The Influence of College President Perceptions on Organizational Commitment to Higher Education Market: An Exploratory Analysis of High-Performing California Community Colleges

Article excerpt

This article based on a dissertation that was an exploratory examination of how presidential perceptions influence organizational commitment to higher education marketing at high-performing California community colleges. This article provides the background of the study, a discussion of the study's conceptual underpinnings, and the purpose, findings, discussion, implications for practice, conclusions, and limitations of the study.

The seeds of California's community college marketing and "image" challenges were planted as a result of their conception and history (Denton 1970; Zeiss 1986). California started its first community college nearly 100 years ago as a high school extension program in Fresno (PaIinchak 1973; Witt, Wattenb arger and Gollattscheck et al. 1994). The high school provided lower-division college coursework and vocational "technical work" (Witt et al. 1994). At the same time, administrators at the University of California at Berkeley agreed to accept the transfer students as juniors (Witt et al. 1994). In 1909, the state provided high schools the resources to create "junior colleges" (Witt et al. 1994). In the early 1970s, the state system officially adopted a new name - "community college" - to reflect its local community education focus (Palinchak 1973; Witt et al. 1994).

In conjunction with the University of California (uc) and the California State University (csu) systems, the state legislature created America's first comprehensive master plan for higher education in i960 (Kerr 1994). The master plan directed junior colleges to provide vocational and lower-division education and to award associate of arts degrees. The csus were to provide lower- and upper-division courses and to award bachelor's and master's degrees. And the ucs were to focus on research and to provide academic coursework for bachelor's, master's, and doctorate degrees (Kerr 1994). The master plan established a role and position for each system within the state's higher education hierarchy.

Community colleges are funded in the same manner as K-12 schools. Colleges receive financial resources based on daily attendance. The Full-Time Equivalent (FTES) student contact hours accounting system is based on the state master plan's mandate, which means that junior colleges are dependent on steady enrollment for steady funding (ceco 2004). The funding system inextricably ties enrollment and funding; as a result, the junior colleges are in the position of constandy trying to attract students and community support in order to maintain resource levels and relevancy.

MARKETING AND IMAGE PROBLEMS

Community colleges are struggling to overcome prestige, reputation, and image problems in their effort to compete for students and resources (Consand 1968). Watts and Barista (2005) write, "Warranted or not, community colleges have gotten a reputation for being 'junior' institutions that provide a second-rate education compared to fouryear schools" (p. 26). A review of the literature suggests that community colleges face specific image and marketing problems, including elitism (Palinchak 1973; Witt et al. 1 994), a lack of scarcity (Lynn 1992), myths, misconceptions (LeClaire 2006), insufficient information (Hayward et al. 2004), and fragmentation (Ryans and Shanklin 198e).

The literature also suggests that it is these challenges that have contributed to community colleges' enrollment and funding deficits. The literature demonstrates that many American colleges and universities have faced and overcome these and other challenges through leadership that was dedicated to marketing. More specifically, these organizations have succeeded because they had leaders who recognized and embraced the potential offered by marketing philosophy and were committed to making the needs of students and the community a top priority on campus (Hanson 2003; Ko der and Goldgehn 198 1; LaFleur 1990).

CONCEPTUAL UNDERPINNINGS

Marketing in Higher Education

Business and public policy literature indicate that marketing is a concern for universities and colleges and that these institutions are engaged in marketing whether their leaders intend to be or not (Berry and . …