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The State Higher Education Executive Officer and the Public Good

reviewed by Cynthia MacGregor - May 17, 2019

coverTitle: The State Higher Education Executive Officer and the Public Good
Author(s): David A. Tandberg, Brian A. Sponsler, Randall W. Hanna, & Jason P. Guilbeau (Eds.)
Publisher: Teachers College Press, New York
ISBN: 0807759341, Pages: 336, Year: 2018
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Public colleges and universities are struggling with declining state appropriations and increasing pressures from the states who govern them. At the apex of this struggle within each state is an administrator placed in charge of the state board of higher education, i.e., the State Higher Education Executive Officer (SHEEO). Most states have such a governing board and a corresponding administrator, but very little research has been done in this domain of educational leadership. The book under review makes a vital contribution to education scholarship by providing a detailed review of SHEEO work and laying a foundation for future research regarding their leadership.

The four chapters in Part One focus on developing a base of knowledge concerning SHEEOs in context. Lingenfelter, a higher education policy and leadership scholar, authored the first chapter on the origins and evolving role of the SHEEO. This chapter should be a required primer for understanding or researching state education policy. Holly, in the second chapter, explores the SHEEO and higher education as a public good. Though thinly supported by references in much of the chapter, Holly nonetheless provides a solid exploration of her topic. Though largely about Tennessee, the third chapter, by Rhoda and Linthicum, is a meaningful case exploration from which implications for practitioners and researchers are detailed. The first part of the book concludes with a chapter from Layzell, who has served four states as SHEEO for a total of 24 years. Layzell’s advice-filled chapter would be beneficial to anyone who is an aspiring or current SHEEO.

The four chapters that comprise Part Two provide an overview of the current status of the structures, policies, and politics regarding the SHEEO. Kinne-Clawson and Zumeta author the first chapter, which connects the SHEEO role to higher education finance and policy. This chapter includes a detailed examination of the SHEEO within the funding history of four states (Wisconsin, Georgia, Ohio, and Maryland). Next, Hanna and Guilbeau investigate changes in higher education governance as related to the roles of the SHEEO and the state board. The governance in three states (Florida, Tennessee, and Alabama) is explored through the three political streams of Kingdon’s framework. Four states (Georgia, North Carolina, Tennessee, and Texas) are the context for the exploration of the SHEEO and intermediary organizations in the chapter by Ness, Hearn, and Rubin. The second part of the book ends with a chapter by Bark and Fryar, who summarize the findings from a survey of university presidents and their relationships with their SHEEO.

The final section, Part Three, lays the foundation for future research and theory development concerning the SHEEO. Sponsler and Fulton detail the shifting landscape of state governance and implications for the SHEEO role. This chapter is an essential orientation for researchers who seek to understand state higher education policy-making, and especially those who endeavor to research SHEEO agency. Appendix 9.A traces the history of decision-making, while Appendix 9.B details changes in state-level functions. The authority of state boards and agencies is categorized in Appendix 9.C. The remaining two chapters of the final section are focused on theoretical perspectives (Tandberg & Fowles) and quantitative research (Lacy & Tandberg) as related to the SHEEO role; both chapters are tremendously valuable for advancing research on the SHEEO. Tandberg and Fowles clarify the theoretical frameworks to use for such work, while Lacy and Tandberg elucidate the potential contribution of research focused on quantitative measures.

The strengths of this well-written book are found in every section, but most notably in the final section. The first part is well-conceived and delivers the foundation necessary for advancing policy, practice, and research focused on the leadership of the SHEEO. Part Two encompasses contemporary SHEEO issues regarding state finance, governing boards, intermediary organizations, and university leaders. The final section, Part Three, is the strongest, providing guidance for future research and theory development. This capstone section will guide the next phase of SHEEO research, thus improving SHEEO leadership through robust research and enriched theory.

Despite making a solid contribution to this neglected area of research, there are a few aspects that could be stronger. Among the states exemplified in the book, the focus is limited to only a handful of states, especially Tennessee, which is a focus within five of the eleven chapters. Florida and Georgia also receive undue attention. Seventeen other states are briefly mentioned, leaving 30 states and their SHEEOs, or lack thereof, addressed only in Appendix 8.B. and 9.C. This deficiency is likely due more to the minimal research on this topic than to an oversight by the editors. Future researchers should focus on adding to the scant knowledge on SHEEO leadership in other states.

A few upgrades could make a second edition even more powerful than this initial version. McGuiness, referenced repeatedly in this compilation, would be an excellent contributor to this book should it be revised for a second edition. Also, Complete College America is stampeding across multiple states, but very little is known about its impact; the chapter by Rhoda and Linthicum begs for more recent data on the status of Tennessee after the Complete College America Tennessee Act (CCAT). The chapter by Hanna and Guilbeau contained strong content and the addition of a research question would improve the cohesiveness of the chapter. Another enhancement would be for Layzell’s work to be revisited with a scholarly co-author. The experiential knowledge he brings could be conceptualized within relevant theoretical frameworks of leadership and power. The pervasive gap between practitioner and scholar could thus be better connected, with practitioners equipped with leadership and organizational theory and scholars clarifying practitioner work within theories.

Overall, this book delivers tremendous information, perspective, and future direction for research in higher education leadership and policy. The editors hope that “both sitting and aspiring SHEEOs will find information they can apply to do their jobs better and that researchers will find tools and information they can use to further investigate this unique position” (p. 5); their hope is anchored securely in this book. In addition, university presidents and their policy advocates should read this text, particularly Parts One and Two. Graduate students in higher education finance and policy would find this book to be immensely useful in orientating them to state-level education policy, as well as historical and current trends in state leadership. They could use Part Three to guide the development of much-needed research agendas regarding the SHEEO. The chapter authors include practitioner expertise from those who have held the SHEEO role, established scholars who have researched and written extensively about educational leadership in higher education, and doctoral students who will hopefully be a new generation of experts in this important area of research.

Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record, Date Published: May 17, 2019
https://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 22800, Date Accessed: 5/20/2022 11:54:49 PM

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About the Author
  • Cynthia MacGregor
    Missouri State University
    E-mail Author
    CYNTHIA MACGREGOR, EdD, professor of educational leadership, is site coordinator for the Missouri State University region of the University of Missouri statewide EdD program. Her Bachelor of Science and Master’s degrees in psychology are from the University of Central Missouri; her doctorate in educational leadership is from the University of Missouri. She has three decades of experience in a variety of faculty and university leadership roles and extensive research in organizational and leadership analysis. Recent projects include co-authoring Business and Corporation Engagement in Higher Education and a forthcoming work of "Motives and Ethics" in Corporate Investment in Higher Education.
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