Award Date

August 2016

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Public Policy and Leadership

First Committee Member

Lee Bernick

Second Committee Member

Christopher Stream

Third Committee Member

Gene Hall

Fourth Committee Member

David Damore

Number of Pages



Community colleges are playing an increasingly important role in national and local postsecondary education and economic development policy arenas. These two-year institutions educate 46 percent of American undergraduates, including the majority of African American, Hispanic and Native American undergraduate students. However, community colleges are failing to graduate students, particularly students of color (AACC, 2012). Given the national demand for graduates, policymakers are struggling to help more under-represented groups succeed and complete their college degrees. Therefore, an examination of who is governing community colleges and making important policy decisions to address student success is critical. While there are a variety of governing structures for community colleges, the majority of states employ local governing boards to provide some level of oversight, making these boards an ideal focal point for research (Polonio & Miller, 2012). Little empirical data exists specific to the composition of local community college governing boards in America. Using descriptive representation as a theoretical framework, this dissertation analyzed data from a random sample of 91 local community college governing boards to determine to what extent local community college governing boards reflect the Black and Hispanic populations they serve, to what extent structural and environmental variables predict the presence of minority board members and examine the impact of minority board members on substantive outcomes for higher education. The results found that demographics have a strong relationship to the racial composition of the governing board, student body and graduating class. Using structural equation modeling, the data indicate the percentage of Black and Hispanic board members has an indirect causal effect on the percentage of Black and Hispanic graduates, iv respectively. In addition, four case studies follow the quantitative analysis to provide rich context to the results and highlight the important contributions minority members make to their respective boards. These qualitative efforts also show the degree to which institutional programs, board member training, recruitment planning and even state laws can impact board composition and ultimately student success.


Community College Governance; Descriptive representation; trustee


Education | Political Science | Public Policy

File Format


Degree Grantor

University of Nevada, Las Vegas




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