Date on Master's Thesis/Doctoral Dissertation


Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation

Degree Name

Ph. D.

Cooperating University

Western Kentucky University

Department (Legacy)

Department of Leadership, Foundations, and Human Resource Education

Committee Chair

Petrosko, Joseph M., 1947-

Author's Keywords

Community college education; School administration; Higher education


Educational change--Kentucky; Postsecondary education--Kentucky; Higher education and state--Kentucky; Kentucky. Postsecondary education improvement act (1997)


One of the most nationally-recognized, two-year legislative reform initiatives in the U.S. began in Kentucky with the passage of the Kentucky Postsecondary Education Improvement Act of 1997 (HB1). This exploratory, cross-sectional, correlational study was administered at the 10-year anniversary of the HB1-legislated formation of the Kentucky Community and Technical College System (KCTCS), which originally combined 13 community colleges formerly governed by the University of Kentucky and 25 vocational/technical institutes previously governed by the Kentucky Cabinet for Workforce Development. This dissertation examined faculty and administrator perceptions of the merger of Kentucky's community colleges and vocational/technical institutes that resulted from HB1. Two research questions guided the study. The first sought to determine whether significant differences in perceptions of merger were found between Kentucky Community and Technical College System (KCTCS) administrators and faculty. The second research question explored that, if there was a difference between the perceptions of the two groups concerning merger, could that difference be explained through five control variables which were gleaned from the research literature: (a) type of institutional decision-making, (b) depth of merger implementation, (c) level of involvement in merger initiatives, (d) internal versus external motivation for reform initiatives that led to merger, and (e) level of support for state postsecondary education reform initiatives that led to merger. A survey instrument was designed using information gathered from a thorough literature review. A panel of experts validated the instrument. The survey instruments were mailed to a stratified random sample of faculty ( n = 1,497) and all administrators ( N = 195) of the 16 public two-year colleges that form KCTCS. A total of 569 faculty and administrators returned completed, usable surveys and became the sample for the study. The 33.7 percent total return rate for this study was consistent within the acceptable range described in the research literature. The results of the study suggested that administrators maintained a more positive view of the merger than faculty. A one-way analysis of variance (ANOVA) was used to test the null hypothesis for the first question that there was no difference in the perception of merger, with Perception of Merger as the dependent variable and respondent status, faculty or administrator, as the independent variables. Administrators had a significantly higher mean score than faculty; therefore, the null hypothesis was rejected. Administrators maintained significantly more positive perceptions of the merger compared to faculty. For the second research question, a multivariate analysis of variance (MANOVA) was performed with the six indices of perception, type, depth, support, involvement, and motivation as dependent variables. The MANOVA confirmed that the administrators had significantly higher scale mean scores than faculty. A regression analysis was conducted to determine the degree of the relationship between the dependent variable, Perception of Merger, and the five control variables. The control variable with the strongest correlation for the dependent variable, Perception of Merger, was Level of Support for State Postsecondary Education Reform Initiatives That Led to Merger. All five control variables were significantly and positively associated with the dependent variable, Perception of Merger. Approximately 74% of the variance was predicted by the control variables. Two thematic constructs or clusters emerged from the data collected from administrators offering open-ended comments: (a) increased educational access and attainment--viewed as a positive result of merger, and (b) growth of the KCTCS Central Office and bureaucracy--viewed as a negative result of merger. Overall, administrators offered 31 positive comments regarding the merger and 42 negative comments. Two positive thematic constructs or clusters emerged from the data collected from faculty offering open-ended comments: (a) increased educational access and attainment and (b) improved technical training--both viewed as positive results of merger. Additionally, 15 negative themes emerged: (a) growth of the KCTCS Central Office and bureaucracy, (b) too many administrators, (c) negative impact on technical colleges, (d) the KCTCS President's salary and benefits package, (e) lowered academic standards and declining quality of instruction, (f) negative impact on community colleges, (g) top-down management style, (h) differences of cultures/missions, (i) too much emphasis on enrollment numbers, (j) decline of general education transfer program, (k) rising tuition, (l) lack of local college autonomy, (m) loss of faculty authority and influence in college governance, (n) politically-motivated reforms, and (o) the move from a higher education model to a business model. Overall, faculty made 52 positive comments on the merger and 308 negative comments. The findings will potentially benefit community and technical college leaders, stakeholders, strategic planners, and state higher education boards (particularly those considering a similar merger process or implementing institutional changes that impact organizational culture). Understanding faculty and administrator perceptual differences--as well as identifying the conditions under which successful postsecondary education reforms may thrive--is an important element in guiding successful mergers and organizational change.