Teaching & Learning

USU Attains Prestigious Carnegie R1 Classification, Joins Highest Level of Research Institutions

By Marcus Jensen |

USU becomes one of just 146 total members having the Carnegie R1 classification in the nation and was one of nine to obtain this status in 2021. This designation shows that Utah State is a national leader in research and graduate education.

Utah State University has joined the highest level of research institutions in the country by earning the R1 Classification (“very high research activity”) in the latest Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education announced this month.

The university becomes one of just 146 total members having the R1 classification in the nation and was one of nine to obtain this status in 2021. This designation shows that Utah State is a national leader in research and graduate education.

“I am thrilled Utah State University has been designated a Carnegie R1 University,” said President Noelle E. Cockett. “To achieve this top-tier designation has been years in the making and now sets our university apart as a premier research institution in the nation. This is a historic achievement for our university, and I am proud of our faculty, staff and students who have worked to create transformational impacts through meaningful research.”

The Carnegie Commission on Higher Education developed the classification more than 40 years ago as a way to distinguish institutions for educational-research purposes. The classifications, produced by the Center for Postsecondary Research at Indiana University’s School of Education, are released every three years. Using data from 2019 and 2020, the system categorized about 3,900 two- and four-year colleges. The Carnegie R1 designation is synonymous with academic excellence and research innovation and impact.

USU joins the University of Utah as only the second institution in the state to receive the designation.

“Having two strong Carnegie R1 research institutions in Utah opens doors to new private and public partnerships and provides tremendous opportunities for workforce development and economic growth in the state,” said Utah System of Higher Education Commissioner Dave R. Woolstenhulme. “This is a proud moment for Utah, and we’re inspired to see the impact Utah State University is having in the nation.”

“This designation positions USU to envision and grow research in areas that will continue to impact the nation and state,” said Lisa M. Berreau, vice president for research. “USU is continuing to advance our research activities by building on our strengths in areas of relevance to national and state priorities. As a land-grant institution, these include research projects directed at addressing technological needs for the future as well as research toward improving the quality of life for people in the state of Utah."

USU had record-high research funding in the 2021 fiscal year, receiving awards totaling $368.5 million, a 26 percent increase from last year. USU’s total funding includes $124.5 million generated by researchers on campus, as well as $244 million in contracts and grants from USU’s Space Dynamics Laboratory.

“Noting that the 2021 Carnegie Classification was completed using 2019 data from the NSF HERD report (Higher Education Research & Development Survey Data), over the period of 2015-2019, research expenditures at USU increased from $169.6 million to $283.9 million,” Berreau said. “This substantial increase was driven by USU's growth in research activities both on our main campus and through our statewide campus system, as well as at the Space Dynamics Laboratory, which is a university-affiliated research center (UARC).”

USU’s Space Dynamics Laboratory is one of 14 Department of Defense University Affiliated Research Centers that serves as a subject matter expert in its core research areas to the U.S. Government, ensuring that essential engineering and technology capabilities are maintained. Since 1959, SDL has been solving technical challenges faced by the military, science community, and industry and supports NASA’s mission to drive advances in science, technology, aeronautics, and space exploration to enhance knowledge, education, innovation, economic vitality, and stewardship of Earth.

The classification is considered preliminary at this time and becomes official at the end of January 2022.

About Utah State University

Since its founding in 1888, Utah State University has evolved from a small agricultural college tucked away in the Northern Utah mountains to a thriving, multi-campus research university known throughout the world for its intellectual and technological leadership. Utah State is a premier student-centered land-grant and space-grant university that fosters the principle that academics come first by cultivating diversity of thought and culture, and by serving the public through learning, discovery and engagement.

Update: At the time of this article's original publication, the Carnegie Commission on Higher Education announced that 137 schools would be classified as R1. Following an appeals process, that number increased to 146. This article has been updated to reflect the change.


Marcus Jensen
News Coordinator
University Marketing and Communications


Emilie Wheeler
News Director
University Marketing and Communications


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