The appointment of interim community college presidents, the topic of this study, is a little understood phenomenon. A growing shortage of community college presidents coupled with a lack of replacements suggests the appointment of interims will continue well into the future. This study, with a purpose of looking at the factors related to the appointment of interim community college presidents, was needed to inform the practice of those considering hiring or being an interim president.
Data for the study were collected from online announcements of presidential appointments. Potential relationships between the type of presidential appointment (interim or permanent) and several factors were examined: (a) institutional characteristics (state, geographic region, size, locale), (b) the reason for the transition, (c) personal characteristics of the appointee (gender, origin, prior presidential experience, prior presidential interim experience, prior type of institution, previous position held, and retirement status), and (d) the time of year of the transition.
Additional research questions looked at the relationship between the titles interim and acting and the length of the appointment; and compared interim presidents who were subsequently appointed to the permanent presidency to those who were not.
Statistically significant associations were found between: the reason for the transition and the type of appointment; the origin of the appointee and the type of appointment; prior interim president experience and the type of appointment; retirement status and the type of appointment; time of year and the type of appointment; and the titles interim or acting and the length of appointment. The study also found interims who were appointed to the subsequent permanent position were unlikely to have previous presidential experience, and it was infrequent for insiders other than the interim to obtain the subsequent permanent position.
This study implied college boards of trustees should create succession plans and have hiring policies in place that address issues related to the appointment of interims. Individuals seeking a permanent presidency should be aware that accepting an interim position could be an advantageous career step, but should also carefully assess the specific situation before accepting an interim position.