Institutions, TPC, & Peer Programs

Moving across states interrupted what I thought would be weekly posts of excerpts from my book manuscript: Programmatic imaginations: A curricular history of technical and professional communication. 

So I’m gonna create a few posts all today to sort of catch up 🙂 This post talks about TPC programs and the isntitutional profiles of where they reside. It includes

  • a brief discussion of why CIP codes are important
  • the Carnegie classification of institutions with TPC programs
  • Public versus Pricate
  • institutions with a specialized mission and TPC programs
  • peer programs, which is a term that I use to encourage faculty and administrations to find peer programs rather than on peer or aspirational institutions

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Institutions and TPC

TPC programs are housed at 339 institutions, which is a long way from the 18 programs included in the first systematic data gathering (Pearsall & Sullivan, 1976). An institution is considered an institution if it offers one or more degree programs and is accredited as such an entity. That means that some of the large state systems with multiple campus are counted as separate institutions (e.g., Kent State), while others are counted as a single institution (e.g., Washington State).

Carnegie Classifications

I also categorized institutions by their Carnegie Classification®.  As one of the leading frameworks for describing US institutions, the Carnegie Classification “is used in the study of higher education and are intended to be an objective, degree-based lens through which researchers can group and study similar institutions. Carnegie Classifications are used in research study design to ensure adequate representation of sampled institutions, students, or faculty” (Carnegie Foundation, 2023, n.p). Through the course of this project the basic classification that I have used has been updated four times (2010, 2015, 2018, 2021).[1]

Basic classification methodology divides institutions into five main categories (

  • Doctoral Universities: Includes institutions that awarded at least 20 research doctoral degrees during the year and also institutions with below 20 research/scholarship doctoral degrees that awarded at least 30 professional practice doctoral degrees in at least 2 programs. R1 and R2 also have to have at least $5million in total research expenditures.
    • R1: very high research activity
    • R2: high research activity
    • D/PU: Doctoral/Professional Universities
  • Master’s Colleges and Universities[2]: Generally includes institutions that awarded at least 50 master’s degrees and fewer than 20 doctoral degrees during the year.
    • M1: larger programs
    • M2: medium programs
    • M3: small programs
  • Baccalaureate Colleges: Includes institutions where baccalaureate degrees represent at least 50 percent of all degrees but where fewer than 50 master’s degrees or 20 doctoral degrees were awarded during the update year.
  • Baccalaureate/Associate’s Colleges: Includes four-year colleges, by virtue of having at least one baccalaureate degree program, that conferred more than 50 percent of degrees at the associate’s level
  • Associate’s Colleges: Institutions at which the highest level of degree awarded is an associate’s degree.

Figure 3.1: Total percent of TPC institutions as carnegie basic classificatiosn

It is important to note that while doctoral institutions may be close to half of the institutional locations for TPC programs, many of the programs reside of D/PU and R2 institutions. These types of doctoral institutions often old onto long-term cultures that still emphasize teaching. More information on the institutional locations can be found in Figure 3.2, which brings forward the institutional location based on type of doctoral and masters’ institutions.

Figure 2: Comparison of Carnegie Classifications of institutions that offer a TPC degree

This is the first time in my own data collection that I incorporated degree programs for two-year institutions (AC). However, some institutions that may seem to be an associate’s college are classified as BAC/AC or BAC depending on whether they offer any baccalaureate degrees.

The institutional classification is important in two ways. First, for faculty, the type of institution dictates major aspects of how faculty spend their time. Research institutions, as their name implies, have a greater emphasis on research, while other types of schools’ faculty will have greater teaching obligations. Thus, faculty workloads are in theory distributed based on the type of institution and their related institutional cultures. What this means form a programmatic perspective is that programs at research institutions often have a greater reliance on contingent faculty and graduate students will play a larger role in teaching undergraduate courses. It also means that tenure-line faculty will mostly teach graduate courses.

However, as I discuss below in “peer programs,” TPC PAs and faculty should use this information as one data point alongside other information about programs and institutions Some institutions have been elevated into the doctoral category, typically from a large number of degrees in a single college or department (e.g., education doctorates), and for faculty in TPC programs, as well as other types of programs, their teaching load and institutional culture is still one of a “teaching school.” In a conversation with a provost at an institution that moved from an M1 to an R2, she explained, “Our mission is still the same. For the majority of departments, nothing will change.”

Second, programs need to in many ways match the institutional goals to ensure their sustainability. Even though there are many programs that have been around for 25-30 years, many of those programs are basically the same size and profile as they have always been. In some cases, this is good because it shows that programs are providing a valuable service that students and potential students recognize, and they have sufficient resources to maintain their offerings. In other situations, however, it simply means that the programs have long been starved for resources and have been unable to grow because of that fact. Unless the program is intentionally aligned with departmental, college, and university level initiates and goals, it becomes more difficult to sustain, or grow.

Public versus private Institutions

Figure 3: Total number of institutions with percentage of public versus private.

The data on programs shows no significant differences based on this institutional characteristic. the number of not-for-profit private institutions (1666) is almost the same as public institutions (1628). Thus, there are a greater number of TPC programs at public institutions percent wise.

Institutions with a Specialized Mission

Predominately white institutions (PWIs) dominate the higher education landscape, and that is also true of where TPC programs are located institutionally. However, I did want to review the specifically review the landscape of TPC programs with an attention to diversity, which continues previous work by Gerald Savage and Natalia Matveeva (2011). To that end, I wanted to determine if, and how many, programs may be found at Hispanic serving Institutions (HSIs); historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs), and tribal colleges and universities.

By US definition, an institution is certified as HSI if its enrollment of Hispanic students exceeds 25% of the enrollment of the institution. Currently, there are roughly 516 institutions ( that are designated HSI, and 44 of those institutions have a TPC degree program(s). Table 3.1 reflects the institutional break down in the following way geographically:

Table 3.1: States with TPC programs at HSIs

HSI locations # of institutions
TX 18
CA 8
FL 4
AZ, NM 3
IL, NY 2
CO, MD, NJ, NV 1

It is not surprising to see the largest number of programs at HIS institutions that are border states.

Historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) and Tribal Colleges are considered institutions with a “specialized mission,” which means one can search for a complete list via the college navigator. These types of institutions were exceptions to the sampling method detailed in Chapter 2. That is, I reviewed all the institutions classified as HBCUs and Tribal Colleges for programs in TPC.

There are 103 HBCU’s according to college navigator, and nine institutions offer a degree program(s) in TPC, as noted in Table 3.2.

Table 3.2: States with TPC programs at an HBCU

HBCU Institution Location
Allen University SC
Elizabeth City State University NC
Huston-Tillotson University TX
North Carolina A & T State University NC
Oakwood University AL
Paul Quinn College TX
Savannah State University GA
West Virginia State University WV
Xavier University of Louisiana LA

It is interesting to note that only three of the TPC programs at HBCUs are public institutions.

Jessica Barnes-Pietruszynski and Jeffrey Pietrueszynski (2015) provided a strong description of the process of creating the degree program at West Virginia State University, which could be a useful model for others wanting to attempt this sort of program work.

According to the National Center for Education Statistics, there are 36 tribal colleges and universities[3] and at present, none of them offer a TPC degree program.

Peer Programs

As noted above in my brief discussion of the Carnegie Classifications, TPC PAs should look to using that classification as only a small part of program evaluation and improvement. Even though all institutions have lists of peer and aspirational institutions that they compare themselves to, it’s a better idea to look at “peer programs”[4] when approaching programmatic work.

Peer programs would have the same type of student demographic and numbers of students; similar sizes of faculty; similar institutional concerns and landscapes (even if they are different Carnegie classifications); and offer the similar kinds of degrees. For example many masters’ programs have a large number of returning adults how are looking to re-tool their careers or gain a credential for promotion or other reasons. Those programs based on their student population are quite different than masters’ programs that may have a greater number of students seeking advancement to PhD programs. Doug Lederman (2023) recently wrote about the forthcoming changes to the Carnegie Classification system that is meant to provide more nuance to the classifications. To my mind, this is a welcome move to make the system more meaningful to those who may use it. These changes could help TPC PAs look to peer programs rather than simply peer institutions. The Carnegie Classification data point could then be read alongside the data presented here and available in the open access data set.

[1] Having used Carnegie Classifications since the early days of this project, the methodology they use for ranking institutions has, in my view, become muddier and less reliable for actually making distinctions between type of institutions. While I have always found this ranking problematic, I find it much more so now. But, it does give a way to classify, with all the inherent problems of classification. The classification has a new home as of 2023 (

[2] Previous iterations had master’s institutions classified as large, medium, and small, which corresponds now to the M1(large), M2(medium), and M3(small) classification.

[3] Visit and use the more search options >> specialized mission to obtain the list that I used for both HBCUs and Tribal Colleges and Universities. One can find a list of HSIs here:

[4] I first used this term in print in 2017b.