Year of Publication



Martin School of Public Policy and Administration

Executive Summary

Higher education is going through a transformative time. Effective leadership of these institutions is increasingly important. Public institutions are losing more government support from both the state and federal level. Colleges and universities are also facing higher standards from the federal government. When presidential search committees are looking for candidates for their college or university, they are seeking a leader who addresses these issues, as well as many others.

Addressing falling financial support requires increased attention to fundraising. Some accept that presidents are hired primarily for fundraising for the colleges and do not expect them to play a role in the daily operation of the college or university. Additionally, presidents need to be able to work with legislators, foundations, and other sources to receive funding and grants. While these are qualities are very important, my research focuses on the possibility that presidents can be influential on other academic variables.

Previous studies examined the presidential search process and analyzed the qualities of a candidate that colleges and universities seek. These studies also analyzed what makes a college president effective or ineffective. This study seeks to determine if the president impacts two variables; retention and graduation rates. It also seeks to determine whether the impact differs based on the tenure of the president and president’s background—academic or other.

My research found that there is an effect of presidents on retention rates. I found that public universities tended to have lower retention rates, but this problem was reduced when the president was an academic president. I recommend further research into the area to include a larger sample with a diversification of presidential backgrounds so that it could be categorized into types of backgrounds. I also recommend looking at more variables to measure performance.