College presidency among the most unstable jobs
- The stability of the American college presidency is on the decline, with the last 5 years claiming the jobs of 56 out of 81 Research I institution presidents, according to Governing.
- The proliferation of social media and 24/7 news coverage of campus issues, combined with increasing anxiety from board members and fluctuating budgets, has created a vacuum of uncertainty around campuses and increased pressure on the individuals running them.
- There is increasing concern that, in the future, qualified individuals who could serve as presidents will remove themselves from considering these jobs for fear of the volatility surrounding them.
This is the most concerning phenomenon with presidential turnover in higher education today. With every political battle, every board controversy and every public issue concerning crime or finance, presidential hopefuls are increasingly wary of exposing their families or careers to this line of work. And in a time of financial uncertainty, the talent pool of fundraisers and legislative lobbyists on behalf of higher education grows smaller.
It will be up to the boards of individual schools to commit to stronger, more regular training on presidential relationships and best practices of support, to ensure that these institutions are not undone by a lack of money or community engagement, but by a lack of talent willing to lead them.