumps? What are the hopes when you look forward as a result of this work?

Tim Knowles: I'll start by saying that the R1 arms race has created very clear winners and losers, or at least the perception of winners and losers. And when there are tranches of capital that follow that arms race, then there are actual winners and losers. And I think by creating a more diverse, more nuanced and more transparent depiction of the higher ed landscape, we're going to move away from that singular focus on, “how close are we?" And the other thing to keep in mind is that singular focus on R1 or not has also led a lot of other institutions, literally thousands of institutions, to not really think about where they fit in the landscape itself. So we're trying to create a much more holistic and representative picture that is useful for everyone, not just useful for a subset that might be aspiring to a top research activity category.

Ted Mitchell: Exactly right. And I think that one of the things that we hope to do, and I know we'll talk about this in a couple of minutes, is this is really the first part of what we see as a suite of changes that will begin to focus us not just on what institutions do, but what the outcome effects are for students. And so I think that people are appreciative of the work that we've done and the nuance that we're bringing to this so that they really will be able to see themselves in their classification, and now we hope to be able to bring the second layer of this into play with the creation of a social and economic mobility classification that will help institutions see how well they're marshaling their resources on this particular aspect of their mission, student success.

Mushtaq Gunja: One of the things that I've really been struck by are all of the third parties that use the classification system. So states and their performance funding models and just in their funding models generally really use the Carnegie Classifications in ways that I think might be slightly problematic. So an institution is a master's institution for purposes of the Carnegie Classifications right now if it offers more than 50 master's degrees. That's true if you offer 51 master's degrees and 20 bachelor's degrees or 51 master's degrees and 60,000 bachelor's degrees, either way you're a master's college. And I think that what that has led many institutions and third parties to do is to probably allocate resources in ways that are not really congruent with what the campuses really are today. And so I think this move to multi dimensionality will hopefully allow third parties to have a better set of tools to be able to use to actually group like things together. This is going to be important for funding. This is going to be important for accountability.

It's important for the institutions themselves as they think about who are the peers that look like you. If you're in the Master's Large category and you're using that Master's Large is the best way to be able to look at peer institutions, man, you're going to have a whole set of institutions that look really nothing like you. So giving institutions and third parties some new tool to be able to use will be really useful. I think.

Ted Mitchell: And I'm sorry we could go on this for days, but I'm going to take a page out of the Carnegie playbook. Carnegie has spent decades now developing methodology around improvement science. And when we look at the ultimate objectives, we want institutions not only to recognize themselves, but to find areas where they can improve and look for ways to improve. It doesn't really help if I'm one of those institutions that had 20,000 bachelor's degrees and 51 master's degrees to be comparing myself to an institution that is wildly different. But if I want to improve either my master's degree production or my undergraduate production, having a more sensitive comparison set is a way of identifying peers in a new and productive way.

Jon Fansmith: And I think that's fantastic context and clarification from all of you. I did want to touch on something Mushtaq teased this before a little bit, but I want to make sure we have sufficient time to talk about the socioeconomic mobility work. Tim, maybe I'll just start with you. And I know Ted and Mushtaq have plenty of thoughts on this, but how is that work going? How do you see the basic classifications and the socioeconomic mobility work interacting? What's that field look like?

Tim Knowles: Incredibly important, incredibly exciting. We're aiming to have more specificity by this spring for institutions themselves in terms of how we're thinking about it. So lots of work is underway right now, but just to back up a second, as I'm sure your listeners are aware, there's some incredible scholarship that looks at economic and social mobility in our nation over the last 50 to 70 years. And really unequivocally, there's a precipitous drop in a very problematic way. And if you dig below the surface of those data and look at low-income families in terms of their mobility, look by racial groups, you see even more problematic inequities in terms of opportunity to move along the economic ladder. So Raj Chetty is a scholar who's done some very important work on this front, but so has the Federal Reserve, so have economists from really multiple institutions, so are building clear visibility in terms of which kinds of institutions are accelerating access and outcomes for young people is fundamentally about addressing a major American challenge.

Ted referred earlier to the moving from a singularly inputs-based focus to an outcomes-based focus. And I think that's going to be an incredibly powerful next vector of work here. The aim is really less about naming names. A reminder for everybody, this is not about rankings. This is not about distinguishing between the 599th and the 600th best or not best school. This is about classifying, putting institutions in like groups and then looking at access issues and looking at outcomes issues.

And then the opportunity, as Ted just said, is to learn, is to actually learn who's doing it well, how are they doing it, what are they doing? How can like institutions emulate some of those lessons? Can we accelerate economic mobility through a very intentional learning strategy? And yes, we want to align incentives. We want public and philanthropic dollars to move towards institutions, which are effectively moving the needle in terms of economic mobility. And we want to create some level of public visibility so that parents and students and communities actually have a more crystalline picture of which institutions are doing well. That feels like a social good that the classifications can help to undergird.

Mushtaq Gunja: Jon, just connecting a question that you asked a little bit ago about what do we see the incentive being? Here's the change I would love to see in the world. When funding agencies decide where they want to send some dollars, it would be lovely if they had a new basic classification within a new institutional page that gives a little bit of a deep dive into the types of degrees that are offered. It would be nice for them to know at a different level what's the research that's happening at the institution. And it would be awesome if we could give those funding agencies where an institution is grouped on social and economic mobility. And so we can give them a snapshot of what are the access numbers, what do they look like at an institution? What do the outcomes look like? And by giving third parties a more holistic view of what the institution is rather than just they're an R1 or they're an R2, I think some of these funding agencies are going to be able to really make some more intelligent decisions about where they want to send their dollars. And I really think that's the way in which I think the basic and the social and economic mobility work can really help third parties use the classifications.

Ted Mitchell: Yeah, I don't think you could do a better job than Tim did in describing the overall objective. And I'll just give a couple of examples. Many of the federal funding agencies have as one of their priorities increasing the diversity of scientists and engineers. And it'd be a good idea for those agencies to be able to see that and ask the question, where are the institutions where the needle is moving because of a very conscious attempt and effort and successful effort to bring low-income students, women, and minorities into engineering and science fields. And at the end, we intend to have a suite of classifications that enables agencies to do just that. It doesn't mean that all agencies can will or should, but it does mean that agencies who have that particular lens will have the ability to discriminate between institutions on a variety of different measures.

Jon Fansmith: And we are running a little bit past time, but this is a rich topic. And before we went, I had one last question. It's a little bit of a tricky question. I'm throwing it mostly to you, Tim, and to you Ted, and you dodged it a little bit before, but are there things you're worried about this process? Are there worries you're hearing that you think are raising concerns? Is there anything that flags for you that as you look at this, you don't necessarily know what the outcome looks like?

Ted Mitchell: Tim mentioned the outreach earlier. I worry and I think that the question of tissue rejection of this transplant is real, but I think that we are doing everything that we can by reaching out to institutions now to help them develop an understanding of what we're up to. Let's remember that all of this that we're talking about goes live in 2025. And so we and institutions will have a couple of years still to work this out in a way that allows, my goal would be for every institution to look at their classifications and say, "Yep, that reflects who we are and what we do." We've got a couple of years to get there, but I think not surprising the field is going to be really important.

If I can just end on what I think maybe a significant shift that we've not addressed directly is that if you think way back and if you look at the founding documents of the Carnegie Classifications, they were built for researchers and institutions, and over time they'd become much more public. And we think that that's a good thing and we want to leverage that because in the end, we want the Carnegie Classifications, the suite of classifications to be beneficial to American society in particular by helping institutions address the needs of their students.

Jon Fansmith: And I think that is a perfect note to end this conversation on and a really nice way to capstone what all of this work is for Tim, Ted, Mushtaq, thank you so much for joining us on this centennial episode to steal Tim's term for it. It has been a great one. I know there will probably be a lot of follow-up from folks. We're going to have some contact information dropped in the liner notes as well. But again, thanks, fantastic overview and I'm sure we'll spur a lot of more conversation and engagement. Thanks so much for coming on.

Ted Mitchell: Thank you.

Mushtaq Gunja: Thanks, Jon.

Tim Knowles: Thank you.

Jon Fansmith: Thank you for joining us on dotEDU. If you enjoyed the show, please consider subscribing, rating and leaving a review on your favorite podcast platform. Your feedback is important to us and it helps other policy wonks discover our show. Don't forget to follow ACE on social media to stay updated on upcoming episodes and other higher education content. You can find us on X, LinkedIn and Instagram. And of course, if you have any questions, comments, or suggestions for future episodes, please feel free to reach out to podcast at A-C-E-N-E-T dot E-D-U. We love hearing from our listeners and who knows? Your input might inspire a future episode.​

About the Podcast

​Each episode of dotEDU presents a deep dive into a major public policy issue impacting college campuses and students across the country. Hosts from ACE are joined by guest experts to lead you through thought-provoking conversations on topics such as campus free speech, diversity in admissions, college costs and affordability, and more. Find all episodes of the podcast at the dotEDU page.

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