Using change theory to better understand campus response to state merit aid programs
Anderson, Robert Edward
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Historically, state governments bear the brunt of the financial burden regarding public higher education within their borders. The result is that states must find a variety of means to generate the funds needed to operate higher education institutions. Beginning in the first half of the 1990s, states began to turn to a new revenue stream to fund higher education needs: merit-based lottery scholarships. This phenomenon began on a broad scale in 1993 with Georgia’s Helping Outstanding Pupils Educationally (HOPE) Scholarship. Since the inception of this initiative, many other states, predominately southern, have implemented various forms of this merit aid approach. West Virginia adopted a legislatively ratified merit aid program in 2002. This dissertation is an exploration of higher education institutional response to West Virginia’s adoption of a broad-based merit aid policy. These campus changes are examined through the lens of three higher education organizational change theories, evolutionary, teleological, and cultural, in an attempt to better understand the drivers and processes of institutional response. This study concludes that the evolutionary and teleological lenses provided the greatest explanatory power regarding the change process. Several generalizable observations were made. First, a clearly articulated campus plan and strong presidential leadership result in more effective adaptation to the required change. Second, changes that do occur are more likely to be first order change – minor adjustments and improvements that fit within existing structures. Third, a general resistance to change on college campuses dictated by outside entities may actually result in a resistance to a cultural shift. Fourth, additional policy shifts at the state level can compete for limited campus resources altering how a campus might choose to respond to the change being examined. Finally, the nature of the change at the state level can create a zero-sum environment when considering available resources, which inhibits the diffusion of information among institutions thrust into a competitive versus a cooperative environment.