According to the Carnegie Foundation website, doctorate-granting institutions can be assigned to one of three categories based on a measure of research activity--very high, high, and doctoral/research universities. However, the site is careful to explain that institutions differ with respect to the level of research activity, not quality or importance and "while this approach is suitable for classification purposes, we do not believe the institution-level results should be used for institution-by-institution comparison and ranking."
Stan Geidel, program manager in the Sponsored Programs Office, concurs and explains that "It's more of a recognition of past achievements rather than future goals. It recognizes the nature of the work that has been going on at Ball State for the past few years and because of that work it has prompted the classification agency to reposition us into this middle classification."
The classification system includes all accredited, degree-granting colleges and universities in the U.S. For more information visit classifications.carnegiefoundation.org. You can read a feature article from the January 25th edition of The Star Press here.