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In new sorting of colleges, Dartmouth falls out of an exclusive group

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By Nick Anderson February 4 at 7:00 AM
Dartmouth College in Hanover, N.H. (AP Photo/Jim Cole, File)
Dartmouth s elite standing in higher education is secure. Founded in 1769, the Ivy
League college in New Hampshire is esteemed worldwide for teaching and research
. But this week it fell out of a college club many want to enter: A group of rou
ghly 100 research-focused schools that insiders call R1.
Among the 15 schools that climbed into the R1 group were West Virginia, Northeas
tern and George Mason universities.
So what is R1 and why does it matter? This label
denoting schools with highest re
search activity
is part of a crucial sorting exercise that occurs once every five
years, called the Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education.
To many insiders, R1 is considered sort of the pinnacle of higher education
a sho
rthand for institutions to identify themselves, said Kevin Kinser, an associate p
rofessor of educational administration and policy studies at the State Universit
y of New York at Albany. He is on the advisory board of the Carnegie initiative.
(Albany, by the way, is an R1.)
But Kinser said the label should not be viewed as a ranking or rating, but merel
y a description based on data. For Dartmouth or any other school to fall out of
the R1 category shouldn t be considered some deficiency in the institution, he said.
Little known to the average consumer, Carnegie listings strongly shape how gover
nment officials, independent analysts and academic groups perceive more than 4,6
00 post-secondary institutions in the United States. The first version of these
listings were published in 1973 under the oversight of famed academic leader Cla
rk Kerr, who joined the Carnegie Commission on Higher Education after serving as
president of the University of California. (UC has eight R1 campuses.)
The 2015 version, published Monday, was produced through a program based at Indi
ana University, under the direction of educational leadership and policy studies
professor Victor M.H. Borden.
These listings determine how U.S. News and World Report groups colleges and univ
ersities for its annual rankings. For example, Carnegie classifies as doctoral u
niversities those that award at least 20 doctorates for research or scholarship
in an academic year, not counting law or medical degrees. U.S. News, in turn, re
lies on this classification to define which schools should be called national uni
versities.
[U.S. News rankings: a public-versus-private dilemma]
Carnegie further sorts doctoral universities into those with
R2) and highest (R1) levels of research activity.

moderate

(R3),

higher (

This year, there are 335 doctoral universities.


The 113 R3s span Adelphi University in Garden City, N.Y., to Wright State, in Da
yton, Ohio.
The 107 R2s span American University in Washington, D.C. to Yeshiva University i
n New York. They include Dartmouth as well as the College of William and Mary.

The 115 R1s range from Arizona State to Yale. They include institutions known as
global research powerhouses, such as Johns Hopkins, Duke and the University of
Michigan.
To sort doctoral schools into these categories, the Carnegie analysts examined d
ata from 2013-2014 on research and development spending, research staff and doct
oral conferrals.
Dartmouth was classified as an R1 school in 2005 and 2010, but in previous versi
ons of the Carnegie listings it was not. The college, with 6,300 students, has t
he smallest enrollment in the Ivy League. That influences its statistical profil
e.
We don t know what new algorithm they are using to classify institutions, so we can t
replicate the data, Dartmouth spokeswoman Diana Lawrence wrote in an email. Altho
ugh I don t want to speculate on this particular classification, our scale, which
is so often a strength, does not always help us in rankings like these. Our rese
arch expenses have been consistent, so I doubt it is a result of the funding sid
e. Our faculty excellence and competitiveness are certainly on par with our peer
s.
[No hard alcohol, no pledging: Dartmouth plans major cultural reforms]
Seven other schools that had been R1 in 2010 are now called R2: Mississippi Stat
e, Montana State, North Dakota State, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (N.Y.), R
ockefeller University (N.Y.), the University of Alabama in Huntsville and Yeshiv
a.
Fifteen schools celebrated moving up to R1, including Northeastern.
This is an affirmation of our strategy, said Northeastern President Joseph E. Aoun
. He said the private university in Boston has invested heavily in faculty schol
arship in health, security and sustainability. We were happily surprised when we
were told that we moved to R1.
[Northeastern talks up its professional connections, not its rankings]
West Virginia has focused on scholarship in areas such as digital humanities, ph
ysics, astronomy and energy, said university President E. Gordon Gee. If you re in
the group of 115, you re clearly a significant player on the national research sta
ge, Gee said. It helps recruit faculty. It helps retain faculty. It helps us to in
crease the quality of the student body.
In a highly competitive market, universities seize on anything to stand out. An
R1 label can help burnish a school s reputation. Does it attract as many people as
a good football team? I hope so. Gee said. We want to have both. We want to succee
d on and off the field.
The others moving up from R2 to R1 were:
Boston College
Clemson (S.C.)
Florida International
George Mason (Va.)
Kansas State
Syracuse (N.Y.)
Temple (Penn.)
Texas Tech
University of Texas at Arlington
University of Texas at Dallas

University of Mississippi
University of North Texas
University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee
These were not the only shifts that drew notice. More than 30 schools moved into
the ranks of doctoral universities. That will enable them to be placed on the U
.S. News list of national universities. Previously Carnegie called them master s un
iversities, and U.S. News called them regional institutions.
For instance, Liberty University, an evangelical Christian school in Virginia, i
s now a doctoral R3. Liberty President Jerry Falwell Jr. said he was pleased. Lib
erty s academic leadership has steadily increased doctoral level programs as Liber
ty has become more of a national research-based institution of higher learning i
n recent years, Falwell said.
[For many at Liberty, God and guns go hand in hand]
Villanova University, a Catholic school in Philadelphia, also made the leap. It
was a deliberate move.
Villanova has pushed hard in recent years to expand its doctoral programs to rea
ch the Carnegie threshold of 20 PhDs per year. In 2013-2014, it just hit the mar
k, awarding seven doctorates in nursing education, seven in engineering and six
in philosophy. Starting next September, Villanova will compete in the same ranki
ng with Catholic universities such as Notre Dame, Georgetown and Boston College.
Villanova Provost Patrick Maggitti said he personally met the Carnegie classifie
rs and U.S. News rankers to ensure that the school will henceforth be known as a
national university.
We re elated,

Maggitti said. This is the dawn of a new age at Villanova.