Education and Human Sciences, College of (CEHS)


First Advisor

Brent D. Cejda

Date of this Version



A DISSERTATION Presented to the Faculty of The Graduate College at the University of Nebraska In Partial Fulfillment of Requirements For the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy, Major: Educational Studies (Educational Leadership & Higher Education), Under the Supervision of Professor Brent D. Cejda. Lincoln, Nebraska: May, 2017

Copyright (c) 2017 Christopher B. Gage


Higher education in America is resilient; in the face of seemingly insurmountable challenges, higher education manages to weather the storm of change, pressure, doubt, and criticism. Consider the following challenges: shifting demographics, escalating tuition, decreased state funding, retention and graduation rates, flat tuition revenue, competition for students, student preparedness, and student loan debt. Enrollment managers navigate these formidable impediments through innovative policy change, leadership and faithfulness to institutional mission (Eckel & Kezar, 2003b; Hector, 2016). Test-optional admission policies are changing the landscape of the enrollment management profession. Critics say some institutions adopt test-optional admissions to improve their national rankings by artificially inflating their average test scores. Proponents state they adopt such a policy to be more inclusive, to support institutional mission, to offer a holistic applicant review process, and cite high school GPA as a better predictor of college success (Mattern & Allen, 2016).

This dissertation studied change in the admission policy at a private, urban, tuition-dependent, baccalaureate institution. Specifically, I examined the case of Metropolitan University, a pseudonym, and why it changed to a test-optional admission policy. I used Kezar’s evolutionary change framework to examine why the change occurred, the degree of change, and how the change occurred.

Six themes emerged when answering the three research questions: lead from mission, adaptive change in response to external forces, planned change – foster an environment where change can live, allow for internal procedural change – shaped by the organization, communication, and leadership.

Why the enrollment management division made this change was grounded in institutional mission but brought about by external forces. What needed to change was minimal for Metropolitan University. The change was possible because leadership fostered an environment where change can live. The division consulted with outside experts and provided extensive staff training. Interviewees noted communication and leadership as key strategies in how the change occurred.

Adviser: Brent D. Cejda