Theses and Dissertations

Issuing Body

Mississippi State University


Stumpf, Arthur D.

Committee Member

Davis, James E.

Committee Member

Wiseman, Marty

Committee Member

Brown, Michael

Committee Member

Bonfanti, Philip G.

Date of Degree


Document Type

Dissertation - Open Access


Community College Leadership

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


College of Education


Department of Instructional Systems, Leadership and Workforce Development


The two-year private college has been recognized as a valuable sector of American higher education; yet, its documented decline has failed to incite substantial research focusing on the how and why. This study explored the plight and potential of one particular set of private institutions, the two-year United Methodist colleges, which exhibit characteristics that both distinguish and closely align them with the broader institutional classification as two-year private colleges. By means of a multi-case approach, this study attempted to identify significant opportunities and threats perceived by chief executive officers that affect the viability of these representative institutions. Ultimately, the study sought to document the strategies employed by these schools to ensure their continued existence. The researcher intended to strengthen the empirical foundation for an informed discussion of the issues affecting this unique sector of higher education and, specifically, to identify relevant variables that may be used in subsequent research efforts. The results of the study indicate that the two-year United Methodist colleges share opportunities and challenges with the small, four-year liberal arts college and the general category of religious colleges. At the same time, the data reflect intra-group differences that contribute to the distinctiveness of the individual institutions. Clearly, the future appears to be questionable for this institutional sector that is small in terms of the number of colleges operating and the volume of students served. However, as the first authentic American contribution to the higher education landscape, the two-year private and church-related college continues to serve a unique purpose with its own particular approach to student development, academic endeavors, communal activities, and organizational operation. These institutions contribute to the diversity of the higher education system in the United States as a body of colleges specifically committed to the needs of freshmen and sophomores in an environment characterized by a strong sense of values and community. The impact of their extinction is inestimable but would undoubtedly diminish the pluralism that is so greatly valued in the American higher education system.