Date of Award

Spring 5-18-2020

Degree Type


Degree Name

PhD Higher Education Leadership, Management, Policy


Education Leadership, Management and Policy


Robert Kelchen, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Rong Chen, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Chris Tienken, Ed.D


Public college president turnover, departure, state higher education, leadership, tenure


Presidents are leaving public colleges and universities at higher rates than they previously were over the last several decades. Previous studies on college and university presidential departure primarily have focused on internal institutional factors to offer explanations of understanding of why they leave office. Public university presidents earn less than private ones, and have to add successful (or unsuccessful) navigation of state politics to their skill sets. This study focused on both internal institutional factors and external environmental factors specifically within each state the public college or university is located. These include both external economic and political factors.

These external factors include income level in the state, percent in poverty in each state, and age ranges of the population by state. In addition, the study examined changes to factors affecting presidential turnover before and after the recent housing crisis in the United States, a significant economic event. There was increased turnover after recessions.

The outcomes of both logistic and OLS regressions, with both a one- and two- year lag, yielded the same results across both models and found variables that were important included enrollment, adjusted state appropriations, democratic control of the state legislature, percentage of the population in the state aged 18 to 24 years. Enrollment had a negative relationship, state appropriations had a strong positive relationship. Democratic control of the legislature, and percentage of the population aged 18 to 24 years had weak negative relationships.

Student retention rate had a weak positive relationship, state appropriations a strong positive relationship, and percentage of the population in each state aged 18 to 24 years had a strong negative significant relationship when dividing out the data before the housing crisis. Only the internal institutional factor of admit rate was significant and was weak and negative when dividing after the housing crisis.