Examining Management's Impact on Institutional Performance in Higher Education
Type of DegreePhD Dissertation
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Extensively studied in several public policy contexts, O'Toole and Meier's (OTM) (1999) framework modeling public management's impact has shown that managerial, structural, and environmental influences matter for performance. This framework may have similar predictive value to explain performance for higher education in the United States. Utilizing primary data drawn from a random-stratified sample of 166 four-year public universities spanning 9-years (2002-2010), this study operationalizes the full inventory of components in the OTM framework to examine how various managerial strategies and characteristics, along with university and state environmental factors, influence institution-level performance (graduation rates). Results suggest that active management of the operating environment can substantially influence graduation rates, but that internal managerial actions may be more critical for low-performing institutions whose autonomy and resources are limited by contextual and structural constraints. Collectively, findings from the present study also suggest that effectively managing and enhancing graduation rates are contingent on the political and socio-economic conditions of an institution's operating environment; in order to achieve the increasingly public goals of higher education, efforts to enhance performance will likely entail a great deal of managerial innovation and the strategic internal investment of limited institutional resources. Over the coming years, deciding which management actions to pursue and achieve performance will be critical for public universities, especially as demographic and socio-political shifts continue to redefine the goals and reshape the landscape of public higher education. Accordingly, the theoretical and practical contributions realized from the present study clarify how public managers can shape performance, as well as our understanding of when and under what circumstances managerial actions might matter.