Date of Award
Doctor of Education
Russell L. French
Mary Jane Connelly, Thomas W. George, Richard Gruetzemacher, Gary J. Skolits
For over a decade, three issues – institutional effectiveness, competitive market forces, and demand for accountability – have indelibly impacted the governance of all institutions of higher education, not in the least the community college. In the state of Tennessee, the Tennessee Board of Regents’ Defining Our Future plan, which was developed in response to state legislation requiring higher education systems to operate more efficiently and with more limited resources, positioned the office of Institutional Research as vital with regards to information processing, effective technology application, and decision-support by Tennessee community college presidents.
The main purpose of this study was to gather descriptive data in order to describe the functions of the offices of institutional research and the extent of their utilization of technology in the thirteen Tennessee community colleges. This study addressed the characteristics and responsibilities of institutional research offices by means of a survey instrument completed by all thirteen chief officers of institutional research. The second main purpose was to link this descriptive data with the campus governance and leadership through the office of each college president. Person to person interviews were held with all thirteen Tennessee community college presidents regarding their perceptions of the roles of institutional research and their means of using institutional research in decision-making.
The survey and the interview protocol were designed to provide answers to ten research questions on the current roles and responsibilities of institutional research offices; the types and level of utilization of technology in the offices of institutional research; and the perspectives of Tennessee’s community college presidents on the institutional research function. Analysis of the data provided answers to the research questions and, among other findings, it was found that the offices of institutional research universally serve a broad range of functions including institution-wide functions, efficiency considerations, academic-centered functions, student-centered functions, information reporting, external relations, and administrative duties. However, eight of the thirteen offices were staffed by only one full time professional. The study found that while technology was deemed as a highly utilized tool by institutional research offices, the use of and training in statistical analysis software and campus information systems was not fully realized. The data collected from interviews with college presidents suggested that the offices of institutional research are most widely referenced for institution-wide activities such as strategic planning, accreditation requirements, and institutional effectiveness as well as for budgeting decisions. Other key areas of collaboration between the college president and the office of institutional research include academic performance measures, enrollment management, and community outreach endeavors.
This study determined the need for further research in several areas. First, it will be beneficial to assess its institutional research resources at each campus; second, to study how community college presidents use institutional research for specific functions; third, to conduct a broader comparison study of community college institutional research offices within the SACS region or nationwide; finally, to conduct a study of how other community college campus leaders – vice presidents and deans, for example – use institutional research in decision-making.
Schulte, Randolph C., "An Investigation of Institutional Research in Tennessee Community Colleges: Functions, Technology Use, and Impact on Decision-making by College Presidents. " PhD diss., University of Tennessee, 2005.