Date of Award

Winter 2003

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Urban Services - Urban Education

Committee Director

Dana Burnett

Committee Member

Dennis Gregory

Committee Member

Martha Smith Sharp


In the past colleges operated as communities in which teaching and almost every other aspect of campus life were managed by a campus entity. This is particularly true in the area of campus support services. In recent years, there has been a significant shift in the way campus services are provided. Increasingly, college and university administrators evaluate the benefits and potential problems of privatizing or outsourcing various service units. Currently, such services as bookstores, food preparation/service operations, and physical plant departments have been the primary services chosen for privatization.

This study examines the decision-making process governing the choice between privatization or self-operation of campus support units. In addition, the outcomes that occur as a result of the decision process are investigated. The decision-framework developed by Goldstein, Kempner and Rush formed the basis of this study (Goldstein, Kempner, and Rush, 1993).

The findings show that the Goldstein model is not universally utilized by practicing campus service professionals. While several elements of the decision process are employed, there appears to be little difference in the success achieved after a privatize or self-operate decision has been made regardless of the decision process used.

This study identified five other findings of note. First, there appears to be no consistent decision making model in use among experienced campus service administrators. Second, all of the colleges and universities examined have a unique campus culture, which impacts decision-making. Third, administrators at the institutions participating in this study do not regularly utilize a continuous improvement and assessment process in the management of campus services. Fourth, there is an apparent gap between the importance placed on financial projections or issues and the personal concern for people, both students and employees, reported by campus service administrators. Finally, despite the availability of sound management theories, campus politics at many colleges and universities seems to be of more importance in decision-making.

The study concludes with several recommendations for campus service administrators. First, good business practice and ethics should persuade campus service leaders to establish a decision-making framework. Second, campus service managers should be aware of the unique culture present on their particular college or university campus. Third, while finances and the direct supply of net revenue to a budget unit are important, the research subjects expressed distress over the potential negative impact of business decisions on people. Fourth, the research subjects cited the importance of a continuous planning and assessment process. Campus service units should establish a strategic review and operational adjustment process as part of their standard operating procedures.


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