Cross-posted at The Huffington Post

The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching released an update to its classification system today, a revision to one of the leading frameworks for describing institutional diversity in U.S. higher education.

The update finds two striking changes in higher ed: a dramatic increase in private, for-profit institutions and an increase in institutions whose programs focus on professional fields like business and health.

The Carnegie Classification offers researchers a standardized way to describe and compare institutions. The system represents some of the main differences between colleges and universities in the U.S, monitoring things like undergraduate and graduate programs offered, enrollment profiles, and school size and setting. The classification framework was originally published in 1973 and was last updated in 2005. The update released today includes the most recent national data.

The Shift Away from the Traditional Liberal Arts College?

According to Chun-Mei Zhao, the project's director, more schools are offering professional programs at both the undergraduate and graduate level that are less selective and non residential. She says this trend has been triggered by the growth of the private, for-profit sector and adds that this suggests that the higher education landscape is shifting further away from the traditional model of the liberal arts college.

Since its last update, 483 newly classified institutions have been added (bringing the total to 4633). 77% of these are private, for-profit institutions. On the contrary, the growth in public and private, not-for-profit institutions has been small, only 4% and 19% of the newly classified schools respectively.

The classification framework also points to the increase in the number of what it calls professional focus institutions -- schools that award more than 60% of their degrees in professional fields. The number of institutions that grant more than 60% of their degrees in arts and sciences, on the other hand, fell by 5%. Health profession programs increased by 6% at both for-profit and not-for-profit institutions. Business and management programs increased by roughly the same percentage, but the growth was almost entirely at for-profit schools.

Also notable in today's figures: substantial growth in the number of traditional two-year colleges, as well as the number of two-year colleges starting to offer bachelor's degrees.

For-Profit Schools: Supply and Demand

The Chronicle of Higher Education suggests that the growth of for-profit schools might be slightly exaggerated by the Carnegie Classification lists the individual campuses of the University of Phoenix, ITT Technical Institute, DeVry University and the like as separate institutions.

The Chronicle cites at least one university official who's cool on the significance of the new numbers, contending that the growth in the number of these private, for-profit institutions may be a question of supply, but not necessarily demand. Indeed, recent enrollment figures from the University of Phoenix revealed a 40% drop in enrollment in the last quarter of 2010.

Audrey Watters


Hack Education

The History of the Future of Education Technology

Back to Archives