Electronic Theses and Dissertations

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Ph.D. in Education

First Advisor

Neal Hutchens

Second Advisor

Frank Fernandez

Third Advisor

Marie Barnard

Relational Format



Institutions of Higher Education (IHEs) have wrangled with state governmental agencies for decades about the role the government should assume in overseeing campus operations. IHEs continue to argue that government intrusion impedes efficient IHE operation. Government agencies counter that IHEs are provided tax dollars to complete the job of educating the states’ citizens and that IHEs must abide by the rules and regulations set by the state. However, over the last two decades, state funding for IHEs is at an all-time low; yet governments still dictate how IHEs operate. With decreased state funding, IHEs sought to replace those funds by focusing on external funding sources such as tuitions. These issues strain the relationship between IHEs and state governments resulting in IHEs calling for more autonomy in campus operations.

In 2005, the Commonwealth of Virginia passed the Restructured Higher Education Financial and Administrative Operations Act, known as the Restructuring Act. This legislation created a unique autonomy system in Virginia that provided IHEs an opportunity to obtain substantial autonomy over their affairs. This dissertation reports results of research seeking to better understand the autonomy system in Virginia. This study examined pre-autonomy Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) (2006-2008) and post-Autonomy III VCU (2009-2015). Post-Autonomy III VCU has complete autonomy over its finances and operations and are not under the authority of the Commonwealth of Virginia. This study sought to determine if postAutonomy III VCU had higher minority enrollment percentages, smaller administrative and management staff percentages, and higher axillary revenue percentages. Also, this research reviewed minority enrollment percentages, administrative and management staffing percentages, and auxiliary revenue percentages to determine if autonomy status influenced Virginia Commonwealth University’s minority enrollment percentages, administrative and staffing percentages, and auxiliary revenue percentages compared to non-autonomous comparative IHEs in Virginia.

The Delta Cost Project Database (DCPD) was created in 2007 to make the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) more usable for longitudinal research (American Institutes of Research, 2017). In 2012, the American Institutes for Research (AIR) assumed responsibility for the database while the National Center for Educational Statistics (NCES) maintained the database. The data stored in the DCPD spans from 1987-2015 (AIR, 2017). The DCPD provides data on 184 public IHEs in the United States (AIR, 2017). The DCPD database also includes data related to enrollment and administrative expenditures, as well as auxiliary expenditures.

The research conducted within this dissertation yielded promising results. PostAutonomy III VCU possessed a more diverse enrollment and employed less administrative and management staff. Further, VCU created a higher percentage of revenue for auxiliary enterprises and possessed a higher percentage of minority enrollment than non-autonomous IHEs in Virginia.

This research was designed to gain a better understanding of the autonomy system in Virginia. The results indicate that a relationship exists between autonomy and how IHEs operate. Further research on autonomy in higher education is needed to determine how autonomy impacts efficiency. However, to date, little research exists related to this topic in the United States. This study contributes to our understanding of and raises future research question about the relationship between institutional autonomy and multiple institutional outcome.


Higher education



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