Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)


Educational Leadership


This study was designed to examine the perceptions of leaders of higher education in North Dakota regarding declining public school enrollment and its potential impact on higher education in the state. Educational leaders from three higher education institutions of differing types and other state policymakers were interviewed to determine their responses to the phenomenon of enrollment decline, the impact foreseen on higher education, and the planning activities used or being considered for use in preparation for the possible impact.

Data were gathered from open-ended interviews and through examination of planning documents of institutions and the North Dakota University System. A process of reading and coding the interviews was utilized to analyze the data. Themes and assertions were derived from the analysis of the data.

Three themes emerged from the data analysis and became the focus of the research report: change in higher education, uncertainty and concern about higher education in North Dakota, and meeting the challenges of demographic and enrollment changes. The interview subjects reported that higher education had undergone numerous changes in recent years. Those changes were brought about by the knowledge explosion, increasing use of technology, heightening competition, and the use of distance delivery mechanisms for instruction.

The interview subjects expressed varying degrees of uncertainty and concern about higher education in North Dakota. Their concerns centered on the need for clear institutional and system missions and vision, on planning processes, and on the possible need for downsizing the higher education system. According to the educational leaders, North Dakota and North Dakota higher education are interdependent, thus requiring a close working relationship between higher education leaders and other state leaders.

The phenomenon of declining enrollment presents challenges to leaders in higher education. Leaders will need to develop creative and innovative ways of dealing with the phenomenon and will need to effect appropriate changes for institutions. New student markets must be found which may include more non-traditional students, other lifelong learners, and students from other states. At the same time that the challenges are being met, leaders must also be careful to ensure that the quality and standards of higher education are maintained.

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