The Carnegie Foundation unveiled its new classification system on Thursday, Nov. 17. To anyone outside of higher education, this doesn’t mean anything. To those of us who make our living marketing colleges and universities, however, the new system matters. It could dramatically affect how we are viewed — and reviewed — by our peers, prospective students and those ever-important publications that rank our colleges and universities.
As Inside Higher Ed newsletter reports, the new classifications, “if used properly … might just help colleges identify true peers and look for weaknesses that need fixing.” That would be great. If the classifications are used properly. But many of us in higher ed are probably more interested in hearing how U.S. News and World Report plans to use the new Carnegie Classifications to assemble their categories for rankings. In the past, U.S. News used the old system to come up with such rankings as “national universities” (doctoral-granting) and the various specialty schools. But these new classifications are more complex. Maybe, if we’re lucky, they’re complex enough to render some of U.S. News‘ approaches to rankings meaningless. (I can dream, anyway.)
“While colleges will no doubt continue to boast about their rankings in various places, [Carnegie Foundation President Lee S.] Shulman and other Carnegie officials said their hope was that the range of comparisons would encourage colleges to find true peer institutions and then learn from them. And a college might find that it has one set of peers in undergraduate curriculum and another for transfer rates.”
No doubt college presidents and deans nationwide are putting the Carnegie Foundation’s website through the wringer today. The site is crashing as we blog.