Trinity considers change to Carnegie Classification

Christian Brewster Photo credit: Oliver Chapin-Eiserloh

Photo by Oliver Chapin-Eiserloh.

Trinity, which is classified as a Master’s College and University by the Carnegie Classifications of Institutions of Higher Education, may petition to move categories in the U.S. News and World Report (USNWR)rankings. This follows Santa Clara’s move out of the “Regional Universities West” category.

Last year, Trinity’s 26-year streak as number one in the west was taken over by Santa Clara University which was moved into the “doctoral/professional universities” category by Carnegie this year. Because of this, the school is no longer in the same category as Trinity.

Trinity is currently classified as a Master’s College and University because we offer five graduate programs. Because of this, the institution is classified in the regional university category as opposed to the national liberal arts category. Eric Maloof, vice president for enrollment management within Alumni Relations, believes that Santa Clara moving to a new category should prompt Trinity to look into the petition process.

“So what happened this year was that Carnegie created a new classification of colleges and that consequently pulled a lot of our competition out of our regional master’s university category. In many ways now we are surrounded by schools that don’t really look like us. I think we owe it to the community to research all options, including a potential leap into the national liberal arts category,” Maloof said.

Tess Coody-Anders, vice president for Strategic Communications and Marketing, believes that moving to the national category could be beneficial to Trinity as it becomes more difficult to recruit students that are in high-demand.

“As the number of available academically gifted high school students in America shrinks then we need to be sort of at the top of every list in order to compete for and earn the attendance of students like you guys. We believe based on our research that it would be more advantageous to Trinity to be nationally recognized than to perhaps be in a regional category,” Coody-Anders said.

To be classified as a national liberal arts school, Trinity would need to petition Carnegie to change.

“Schools like us can petition Carnegie because we do only have a small number of master’s degree students and because they’re in the predominantly educational space, we would be able to petition Carnegie to reclassify as an undergraduate institution. Then, we would be ranked in the national liberal arts category,” said Kara Larkan-Skinner, executive director of Institutional Research and Effectiveness.

Carnegie only allows universities to petition for reclassification during certain time intervals. Trinity’s next opportunity to apply to move into the national liberal arts category would be in 2021. Right now, there are some schools in the national liberal arts category that have master’s programs.

“We would just notify Carnegie that we want to petition for that, and then they would reevaluate us and determine our eligibility and let us know. We think we would be able to be recategorized, but only Carnegie could tell us for sure,” Larkan-Skinner said.

Right now, Trinity’s projected ranking in the national liberal arts category is unknown. In addition to working on some of the tangible metrics like retention rates and graduation rates, U.S. News and World Report places a high value on peer institutions’ thoughts when ranking schools. Institutions are asked to fill out surveys about the schools in their category, and Coody-Anders believes Trinity should focus on telling potential peer institutions its story.

“Clearly, in the regional category, among those peers we’re well regarded. We also will need to tell our story to those aspirant schools and opinion leaders on that list so that they know who Trinity is. They know of us, I’m sure, but we really need them to know us so that when they’re providing their opinions on those surveys, we perform well,” Coody-Anders said.

Coody-Anders believes that Trinity will be able to do this through marketing strategies and by getting Trinity representatives, especially Danny Anderson, the president of the university, to speak to leaders of peer institutions.

“We have to be a little less humble, and we need to be a little more willing to share our good news nationally. We haven’t really had to do that as a university. Our reputation has really helped us achieve our goals, and this is about moving the bar and stretching, so that means we’ll really have to stretch in the way we tell our story,” Coody-Anders said.

Coody-Anders also spoke about the potential limitations of shifting to a new category.

“This also impacts things — like, we couldn’t add a doctoral program or too many more master’s programs because you have to stay under a certain threshold for the number of degrees that are given in undergraduate and graduate programs. So these are big discussions we have to have to ensure that if we move into a different Carnegie classification and, as a result, move into a new U.S. News and World Report classification that we do so knowing what limitations that places on us as an institution going forward,” Coody-Anders said.

Although conversations are in the works, the timeline and decision are still unknown.

“I will say this: I think it needs to be sooner and not later, in my opinion. I don’t think we’re talking about a generation of students from now. I think we’re talking about in the foreseeable future — at least that’s what I hope,” Coody-Anders said.

Correction: The original version of this issue said Trinity had a 24-year streak as best in the west. The streak was 26 years.