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For just the sixth time since introducing the Carnegie Classifications of Institutions of Higher Education in 1970, the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching has released an update to what serves as the leading taxonomy of all accredited colleges and universities in the United States. Among other things, the update reveals that there are 483 newly classified institutions—out of a grand total of 4 633 included in the classifications—and a full 77% of these newly classified institutions hail from the private for-profit sector. The growth in number of less selective, non-residential institutions offering a small set of professional programs at both the graduate and undergraduate levels suggests, according to Carnegie, a further shift in the US higher education landscape “away from the traditional model of the liberal arts college”. Indeed, “Primarily Associates” colleges—institutions where bachelor’s degrees account for fewer than 10% of undergraduate degrees - rose 49% (from the last Carnegie update completed in 2005) from 109 to 162 institutions.
Meanwhile, the growing number of institutions offering certificates, associate’s degrees, and other short-term vocationally- and professionally-oriented programmes now has a new source of federal funding. Specifics of the Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College and Career Training Grants Program were jointly introduced by the Departments of Education and Labour on 20 January 2011. This initiative makes available some USD 2 billion over four years to individual institutions and consortia (from both the non-profit and for-profit sectors) offering academic programmes of two years’ duration or less. Applications proposing projects aimed at achieving “improved education and employment outcomes”, rather than simply offering “existing courses to more workers and other students”, will be considered especially competitive in this grants programme.
The new federal money has been viewed in some quarters as a better-than-nothing infusion of support for community colleges, which are called upon to play a key role in helping the US achieve a better overall national college completion rate, and in turning around the faltering economy. Others are sorely disappointed in the way that the Obama Administration’s supposedly keen interest in community colleges failed to secure the original promise of a USD 12 billion American Graduation Initiative (see ACA Newsletter – Education Europe, October 2010).