Texas Community College Executive Administrators’ Perceptions and Experiences with Implementing Federal and State Legislative Mandates

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2023-05

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Abstract

The purpose of this qualitative phenomenological study, conducted through the lens of the social constructivist paradigm, was to explore the perceptions and experiences of executive administrators in Texas public community colleges regarding the implementation of legislative policies and mandates. The study specifically examined how legislative mandates affect community colleges' in relation to their mission and executive administrators’ best practices for implementing these mandates. Utilizing a social constructivist lens, the research emphasized the role of experience and social interactions in constructing knowledge. The study was framed by key concepts from an educational implementation framework that included policy design; stakeholder engagement and communication; policy environment; and concrete implementation procedures. These concepts informed the study to determine how the implementation of legislative mandates affect Texas public community colleges, particularly in terms of funding, resources, reporting, and timing. Participants were 12 executive administrators from 11 large and very large public community colleges in Texas Data collection included the lens of the researcher, semi-structured interviews, field notes, document analysis, and the researcher's reflective journal. The data analysis process was conducted manually as well as through computer software applications Dedoose, Microsoft Word, and Microsoft Excel. The constant comparative method as well as open and axial coding were used to analyze the data. Findings revealed the participants perceived some state legislators may have limited understanding of the community college mission and the students they serve. They also perceived implementing unfunded and large-scale mandates often resulted in financial challenges for both institutions and students. Some mandates were also perceived as creating unintended academic barriers for community college students. Stakeholder engagement and communication, early and ongoing participation in the legislative process, and maintaining a unified front among Texas public community colleges were identified as best practices for implementation. The discussion of findings led to several implications and recommendations for higher education practice. Implications included the misalignment of legislative mandates with community college missions may lead to inefficient practices, the undervaluing of stakeholder engagement may lead to lack of support for the implementation process, funding challenges due to limited understanding of community college pathways, and a lack of attention to coherent implementation strategies. Recommendations included placing the community college mission at the forefront of an implementation framework, identifying student populations potentially affected by mandates, refining data-informed strategies to address barriers, engaging employees in professional development and cross-departmental collaboration at all levels of the hierarchy, and prioritizing staffing resources and technology to support implementation protocols.

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Keywords

Texas Public Community Colleges, Legislative Mandates, Community College Mission

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