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Ensuring the American dream: Perceptions of New Jersey community college presidents on fundraising as an alternative revenue source to preserve access and affordability

Patricia A Gentile, University of Nebraska - Lincoln


This bounded case study provided a detailed description of what a maximal variation purposeful sampling of nine public community college presidents in New Jersey are thinking and doing to preserve the American dream of a college degree and ensure access and affordability during a time of financial exigencies. The purpose of the study was to describe how presidents were responding to declining public funding and how they perceived fundraising as an alternative funding strategy. The researcher addressed this qualitative study from a constructivist paradigm using three strategies for data collection: semi-structured one-on-one interviews, non-participant observations, and review of public documents. Using descriptive, topic and analytic coding, the researcher found: (a) New Jersey community colleges find themselves in deepening financial difficulties, with urban-serving colleges disproportionately affected, because of several external trends including declining public support; (b) Presidents are taking a leadership role in developing alternative revenue streams; (c) They are using two strategies to address financial exigencies - cost-cutting and entrepreneurial revenue development; (d) With a few exceptions, presidents do not view fundraising as a primary resource development alternative; (e) Presidents described their role evolving to a mainly external focus, with emphasis on building collaborative entrepreneurial ventures, shoring up local public funding, and raising major gifts. Most prepare for these new responsibilities through on-the-job training; (f) Presidents are becoming more essential in shaping the public good message; and (g) Presidents described effective strategies to preserve the hallmark value of access but there was not general consensus on how or if they would be able to preserve affordability. Three overarching themes emerged: (a) Financial exigencies are escalating with expectations that public funding will continue to decline; (b) The president’s expanding external role demands an articulate message encompassing the public good benefits of higher education; and (c) Growing pressure for new entrepreneurial revenue streams causes presidents to walk a fine line balancing the public good with academic capitalism. ^

Subject Area

Education, Community College|Education, Administration|Education, Higher

Recommended Citation

Gentile, Patricia A, "Ensuring the American dream: Perceptions of New Jersey community college presidents on fundraising as an alternative revenue source to preserve access and affordability" (2009). ETD collection for University of Nebraska - Lincoln. AAI3350254.