County government charter change and county college governance: A historical and political study

Charles Alvin Larkin, Fordham University


Since 1962 eighteen counties in the State of New Jersey have established community (county) colleges. The funding and the governance of the colleges is shared responsibility with the state holding the governance oversight. Six New Jersey county governments changed their form and by doing so changed their governance relationship with their county college. The purpose of this study was to examine the case of Essex County and Essex County College. Research method. The Essex County Government and the Essex County College governance relationship was treated as a closed political system. Data collection was guided by two questions: (a) What county government changes led to change in college governance? and (b) What college governance changes took place as a result of the change in county government form? A history of the College under three county executives, 1976 to 1993, supplied the qualitative data of the study. A questionnaire and interview schedule administered to 13 trustees, 15 faculty, and 13 administrators supplied the quantitative answers to the questions. Findings. The College governance structure, decision process, mission, student services, and personnel selection were significantly changed by reformed Essex county government. The county government changes that most contributed to these changes were: an active belief that the county college was solely a county agency; tying funding allocations to political favor; and trustee appointments based on political loyalty. Recommendations. (1) Blue ribbon committee should develop criteria for college trustee membership; (2) county executive should consult with college on trustee appointment; (3) there should be three meetings yearly of an enlarged college funding board; (4) trustees should be given more first hand experience in the governance of the college; (5) state trustees should be replaced until state commits to full funding; (6) identify and retrain college personnel for future changing academic requirements; (7) faculty should be provided a larger role in formulation of policy; (8) state should give college mandate and money to provide local high schools with instructional service; and (9) further research should be conducted on the authority relationship of Department of Higher Education and county using this study as a template for such research.

Subject Area

Community colleges|Higher education|Political science

Recommended Citation

Larkin, Charles Alvin, "County government charter change and county college governance: A historical and political study" (1996). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI9631043.