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Governmental relations, how institutions of higher education interact with appointed and elected governmental officials, has not been well defined or widely researched. This is especially the case at community colleges. Today, community colleges enroll half of all students in the United States in higher education and have become the largest sector of higher education in Texas. The need for community colleges to understand and to influence policy and funding decisions through governmental relations has intensified as Texas has faced pressure on state revenue as a result of two economic recessions over the past decade.
To understand how Texas community colleges structure and organize the function of governmental relations (GR) this study focused on five community colleges in the state of Texas. This research utilized a qualitative, multiple case methods strategy by interviewing leaders at five community colleges regarding the structure and organization of the governmental relations. The interviews were conducted with the college CEOs, other senior administrators, and governing board members at the five institutions.
This study demonstrated that responsibility for GR at community colleges rests with the institution’s CEO. A key finding of this study centers on differences in how colleges structure the governmental relations function based on institutional enrollment size. The researcher found three common themes: (1) the college CEO has ultimate responsibility for governmental relations, (2) the colleges structure their governmental relations efforts as a conduit of inputs/outputs between the institution and the external policy environment, and (3) the essential functional role of GR is to cultivate and maintain relationships with external political systems. Future research across a broader range of community college leaders and institutions is needed to reinforce the findings of this study.
Adviser: Brent Cejda