More Women, Minorities Head Colleges, But Rate of Increase Slows
The rate of increase in the number of women and minorities serving as college presidents slowed during the past three years according to The American College President: 2002 Edition, the results of a new survey of college presidents released last month by the American Council on Education (ACE). At the same time, the number of presidents recruited from outside of higher education nearly doubled.
Since 1986, the percentage of women college presidents has more than doubled — from 9.5 percent to 21.1 percent — while the percentage of minority presidents increased from 8.1 percent to 12.8 percent, according to the report. However the rate of growth has slowed in recent years, increasing only 1.8 percentage points for women and 1.5 percentage points for minorities since 1998.
Women have made significant inroads at the two-year college level, holding 27 percent of the presidencies, up from 8 percent in 1986, according to the report. At doctorate-granting institutions, women hold 13 percent of the presidencies, up from 4 percent in 1986. Excluding two-year institutions, women represent 18 percent of college and university presidents.
The report shows minority presidents led virtually all historically Black colleges and universities (HBCU) and more than one-third of Hispanic-serving institutions (HSI). However, when HBCUs and HSIs are excluded, the number of colleges and universities led by minority presidents drops to 10 percent. In 1986, the number of colleges and universities led by minority presidents, excluding HBCUs and HSIs, was 4.7 percent.
“The good news in this new report on college presidents is that women and minorities hold more college and university presidencies today than ever before,” says ACE President David Ward. “But the bad news is a leveling off of this increased diversity.”
The report also shows that colleges and universities in general were less likely to insist on prior presidential experience in searching for new campus leaders. In 2001, one in five presidents had prior experience as a president before his or her current position, down from the one in four reported in 1998. Private doctorate-granting institutions were most likely to hire presidents whose immediate prior position was president/CEO, at 32 percent.
In addition, some 15 percent of presidents’ immediate prior positions were outside of higher education, nearly twice as many as the 8 percent reported in 1998 — but the data show this varies by sector. In 2001, 19 percent of private college and university presidents came from outside higher education compared with 9 percent of all presidents in the public sector.
“The American College President: 2002 Edition” is the fifth in a series of reports describing the backgrounds, career paths and experiences of college and university presidents. The report is based on the results of the 2001 American College President Study and includes information from 2,594 presidents of public and private colleges and universities across the country — the largest survey sample since the study began in 1986.
For more information, visit the American Council on Education’s Web site at
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