Publication Date

Spring 2020

Advisor(s) - Committee Chair

Antony D. Norman (Director), Randy Capps, Felice Billups, and Martha Kanter

Degree Program

Department of Educational Administration, Leadership, and Research

Degree Type

Doctor of Education


Governors can impose tremendous influence on public policy. In their attempt to address issues that their states face, and in order to sustain and improve the present and long-term health of its citizenry, some governors invest significant resources to shape the direction of their state’s postsecondary system of education. This study examined the critical elements that led two different governors to enact large-scale impact on state postsecondary education by investigating three research questions through a qualitative multiple-instrument case study: (a) How do governors’ vision for their state intersect with their view of postsecondary education as a key policy priority area to address the current and future needs of the state? (b) What role(s) do governors play during the policymaking process? (c) What conditions during the formation, adoption, and implementation process allowed for long-term sustainability of reform efforts?

In the case of Kentucky and Tennessee, Governors Patton and Haslam respectively chose higher education as a significant pillar for reform during their administration; they then engaged in a variety of strategies to ensure that it was adopted, implemented, and sustained. Key findings were elements that comprised each governor’s viewpoint, the roles each governor played throughout the policy setting and adoption phase, and the conditions that were set to ensure long-term sustainability. Collectively, these governors shared many similarities throughout the design, adoption, and implementation of their reform agendas. While some differences were noted, they mostly resided in reactions to contextual circumstances. Ultimately, the viewpoint, role, and conditions established to ensure long-term sustainability of both governors strongly impacted their state’s ability to adopt and execute their postsecondary reform efforts.


Education Policy | Higher Education | Political Science