5 fast facts about today's college presidents

As the traditional path to presidency shifts, so do the demographics, backgrounds, and skills of today's college leaders, reports the Chronicle of Higher Education's (CHE) 2017 Almanac.

CHE's Almanac pulls from two recent studies. The first study was conducted by the American Council on Education, whose researchers analyzed survey data from 1,546 leaders of two-year and four-year private, public, and for profit institutions.

The second study was conducted by Georgia Tech's Center for 21st Century Universities. The center collected survey responses from 165 colleges, including 112 private and 51 public institutions.

We rounded up five facts about the today's typical college president.

Fact 1: More than a third of deans land the executive role without the traditional provost-to-president pipeline.

Carl Strikwerda, current president of Elizabethtown College and a former dean himself, explains that the shift has much to do with a change in the responsibilities of deans and provosts.

Today, provosts serve as managers of their institutions' processes, which makes their role similar to a chief operating officer. Deans, on the other hand, have grown to be more external-facing. Recently, Strikwerda writes, "deans became fierce advocates for [their] schools within [their] universities, as well as ambassadors to constituencies outside of them."

Another good place to find your next president? Student affairs

Fact 2: Male presidents are more likely than their female counterparts to skip the provost step.

Forty-three percent of executives who jumped from dean to presidency are male, while only 18% are female, reports the Chronicle.

Fact 3: A college president spends an average of 6.5 years in office.

According to the Almanac, the average president's tenure dropped from 8.5 years in 2006 to 6.5 in 2016.

One possible factor in the trend of shorter tenures may be where presidents are hired from. According to one study by the Indiana University of Bloomington, the shorter tenure trend may have to do with whether leaders are promoted from within a college or hired from an external organization. Researchers found that leaders hired from outside the institution remained in their posts for longer periods of time than those who were hired from within.

Fact 4: The proportion of presidents who identify as a minority climbed four percentage points.

The representation of minority executives is at its highest point of 16.8% in the past 10 years. But while the proportion of African-American presidents has increased two percentage points to 7.9% since 2011, the majority of executives still identify as white, reports the Chronicle.

All the resources new academic leaders need to hit the ground running

Fact 5: The proportion of presidents who were previously a faculty member dropped 12 percentage points.

Across the past ten years, the proportion of presidents who previously served as a faculty member dropped from 31.1 % in 2006 to 18.8% in 2016, reports the Almanac.

While an academic position is the traditional stepping stone to the presidency, a 2012 study found that over 20% of college presidents are now hired from outside of higher education. Similarly, the Chronicle reports that more than half of today's presidents have worked outside of higher education (Chronicle of Higher Education [1], accessed 8/23; Chronicle of Higher Education [2], accessed 8/23). 


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