Date of Award

Spring 2010

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Political Science

First Advisor

Susan E. Clarke

Second Advisor

J. Samuel Fitch

Third Advisor

Krister Par Andersson

Abstract

Political science offers rich explanations for how different types of organizations that are focused on public policy decisions (e.g., boundary organizations, interest groups, policy networks (or communities), and think tanks) influence public policy processes (Cash, Clark, Alcock, Dickson, Eckley, Guston, Jager, and Mitchell 2003; Guston 2001; Kingdon 1995; Mintrom and Vergari 1998; Stone 2000; Weaver 1989). They serve as information sources, promote dialogue, foster the diffusion of innovations, bridge gaps between research and policy, and set policy agendas, all with the intent of influencing public policy. Their goals, approaches, and abilities, however, vary from one another, and interstate policy organizations diverge from these key organizational actors in important ways. This dissertation provides a contextualized account of state policy processes by examining the role of interstate policy organizations in policy decision making with the aim of uncovering and analyzing the important ways that these entities are perceived to influence state policy choices. In the context of higher education policy, this exploratory study focuses on the following research question:

Under what conditions are interstate policy organizations perceived as influencing state policy decision‐making processes in higher education?

While historically, higher education has not been viewed as one of the most critical issues facing state policymakers, increasingly this issue is moving onto the forefront of political agendas making it a timely and relevant context for analysis. The research employs two stages of data collection involving elite interviews and online surveys of state‐level higher education policymakers and policy shapers (chairs of state House and Senate legislative committees with jurisdiction over higher education, state higher education executive officers, state legislative education staff, and staff from interstate policy organizations) and two case studies. The two cases trace one higher education policy initiative -- outcomes‐based funding of public higher education institutions -- in Texas and Colorado to provide a more contextualized account of the conditions under which and the ways in which interstate policy organizations are perceived as affecting state policy processes.

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