June 18, 2019

Revised Carnegie Classifications Create 85 New Doctoral Universities

Full List of Private Colleges and Universities Now Classified as “Doctoral/Professional Universities

You have to hand it to the folks at Indiana University Bloomington’s Center for Postsecondary Research.  They really know how to bury a story.

Since 2014 the center has been responsible for the Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education, the primary tool for categorizing all of the U.S. higher education institutions, updated only every three years.  The center released the latest update just a few weeks ago – on December 19, the Wednesday before Christmas.

Being preoccupied with sugar plums, almost everyone overlooked the release.  That was unfortunate in that the new classifications include an important gift for a number of colleges and universities.  These are institutions formerly under the seven bachelor’s and master’s degree categories that have now been moved to a new “Doctoral/Professional” classification.   To qualify for the D/PU category, an institution must award at least 30 professional practice doctoral degrees each in at least two programs.  Special focus institutions and tribal colleges are excluded.

Previously, institutions’ production of “first professional degrees,” such as M.D., J.D., or D.Div., hadn’t been directly factored into their Carnegie classifications.  The change affects 145 private nonprofit and public colleges and universities, plus 16 for-profits.

Creation of the doctoral/professional classification places a number of these institutions in the rarefied doctoral categories for the first time, instead of the far larger bachelor’s and master’s groups.  (There are only three doctoral classifications, with the other two being the research universities.)

The change is most profound for the 81 institutions previously grouped in the far broader master’s degree categories, and even more so, for the four others that had been in the bachelor’s degree groups – Clarke University (Iowa), High Point University (N.C.), Lewis & Clark College (Ore.), and Ohio Northern University.

For better or worse, colleges and universities are known by the company they keep, tending to be lumped together with similar institutions in their peer group.  These 85 have now been invited into a more exclusive club – rubbing shoulders with the major research universities.  The others already were in one of the existing doctoral/research categories, so the change for them is less dramatic.

One of the few institutions taking early advantage of their new designation was Wilkes University in Pennsylvania, which announced “Wilkes University Granted Doctoral University Designation.”  The release notes that in 2016-17 “Wilkes awarded 122 doctoral degrees across three programs: the doctor of pharmacy (69), the doctor of nursing practice (30) and the doctor of education (23).”

The new doctoral/professional classification aligns nicely with the current public interest in the practical aspects of a college education.  While it doesn’t require institutions to turn their backs on traditional higher education standards, it does spotlight some of the more career-oriented aspects of a college degree as well as some of higher education’s less visible doctoral programs.  That is maybe a worthwhile message to send in this time of proving the value of a college degree.

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