Painting of American Colleges

Methodology: College Classification

Recognitions and rankings at Best-In-Class Colleges all start with putting institutions into basic classifications. The process of creating basic classifications for higher education institutions involves a thorough evaluation and analysis conducted by professionals in the field. These professionals, typically experts in education policy and research, follow a systematic approach to determine the appropriate classification for each institution. While the specific methodology may vary, the general process includes the following steps:

College Classification Process

1. Data Collection: Professionals gather comprehensive data from various sources related to colleges and universities. This information encompasses factors such as institutional mission, curriculum, degree offerings, research activity, enrollment size, and student demographics.

2. Criteria Development: Based on the collected data and extensive research, professionals develop a set of criteria or indicators that will be used to classify institutions. These criteria are carefully designed to capture the unique characteristics and goals of each institution, while also facilitating meaningful comparisons across different colleges.

3. Analysis and Categorization: The collected data is analyzed using statistical techniques and qualitative assessment methods. Professionals examine the institutional attributes and performance indicators to identify patterns, trends, and distinct features within the dataset. Through a comprehensive analysis, institutions are grouped into distinct categories based on their similarities and differences.

4. Iterative Process: The categorization process is often iterative, involving multiple rounds of analysis and refinement. Professionals review and refine the criteria and classification system to ensure its accuracy, reliability, and relevance. This iterative approach allows for adjustments and improvements based on feedback from the education community and emerging trends in higher education.

5. Peer Review and Validation: The proposed classification system undergoes rigorous peer review and validation by experts in the field of higher education research and policy. This step ensures the credibility and objectivity of the classifications and helps address any potential biases or limitations in the process.

The process of creating basic classifications for higher education institutions involves a comprehensive examination of institutional characteristics, performance indicators, and qualitative assessments. Through rigorous analysis, professionals develop a classification system that accurately reflects the diverse landscape of colleges and universities, enabling meaningful comparisons and insights within the field of higher education.

Within each classification, each recognition further groups colleges by geographic region. Finally, colleges are ranked according to performance metrics. These latter two processes are described in separate articles.

Basic College Classifications

This process currently results in the 33 basic college classifications below. The term “baccalaureate” college is reserved for colleges that offer a variety of bachelor’s degrees, whereas “special focus” colleges center around one field of study. Additionally, colleges described as “baccalaureate” must predominantly award undergraduate degrees, including bachelor’s degrees. While institutions categorized as “Baccalaureate Colleges – Arts & Sciences Focus” do offer studies across a range of fields, more than half of their degrees fall into the category of Arts & Sciences. In the titles below, the term “traditional” refers to traditional students who enter college aimed at a degree, as opposed to students who may intend to take specific classes.

1.            Associate’s Colleges: High Transfer-High Traditional

2.            Associate’s Colleges: High Transfer-Mixed Traditional/Nontraditional

3.            Associate’s Colleges: High Transfer-High Nontraditional

4.            Associate’s Colleges: Mixed Transfer/Career & Technical-High Traditional

5.            Associate’s Colleges: Mixed Transfer/Career & Technical-Mixed Traditional/Nontraditional

6.            Associate’s Colleges: Mixed Transfer/Career & Technical-High Nontraditional

7.            Associate’s Colleges: High Career & Technical-High Traditional

8.            Associate’s Colleges: High Career & Technical-Mixed Traditional/Nontraditional

9.            Associate’s Colleges: High Career & Technical-High Nontraditional

10.         Special Focus Two-Year: Health Professions

11.         Special Focus Two-Year: Technical Professions

12.         Special Focus Two-Year: Arts & Design

13.         Special Focus Two-Year: Other Fields

14.         Baccalaureate/Associate’s Colleges: Associate’s Dominant

15.         Doctoral Universities: Very High Research Activity

16.         Doctoral Universities: High Research Activity

17.         Doctoral/Professional Universities

18.         Master’s Colleges & Universities: Larger Programs

19.         Master’s Colleges & Universities: Medium Programs

20.         Master’s Colleges & Universities: Small Programs

21.         Baccalaureate Colleges: Arts & Sciences Focus

22.         Baccalaureate Colleges: Diverse Fields

23.         Baccalaureate/Associate’s Colleges: Mixed Baccalaureate/Associate’s

24.         Special Focus Four-Year: Faith-Related Institutions

25.         Special Focus Four-Year: Medical Schools & Centers

26.         Special Focus Four-Year: Other Health Professions Schools

27.         Special Focus Four-Year: Engineering Schools

28.         Special Focus Four-Year: Other Technology-Related Schools

29.         Special Focus Four-Year: Business & Management Schools

30.         Special Focus Four-Year: Arts, Music & Design Schools

31.         Special Focus Four-Year: Law Schools

32.         Special Focus Four-Year: Other Special Focus Institutions

33.         Tribal Colleges

Each of these classifications contain causal variables that affect popular college grading metrics such as freshman retention rates, graduation rates, and loan repayment. Therefore, comparisons of colleges within their own basic classifications do a better job minimizing confounding variables and elucidating the quality of the education from individual colleges.

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