Dean Lefor

Date of Award

Spring 2008

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Public Administration (MPA)


Political Science & Public Administration


Congressional oversight of higher education is vital part of the policy process. However, a compressive study regarding the relationship between higher education oversight and attention has not been conducted. By utilizing McCubbins and Swartz’s Police Patrol and Fire Alarm Oversight Dichotomy, this experiment was able to discover that a relationship exists between fire alarm oversight and the amount of public attention in the higher education policy process.

Congressional hearings in higher education were broken into three sections over a 58-year period. Each section was divided by major policy punctuations such as the Higher Education Act of 1965 and the 1980 elevation of the Department of Education to cabinet level. By utilizing a dataset compiled by the Policy Agendas Project, New York Times articles along with Congressional Quarterly Almanac Articles were used to measure the public’s awareness and attention of higher education policy.

By using a Poisson regression, a statistically significant relationship was discovered in all three time periods of the New York Times articles when compared to the frequency of fire alarm oversight days per year. This analysis showed that there is a relationship between the frequency of fire alarm days that occur each year and the amount of New York Times articles that occur, representative of the public’s attention of higher education. However, Congressional Quarterly articles were not found to have a significant relationship with fire alarm oversight days.