An Analysis of the Relationship between the Use of Adaptive and Interpretive Survival Strategies and Financial Resilience in Lutheran Colleges
Date of Award
Dissertation - Restricted
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Thorn, Carl G.
Small private liberal arts colleges have been identified as particularly vulnerable to future decline and failure as a result of demographic and economic changes. Recent case study research has identified a considerable number of strategies that have been employed by small colleges. One such study, conducted by Chaffee (1984), examined the effectiveness of two types of strategy on institutions which had experienced decline. These two models for strategic management are derived from different theories of organizational structure. Adaptive strategies are those which flow from an organismic view of an organization. Interpretive strategies are based on a view of an organization as a social contract. Those institutions experiencing greatest financial resilience in Chaffee's research focused more on those strategies identified as interpretive. This research sought to further validate the findings of Chaffee by seeking to determine the extent to which perceptions of the use and impact of adaptive and interpretive survival strategies serve to predict the financial resilience of Lutheran Colleges. The predictive power of institutional qualities like age of institution, synodical affiliation, and location was also examined. Finally, difference in perceptions among participants due to their roles was analyzed. Content analysis of a strategy inventory developed by Robert Grinnell (1983) categorized the strategies as either adaptive or interpretive. The inventory was sent to 442 participants at 31 Lutheran Colleges in America. 290 responses yielded perceptions of use and impact of those strategies employed by each institution during the last ten years. These perceptions served as predictors in a regression analysis with four financial resilience variables serving as the criteria. A multivariate analysis of variance was also conducted to determine differences in perception due to institutional role. This study supported Chaffee's conclusion insofar as claims about interpretive strategy impact were significant predictors of actual financial performance in endowment and enrollment. Perceptions about adaptive strategy use were found to be significantly related to increase in enrollment. Age of institution was negatively correlated with enrollment and positively related to endowment; two-year colleges showed greatest gains in enrollment; and synod affiliation served to predict endowment performance. Perceptions among institutional roles were fairly uniform with the exception of department heads and trustees whose responses differed significantly from the other roles.