Degree Date


Document Type

Dissertation - Public Access

Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)

Academic Discipline

Community College Leadership


This qualitative case study explores the process community college senior administrators employ when assessing the complex strategic decision to confer community college baccalaureate degrees. Strategic opportunities, such as conferring baccalaureate degrees, occur infrequently thus community college leaders must be prepared to act quickly and judiciously. There is limited information available regarding the method community colleges use in this or any complex decision regarding new strategic opportunities.

Five community colleges which undertook this complex decision were selected from around the country: three that are and two that are not conferring baccalaureate degrees. Purposeful sampling was employed for site selection utilizing maximum variation of geography and urban setting. Senior administrators at each site involved in the decision completed an initial survey providing demographic information followed by a face-to-face interview. All five participants completed a second survey, developed from the coding of interview data which ranked the relevance of decision factors. The conceptual framework of this study consisted of John Levin’s (2001) four domains of influence within the construct of globalization (political, cultural, economic and technology). Strategic planning offered a second lens through which the research was examined.

The findings reveal these emergent strategic opportunities are not included in the college’s strategic plan. Community college leaders take on these complex strategic decisions without a formal plan or process. As a result some things are missed, wasting time and causing problems later. The president’s approval was the key to engaging in a decision process which is costly and time consuming using countless college resources. Trustees, communities and program quality were perceived by the participants to highly influence the final decision.

The Currier Model for Complex Institutional Decision Making deconstructs the decision process, provides action steps for a standardized process to assist with the unfamiliar territory. The model’s terminal gates permit the process to end expeditiously when evaluations dictate and provide guidance on pre-determined exit strategies. The model is accompanied by a decision checklist which ensures all the facets of the decision are covered.