Carnegie Community Engagement Classification

Please note:  In January 2017, the Carnegie Foundation began to transfer management of the Community Engagement Classification application process to the Swearer Center for Public Service at Brown University.  This transition will be completed by late February.  In the meantime, any questions related to the Community Engagement Classification should be addressed to John Saltmarsh at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. . Thank you.



Classified Campuses

Carnegie CEC digital seal2015 Classification
The Carnegie Foundation has selected 240 U.S. colleges and universities to receive its 2015 Community Engagement Classification. Of this number, 83 institutions are receiving the classification for the first time, while 157 are now re-classified, after being classified originally in 2006 or 2008. These 240 institutions join the 121 institutions that earned the classification during the 2010 selection process. Currently, a total of 361 campuses have the Community Engagement Classification.

Download the full list of Community Engagement Classified Campuses
(2010 & 2015) (PDF, Revised 8/10/16)

Among first-time recipients of the classification, 47 are public institutions and 36 are private.  In terms of Carnegie’s Basic Classification, 29 are classified as research universities, 28 are master’s colleges and universities, 17 are baccalaureate colleges, three are community colleges, and five institutions have a specialized focus—arts, medicine, and other health professions. They represent campuses in 33 states and U.S. territories.

Download 2015 Community Engagement Classification Application and Campus Data (PDF)

Campuses that were not successful in the 2015 classification process received
general feedback from the Foundation. Classified campuses received feedback noting that even among the most effective applications, there are four areas of practice in need of continued development.

  1. The assessment practices required by the Community Engagement Classification must meet a broad range of purposes:  assessing community perceptions of institutional engagement; tracking and recording of institution-wide engagement data; assessment of the impact of community engagement on students, faculty, community, and institution; identification and assessment of student learning outcomes in curricular engagement; and ongoing feedback mechanisms for partnerships. That range of purposes calls for sophisticated understandings and approaches to achieve the respective assessment goals. We urge institutions to continue to develop assessment toward those ends.
  2. Partnerships require a high level of understanding of and intentional practices specifically directed to reciprocity and mutuality. Campuses have begun to attend to processes of initiating and nurturing collaborative, two-way partnerships, and are developing strategies for systematic communication.  Maintaining authentically collaborative, mutually beneficial partnerships takes ongoing commitment, and we urge institutions to continue their attention to this critical aspect of community engagement. 
  3. With regard to faculty rewards for roles in community engagement, it is difficult to create a campus culture of community engagement when there are not clearly articulated incentives for faculty to prioritize this work. We would like to see more examples of campuses that provide evidence of clear policies for recognizing community engagement in teaching and learning, and in research and creative activity, along with criteria that validate appropriate methodologies and scholarly artifacts. We urge Community Engagement institutions to initiate study, dialogue, and reflection to promote and reward the scholarship of engagement more fully. 
  4. Community engagement offers often-untapped possibilities for alignment with other campus priorities and initiatives to achieve greater impact—for example, first-year programs that include community engagement; learning communities in which community engagement is integrated into the design; or diversity initiatives that explicitly link active and collaborative community-based teaching and learning with the academic success of underrepresented students. There remain significant opportunities for campuses to develop collaborative internal practices that integrate disparate initiatives into more coherent community engagement efforts.

2010 Classification
Of the 115 institutions that received the classification in 2010, 61 are public institutions and 54 are private; 37 are classified in Carnegie's Basic Classification as research universities, 40 are master's colleges and universities, 28 are baccalaureate colleges, six are community colleges, and four institutions have a specialized focus--i.e., arts, medicine, or technology. The classified institutions represent campuses in 34 states.

To learn more about the institutions that received the Community Engagement Classification in 2010 (and earlier), click here.


What Is the Community Engagement Classification?

The Carnegie Foundation's Classification for Community Engagement is an elective classification, meaning that it is based on voluntary participation by institutions. The elective classification involves data collection and documentation of important aspects of institutional mission, identity and commitments, and requires substantial effort invested by participating institutions. It is an institutional classification; it is not for systems of multiple campuses or for part of an individual campus.

The classification is not an award. It is an evidence-based documentation of institutional practice to be used in a process of self-assessment and quality improvement.  The documentation is reviewed to determine whether the institution qualifies for recognition as a community engaged institution. 

The Community Engagement Classification takes place on a five-year cycle. The next opportunity for institutions to apply for classification will be during the 2020 cycle (which will open in 2018). 

In addition to the Elective Community Engagement Classification, the Carnegie Foundation also provides its all-inclusive classifications based on secondary analysis of existing national data. Information on the all-inclusive classifications can be found at


How Is "Community Engagement" Defined?

Community engagement describes collaboration between institutions of higher education and their larger communities (local, regional/state, national, global) for the mutually beneficial exchange of knowledge and resources in a context of partnership and reciprocity. 

The purpose of community engagement is the partnership of college and university knowledge and resources with those of the public and private sectors to enrich scholarship, research, and creative activity; enhance curriculum, teaching and learning; prepare educated, engaged citizens; strengthen democratic values and civic responsibility; address critical societal issues; and contribute to the public good.


2020 First-Time Classification and Re-Classification

First-Time Classification

For the 2020 classification, campuses that have not previously received the classification will need to submit an application using what is referred to as the “first-time documentation framework.” A PDF version of the Documentation Framework to be used for planning purposes only is available here.  There is also a guide attached to this version to assist institutions in the documentation planning process. 


For the 2020 classification, institutions that received the classification in 2010 and are seeking to retain the classification will be able to re-apply through an reclassification process. A PDF version of the application for reclassification to be used for planning purposes only is available here.

Institutions that received the classification in 2015 will not need to do anything in 2020.   2015 classified campuses will retain the classification until 2025. To be reclassified in 2020, the 2010 campuses will need to reapply through a reclassification process announced in 2018.


2020 Classification Timeline

January 2018

Announcement of the 2020 process

May 1- July 1, 2018

Request for applications (payment of fee and release of application)

April 15, 2019

Applications due/Reviewing begins

December 2019

Review process completed/campuses notified

January 2020

2020 classification results announced


Effective Approaches for Applicants

  1. The First-Time Classification Framework is available on the Carnegie Foundation website with an embedded “guide” for applicants. It is advisable for applicants undertaking the Re-Classification Framework to consult the First-Time Classification for information from the “guide.”.
  2. Because this is an institutional classification, evidence for community engagement often comes from many parts of the campus as well as from community partners. Campuses that have been successful in achieving the classification report that it has been highly beneficial to form a cross-institutional team with community representation to work on the application. (See Zuiches, James J. et al. (2008). Attaining Carnegie's Community-Engagement Classification. Change: The Magazine of Higher Learning, 40 (1), pp. 42-45; also available on the NERCHE website under Carnegie Classification resources)
  3. An authentic understanding of community engagement is enhanced when campuses describe successes as well as activities that didn't go as planned.  The latter provide opportunities for learning and improvement and can be described accordingly.
  4. Each section of the application has word limits. While it is understandable that you will want to tell everything about your campus’s community engagement activity, it is necessary to be judicious in selecting the most important and compelling evidence for the application.


National Advisory Panel

The National Advisory Panel plays an integral role in reviewing applications and offering assessments as to which institutions qualify to receive the Community Engagement Classification.  In addition, the Panel provides guidance and insight around issues that help shape the content and administration of the Classification in future years. Members of the National Advisory Panel are recognized nationally and internationally as leading scholars in community engagement.  Their significant commitment of time, creative thought, and deep expertise are central to the selection of newly classified as well as re-classified colleges and universities.  

Learn more about the 2015 National Advisory Panel members >>






NERCHE and the Carnegie Foundation

NERCHE and the Carnegie Foundation have entered into a long-term partnership for the continuation of the Carnegie Community Engagement Classification.  The Carnegie Foundation is an independent policy and research center that supports needed transformations in American education through tighter connections between teaching practice, evidence of student learning, the communication and use of this evidence, and structured opportunities to build knowledge.  

NERCHE will serve as Carnegie's "administrative partner" for the purpose of managing and administering the Community Engagement Classification process. John Saltmarsh, NERCHE's director, and Amy Driscoll, Carnegie Foundation Consulting Scholar and NERCHE Visiting Fellow, will direct the administration of the classification process. 

Read the press release announcing the application process for the 2015 Community Engagement Classification.




Please contact John Saltmarsh (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. ) with questions and inquiries about the classification process.