Although there have been rumors that University of Richmond might be inaccurately classified as a liberal arts institution based on its percentage of undergraduate business students, the current statistics show that it still fits the qualifications of a liberal arts college.
The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching has listed Richmond as a liberal arts college since 2004. Richmond presented the required percentage of bachelor's degrees in the arts and sciences last year, though that percentage was almost low enough for a reclassification.
On the Carnegie Foundation's website, Richmond's exact undergraduate instructional classification is listed as "arts and sciences plus professions, some graduate coexistence." The data was collected in 2009, and the classification was determined in 2010, the foundation's associate vice president for public affairs and continuing programs.
Gil Villanueva, dean of admission at Richmond, wrote in an email: "In my opinion, Richmond is categorized appropriately as a liberal arts school.
"Because the University of Richmond strongly values undergraduate education and because we offer a robust liberal arts curriculum, it makes sense for the university to be classified as a liberal arts
The Carnegie Foundation gave Richmond its arts and sciences classification because "60-79 percent of bachelor's degree majors were in the arts and sciences, and graduate degrees were observed in up to half of the fields corresponding to undergraduate majors" at the time of data collection, according to its website.
Exactly 60 percent of Richmond's class of 2013's bachelor's degrees were in the arts and sciences, and Richmond offers graduate degrees that correspond with far fewer than half of its undergraduate majors.
Before 2004, Richmond was in the category of Masters Colleges and Universities. The university released a statement in 2004 that said, "[I]t is vital to benchmark our progress against the top nationally ranked colleges and universities, and the reclassification will assist that effort."
U.S. News and World Report uses information from the Carnegie Foundation to group schools for rankings. Richmond is in the National Liberal Arts Colleges category and is ranked No. 25.
The 2004 Richmond press release listed Williams College, Amherst College, Davidson College, Wesleyan University and Washington and Lee University as colleges that Richmond would compete with in the liberal arts category. Currently, Richmond is ranked below all of these except Wesleyan.
The Carnegie Foundation is open about the fact that current classifications are based on outdated data.
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"In the past, we've been on a five-year update schedule, but that doesn't always happen," Clyburn said. "It looks like this probably won't be done until 2016."
If enrollment in the E. Claiborne Robins School of Business increases significantly in coming years, the percentage of arts and sciences degrees could become lower than the required 60 percent. But Laura Thorpe, student services coordinator for the business school dean's office, said she did not expect this to happen.
"We trend consistently with approximately a bit over 30 percent of the graduates coming from the business school," she said.
Clyburn said because institutions were constantly changing, their offices of admissions should promote themselves in ways that were accurate, regardless of their current Carnegie classifications.
"They don't need the classification to market themselves in a way that reflects who they are," she said.
Carnegie's classification system was developed for the benefit of educational researchers. "It shouldn't help or hurt. It just is what it is," Clyburn said. "It's not an award or designation."
Contact staff writer Catherine Sinclair at firstname.lastname@example.org
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