Faculty and administrative support for strategic planning: a comparison of two- and four-year institutions

This article examines faculty and administrator support for strategic planning activities at two-year and four-year colleges and universities. Drawing data from public institutions in Kentucky, a state that has pursued fundamental change in its higher educational system since 1997, the study compared faculty and administrator attitudes, and it measured the impact of five predictor variables. Administrators at both types of institutions report more support for strategic planning than do faculty. However, the data also reveal significant differences between faculty and administrators on each of the five predictor variables. The article closes with a discussion of the implications of the findings for the cultivation of support for strategic planning at both two- and four- year institutions in the context of state-driven postsecondary reform.

Strategic planning is one of the most pervasive and, arguably, most important management activities in higher education at the beginning of the 21st century. Given its near ubiquity, it is surprising that little is known about the factors that define and affect successful strategic planning at colleges and universities (Cope, 1987; Kotler & Murphy, 1981; Shirley, 1988; Mintzberg, 1994). It appears particularly important that the sources of faculty and administrative support and opposition to strategic planning become better understood as institutions attempt to navigate difficult and confusing economic, political, and policy environments (Garmon, 1984; Peterson & White, 1992; Welsh & Metcalf, 2003; Rhoades, 2000).

One of the factors complicating institutional strategic planning is the effort to reform state higher education systems. In 1997, the state of Kentucky embarked upon an ambitious effort to restructure its higher education system. The Kentucky Postsecondary Educational Improvement Act of 1997 (KPEIA) initiated profound changes in the coordination, governance, and financing of the public universities, community colleges, and technical colleges in the state. At the heart of postsecondary reform in Kentucky is a desire on the part of policy makers to improve the alignment of institutional behavior with state policy goals (Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education, 2001). KPEIA forced the public institutions to reinvigorate their strategic planning activities by promoting greater participation and support by campus constituencies, particularly faculty and administrators (Rabuzzi, Carson, & Conklin, 2001; Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education, 2001).

The purpose of this article is to explore the sources of faculty and administrative support for strategic planning in a reform environment, measuring the impact of institutional type and five attitudinal variables. Drawing from the experience in Kentucky, the research attempts to address three research questions about faculty and administrative support for the implementation and development of strategic planning activities at two- and four-year institutions. First, how do faculty and administrators at two-year institutions compare with their counterparts at four-year institutions in their support for strategic planning? Second, within each type of institution, how do faculty and administrators compare in their support for strategic planning? Third, if there are differences in these two comparisons, what factors help explain them?

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