Leadership & Governance

Falling Diversity of Provosts Signals Challenge for Presidential Pipeline, Study Finds

March 05, 2013

Minority provosts are less represented in higher education than they were five years ago, a pattern that may signal greater challenges for diversifying college presidencies in the future, a new study has found.

A report on the study, released on Monday by the American Council on Education, shows that the percentages of black, Asian, and Hispanic provosts all declined from 2008 to 2013. The shrinking diversity in the position is particularly notable because most presidents serve as provosts before ascending to the top job.

The American Council on Education and the College and University Professional Association for Human Resources collaborated on the study, titled "On the Pathway to the College Presidency." The study, which the TIAA-CREF Institute also supported, was based on responses from 149 four-year institutions.

The share of black provosts fell from 3.7 percent to 2.3 percent over the past five years, while the proportion of Asian provosts declined from 3.7 percent to 2.4 percent during the same period. Hispanic provosts now make up less than 1 percent of chief academic officers, down from 1.5 percent five years ago.

Across all senior administrative positions, which include deans and associate provosts, the percentage of women increased from 40 percent in 2008 to 43 percent this year, according to the study.

The latest findings come a year after the American Council on Education released data that showed a slight decline in the percentage of minority presidents from 2006 to 2012. The sharpest racial and ethnic decline in the presidency was among Hispanics, who represented 3.8 percent of college leaders in 2012, down 0.7 percent from 2006.

Stephanie Bell-Rose, senior managing director of the TIAA-CREF Institute, said in a news release that the new study represented a call to action.

"This study underscores the importance of developing a diverse higher-education leadership pipeline," she said, "which is essential to meeting the needs of an increasingly diverse student population."