Date of Graduation

8-2012

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Public Policy (PhD)

Degree Level

Graduate

Department

Political Science

Advisor

G. David Gearhart

Committee Member

Michael T. Miller

Second Committee Member

Thomas E. C. Smith

Third Committee Member

Sharon Hunt

Fourth Committee Member

Valerie Hunt

Keywords

Social sciences; Education; Advocacy; Alumni; Policy

Abstract

Adequate funding has become a critical issue for institutions of higher education, affecting outcomes such as accessibility, affordability, and quality of education. The recent economic recession has been detrimental for state funding, resulting in budget cuts for higher education in a majority of states. Overall, state funding has not kept pace with the rising costs of education. Additionally, the issues of state governance and institutional autonomy have also become heightened. Thus, many higher education institutions are initiating advocacy programs with their external constitutions. Because alumni are integral group of an institution's constituent base, and often exhibit the most passion for the institution, this group is identified as a primary focus to employ mechanisms of legislative advocacy.

Thus study used a survey questionnaire as the instrument tool to collect quantitative data. 423 surveys were electronically distributed using a membership database of senior-most alumni professionals at four-year higher education institutions. From this sample, 89 surveys were completed and analyzed. The acceptable response rate of 21.5% was obtained for this sample.

The survey collected information on strategies utilized for the intent of legislative advocacy. The frequency and level of perceived effectiveness were t he primary facets of the survey which were measured. The goal of this research was to provide information which would benefit administrators in their selection of methods to strengthen relationships with government officials and further promote the needs and benefits of higher education. This information is also useful for policy formation as administrators seek to augment higher education.

The first research question determined the most frequently employed strategies of legislative advocacy. The most frequently employed strategy was to use the alumni association website as a tool to encourage participation or legislative advocacy. Several of the most commonly used strategies involved the alumni website and the alumni magazine, which emphasized the value of these two tools for methods of mass-communication.

The second research question measured the perceived level of effectiveness for the strategies that were utilized. For this question, a Likert-type scale was used. The strategy with the highest mean score was for alumni to participate in a coordinated visit to the state capitol. Other strategies with high mean scores for perceived effectiveness included a visit to the state capitol by alumni leadership, as well as on-campus events for all alumni and alumni leadership to visit with legislators.

The third research question compared the strategies utilized by institutional type. Category I represented baccalaureate/master's institutions, and the most frequently used strategies from that category differed from the strategies most commonly used by Category II institutions (doctoral/research). None of the top three most employed strategies of Category I were in the top three most employed strategies of Category II. Category I represented 60.7% and Category II represented 39.3 % of the participant sample. Yet, in 22 of the 23 listed strategies, Category II yielded more yes responses than did Category I, which displays that Category II institutions are more prevalent in initiating strategies of legislative advocacy.

The final research question assessed the policy implications for higher education institutions, leaders, and policy makers. Because legislative awareness was the most common characteristic of the strategies most often employed, agenda denial and problem definition should be common methods administrators undertake to propel issues to be placed upon or kept from reaching legislative agendas. This emphasizes the value of legislative advocacy to create policies that benefit higher education. Properly facilitated by institution administrators, advocacy programs can assist in policy formation.

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