Date of Award

Spring 5-17-2014

Degree Type


Degree Name

PhD Higher Education Leadership, Management, Policy


Education Leadership, Management and Policy


Martin Finkelstein, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Elaine Walker, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Robert Kelchen, Ph.D.


Higher Education, Colleges & Universities, Multilevel Modeling, Prestige: Expenditures


This study examined the effect that striving behavior has upon an institution’s expenditures. While not the first study to examine such effects, it was the first to look across a multitude of institutional types, spanning seven levels of Carnegie classifications and encompassing public and private not-for-profit bachelors-granting schools to public and private research institutions. Further, by including 8 distinct lines of expenditures, the study was the first to provide such a comprehensive look at changes in institutional expenditures. The study drew on numerous theoretical constructs, including resource dependency, theory of strategic balance, isomorphism, and Perrow’s theory of prestige in order to establish the framework for investigating institutional motivations for the pursuit of prestige. Utilizing these frameworks, this study posited 3 general research questions. First, how do expenditure patterns change over the 10-year period studied for nonstriving institutions and striving institutions? Second, how do expenditure patterns compare between nonstrivers and strivers? Finally, how does Carnegie classification impact institutional spending for strivers?

Two separate analyses were conducted in this study. The first utilized descriptive statistics and ANOVA models to determine mean differences between groups, whereas the second utilized descriptive statistics and multilevel modeling—specifically hierarchical linear modeling. The first analysis was conducted for 1,216 four-year, not-for-profit institutions that awarded bachelor’s degrees and higher. This group was divided into striving institutions, defined as institutions whose 2010 Carnegie classification was at least 1 level higher on the Carnegie classification scale than their respective 2005 Carnegie classification and institutions whose Carnegie classification had remained the same over the course of the studied period. The second analysis utilized the group of striving institutions from the first analysis. For this portion of the study, these 203 institutions were divided into 6 separate groups, defined by their final Carnegie classification. Statistically significant results pointed to a dramatic advantage in spending by striving institutions, lending credence to prior studies that found that striving institutions might spend more on various lines of expenditures than their nonstriving counterparts. Further, the study determined that spending patterns for striving institutions varied according to their final Carnegie classification. Finally, findings showed that an institution’s striving behavior had a significant impact upon an institution’s level of expenditures, as well as the rate of change in spending over time for numerous specific lines of expenditures, including research, institutional support, and academic support expenditures. Possible implications of these findings for theory and practice were discussed, as were possible limitations of the study. Finally, future research was suggested to develop improved methods of analyzing institutional spending and exploring qualitative means of investigating strategic decisions to pursue greater prestige.