The Independent College Presidency 1986–2016

The Independent College Presidency cover

​The Council of Independent Colleges (CIC) offers various professional development programs designed specifically for the leaders of independent colleges and universities, including department chairs, division chairs, other faculty leaders, chief academic officers, vice presidents of student affairs, finance and enrollment managers, mid-level administrative staff, and, especially, presidents. The content of these programs is often guided by CIC research studies that are conducted primarily by staff members, but sometimes commissioned from other experts.

For more than a decade, research into the CIC presidency has been a primary source of information used to help both current presidents and those who aspire to be among the next generation of presidents of independent colleges and universities. This is the third report written by CIC staff members based on data from the American Council on Education’s (ACE) American College President Study (ACPS). It uses data collected by ACE in 2016 through a survey of 3,615 college and university presidents in the United States. Of those, 1,546 responded.

CIC is interested primarily in understanding independent college presidents—their demographic characteristics, career paths and future plans, what they find satisfying or frustrating about their jobs, how well they believe they were prepared for various responsibilities of their office, and how they envision the future of independent higher education and the presidency. One way to gain further insight into the CIC presidency is to compare CIC presidents with presidents of other types of institutions. To that end, this study frequently identifies the ways in which CIC presidents are similar to or different from presidents of other sectors: presidents of private doctoral research universities, public doctoral research institutions, public two-year colleges, and public nondoctoral institutions. This report also compares the 2016 responses with earlier surveys when available to provide an additional perspective on the current data.

Based on the findings of this study, the average president of a CIC institution is a white male slightly older than 61 years of age who is married, has earned a doctoral degree, and has been in his current presidency for six and one-half years. The typical president in 2016 differs little from the typical president in 2011, who was “a 60-year-old married white male with an earned doctorate who has been president for about seven years and is very satisfied in his work” (Song and Hartley 2012, p. ii). Looking back to 2009, the presidents CIC studied then were presidents for the first time from 1986 to 2006. These presidents averaged 59 years of age and also were white, male, and married.

​Council of Independent Colleges
By Barbara Hetrick, Hollie M. Chessman, Harold V. Hartley III, and Lesley McBain
August 2018