Year of Publication


Document Type





Educational Policy Studies and Eval

First Advisor

Susan J. Scollay


This study describes the policymaking process and policy solutions enacted in the Kentucky Postsecondary Improvement Act of 1997 (or House Bill 1). The study employs both an historical recounting of the story of House Bill 1 and a narrative analysis of opinion-editorials and policymaker interviews to reveal and explain how political power comprised both the perennial problem of Kentuckys higher education policymaking and the tool with which conflicts over power distribution were resolved. The study uses three theoretical frameworks (the Multiple-Streams, Punctuated-Equilibrium, and Political Frame) to explore the rise of restructuring on Kentuckys policymaking agenda, its most contentious issue (separation of community college governance from the University of Kentucky), and how the conflict engendered by this issue was resolved. Use of rigorous investigative methods and theoretical frameworks resulted in understandings of not only what drove the policymaking effort but also the strategies that enabled the initiative to rise on Kentuckys policymaking agenda and to be enacted. The study concludes: (1) the presence of a policy entrepreneur increases the likelihood of a strong change effort (and to its success if that entrepreneur is the governor); (2) issue definition, or redefinition, is key to reform efforts; and (3) while prior higher education policy studies and K-12 reform may soften up and prepare the policy community for discussions of reform, they have not been shown to affect the proposal development or enactment phases of a higher education restructuring initiative. Additional insights emerged from looking at the Kentucky case, informed by those of Kentucky Education Reform Act (KERA) before it, and of similar initiatives in Ohio and Illinois. This review suggests: 1. The impetus and leadership for significant change to a higher education system will likely arise externally versus internally 2. Redefining the issues of higher education in a way that changes participants perspectives and positions is an important factor in building support and opposition to an initiative. 3. Restructuring efforts, either intentionally or unintentionally, will ultimately have to address perceived and/or real power imbalances among institutions and between institutions and state agencies. 4. Redistributing power within a higher education system constitutes a change, but not necessarily an improvement to the system. The study concludes that opportunity data, research, and rational arguments to inform policy development from academia to inform and influence elected officials occurs very early in the start of a reform initiative or even years prior. It also finds the opportunity for influence diminishes as debate over policy alternatives and enactment increases. This suggests reluctance on the part of academia to include elected officials in the issues of the campus may reduce opportunities for data, research and rational arguments to influence the opinions, policies, and decisions of elected leaders. The study recommends: (1) that academia should become more engaged, on a substantative and continuing level, with elected leaders, and (2) that researchers focus on how elected leaders form their ideas on higher education and how these influence and result in policy and political positions.