The Leadership Program Gap

A report of postsecondary leadership programs in the United States between 2000 and 2018.

This page contains highlights only. Download the full report for more details.

Background

We perceive a growing gap in our society, between our claims of great leadership development and our practice. The initial research from this concern was a micro-study, in January of 2016, on the NCAA’s Southeastern Conference (SEC) (Lichtenwalner et al, 2017).

The SEC includes 14 of the nation’s largest postsecondary institutions. The SEC claimed as its tagline, “Scholars. Champions. Leaders.” (emphasis added). However, that quick study of the SEC, found:

  • Only 1 school offered a graduate program in leadership
  • There were 7 schools with no leadership majors to offer undergraduates
  • There were 5 schools with no leadership minors to offer undergraduates
  • There was 1 school with no leadership-focused minor, major, or graduate program

This was not a unique circumstance. Spot-checking several other conferences found similar results. So it seemed our growing concern was, at least partially, justified. However, further study was needed to better quantify the gap. This study is the next step to understanding that gap.

Executive Summary

Overall, this study confirmed that most (85%) postsecondary institutions do not offer leadership programs for their students. However, the demand and support for formal leadership development programs is growing. Institutions offering formal programs in leadership grew from 6% in 2000, to 18% in 2018. Likewise, the total number of leadership program graduates nearly tripled from 14,798 to 43,765.

The percentage of women graduating from leadership programs increased from 60% to 64% over the 18 years studied. Meanwhile, African American and Hispanic heritages saw increases by more than 2% each, by 2018.

States with the largest populations ranked higher in the total number of leadership graduates. However, population alone did not determine ranking. The Midwest and Western regions stand out with higher growth rates of leadership development programs.

Investment in leadership programs grows rapidly. The number of people investing in their leadership skills grows to match. However, if the total quantity of leadership programs are any indication, the country still falls short of our claims to develop great leaders. States, institutions, and employers need to emphasize the expansion of leadership program opportunities.

Top States

Top States: Total Institutions (2018)

These states have the greatest number of institutions that offer at least one leadership program.

  1. California 71 Institutions
  2. Pennsylvania 63 Institutions
  3. Texas 61 Institutions
  4. New York 60 Institutions
  5. Illinois 38 Institutions

Top States: Graduate Percentage (2018)

These states have the largest percentage of all graduates in leadership programs. 

  1. Delaware 2.24%
  2. Texas 1.50%
  3. Nebraska 1.43%
  4. Utah 1.42%
  5. Maine 1.41%

Top States: Percentage of Institutions (2018)

These states have the largest percentage of institutions offering leadership programs.

  1. South Dakota 33% of Institutions (10 total)
  2. Washington DC 33% of Institutions (8 total)
  3. Nebraska 32% of Institutions 
  4. Alaska 30% of Institutions
  5. Indiana 27% of Institutions

Top States: Most Leadership Programs (2018)

These states offer the greatest number of leadership program opportunities.

  1. California 139
  2. Pennsylvania 126
  3. New York 117
  4. Texas 103
  5. Illinois 85

Top States: Leadership Graduates (2018)

The states below graduated the largest number of students from leadership programs.

  1. Texas 5211
  2. California 3772
  3. New York 2312
  4. Indiana 1760
  5. Arizona 1753

Top States: Leadership Graduates to Population (2018)

For this rating, we look at how many graduates of leadership programs there were, in 2018, for every 10,000 people in the state’s population that year.

  1. Delaware 5.62
  2. Washington DC 4.37
  3. Utah 3.95
  4. Iowa 3.29
  5. Vermont 2.96

Top Institutions

Top Institutions: 1 to 500 Graduates

Institution State Total Grad Leader Grad %

  1. Silver Lake College of the Holy Fam WI 170 21 12.35
  2. Faith International University WA 142 17 11.97
  3. Strayer University-Mississippi MS 64 7 10.94
  4. North American University TX 354 37 10.45
  5. Horizon University IN 10 1 10.00
  6. Warner Pacific Univ. Prof. & Grad. OR 452 44 9.73
  7. Beulah Heights University GA 170 15 8.82
  8. Central Christian College of Kansas KS 384 31 8.07
  9. Piedmont International University NC 240 19 7.92
  10. University of West Los Angeles CA 118 9 7.63

Top Institutions: 501 to 1,000 Graduates

Institution State Total Grad Leader Grad %

  1. Thomas University GA 770 79 10.26
  2. Salem University WV 824 67 8.13
  3. Oakland City University IN 548 40 7.30
  4. Peirce College PA 570 39 6.84
  5. Sierra Nevada College NV 546 33 6.04
  6. University of Maine at Farmington ME 886 48 5.42
  7. William Peace University NC 510 25 4.90
  8. University of Pikeville KY 862 41 4.76
  9. Rochester College MI 530 24 4.53
  10. Avila University MO 902 39 4.32

Top  Institutions: 1,001 to 2,500 Graduates

Institution State Total Grad Lead Grad %

  1. William Woods University MO 1832 338 18.45
  2. Los Angeles Pacific University CA 1288 191 14.83
  3. Bethel University TN 2118 295 13.93
  4. University of Charleston WV 1382 180 13.02
  5. Cardinal Stritch University WI 1586 183 11.54
  6. North Carolina Wesleyan College NC 1260 136 10.79
  7. McDaniel College MD 1766 165 9.34
  8. Union University TN 2232 195 8.74
  9. Gardner-Webb University NC 2306 195 8.46
  10. Viterbo University WI 2136 165 7.72

Top Institutions: 2,501 to 5,000

Institution State Total Grad Lead Grad %

  1. The College of Saint Rose NY 3426 840 24.52
  2. Concordia University-Chicago IL 3946 422 10.69
  3. Trident University International CA 4020 410 10.20
  4. Concordia University-Irvine CA 3320 274 8.25
  5. Concordia University-Portland OR 3640 236 6.48
  6. Lincoln Memorial University TN 2978 192 6.45
  7. Gonzaga University WA 4240 268 6.32
  8. William Carey University MS 2540 152 5.98
  9. National Louis University IL 3458 191 5.52
  10. Lipscomb University TN 2868 155 5.40

Top Institutions: 5,001 to 10,000

Institution State Total Grad Leader Grad %

  1. American College of Education IN 5316 888 16.70
  2. Brandman University CA 5220 563 10.79
  3. University of La Verne CA 5094 231 4.53
  4. Creighton University NE 5272 188 3.57
  5. Mercy College NY 5078 181 3.56
  6. Northeastern Univ. Lifelong Learn. MA 7538 251 3.33
  7. Loyola Marymount University CA 5692 162 2.85
  8. The University of West Florida FL 8864 252 2.84
  9. Stephen F Austin State University TX 5696 153 2.69
  10. University of Central Oklahoma OK 6254 163 2.61

Top Institutions: 10,001 to 65,000

Institution State Total Grad Leader Grad %

  1. Lamar University TX 11624 2374 20.42
  2. Wilmington University DE 10152 444 4.37
  3. National University CA 10644 323 3.03
  4. Montclair State University NJ 10888 254 2.33
  5. Western Governors University UT 54342 1159 2.13
  6. Arizona State University-Skysong AZ 14168 300 2.12
  7. University of Iowa IA 16702 350 2.10
  8. Northern Arizona University AZ 16516 319 1.93
  9. Columbia Southern University AL 14986 272 1.82

Central Michigan University MI 12436 213 1.71

About the Data

This study analyzed 18 years of data (2000 through 2018), across 6,857 institutions, for 2,155 different program classifications (degrees or certificates). Data was sourced predominantly from the National Center for Education and Statistics’ (NCES) Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) and the US Census Bureau’s 2000 census, 2010 census, and forecasts.

The programs considered ranged from certifications of less than 1 year to post-doctoral research programs. For inclusion in the study though, the data had to be submitted to the NCES’s annual data gathering reports.

Media Files

Heat map of postsecondary institutions across the United States, by state.
Heat map displaying the count of institutions with leadership programs, across the United States by state
Heat map of the percentage of institutions with leadership programs, across the united states, by state.
Heat map displaying the percentage of all leadership programs across the united states, within a state, by state
Highlight of California State Leadership Programs
State Highlight of Illinois Leadership Programs in Postsecondary Institutions
State Highlight of Indiana Leadership Programs in Postsecondary Institutions
State Highlight of Nebraska Leadership Programs in Postsecondary Institutions
State Highlight of Pennsylvania Leadership Programs in Postsecondary Institutions
State Highlight of South Dakota Leadership Programs in Postsecondary Institutions
Ben Lichtenwalner Head Shot Light Tones

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Methodology

Objective

Our objective was to identify how postsecondary institutions contribute to or detract from poor leadership in society. The best way to determine this impact in a measurable form was by measuring the programs offered by institutions and the students partaking of those offerings.

Data Sources & Methods

Our original goal was a global assessment. However, we were unable to identify a comprehensive, global data source for this information. Therefore, we narrowed our focus to the United States. In the United States, the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) maintains the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS). IPEDS is “a comprehensive data set, updated annually by every college, university, and technical/vocational institution that participates in the federal student financial aid programs (Title IV-eligible institutions)”.

Although the data is sourced annually, it is not finalized for more than 12 months after each compilation. As a result, the most recent year data was available for this study was 2018. 

As examined the initial data, we realized ranking performance by state required the accommodation for population sizes. Therefore, in addition to the NCIS IPEDS data, we needed the ability to account for the population size of each state. For this data, we used the U.S. Census Bureau 2000 census, 2010 census and associated annual forecast data.

Data Analysis

NCES IPEDS data requires institutions to align their programs to one of 2,155 Classifications of Instructional Program (CIP) codes. In simple terms, these are standardized names of degree and certificate programs. Each institution decides which CIP best aligns to each of the programs offered and reported by that institution.

We first analyzed the list of CIP codes for those programs that were predominantly focused on people leadership. We concluded the relevant CIP codes for the years 2000 through 2010 include: 

  • 13.0401 Educational Leadership and Administration, General.
  • 13.0410 Urban Education and Leadership.
  • 28 MILITARY SCIENCE, LEADERSHIP AND OPERATIONAL ART.
    • Note: We also include all extensions of CIP Code 28 which are specific to different branches of the military and used for programs like ROTC and Junior ROTC

Then, in 2010, NCES updated their list of CIP codes. All the CIP codes we included from 2000 remained. In addition, from 2010 forward, we included the following CIP codes:

  • 13.0412 International School Administration/Leadership.
  • 52.0213 Organizational Leadership.
  • 60.0807 Corporate Pharmacy Leadership Residency/Fellowship Program.
  • 60.0814 Health System Pharmacy Administration and Leadership Residency/Fellowship Program.

We then filtered all the postsecondary institutions that offered any of these programs (CIP codes). We counted how many of these programs each offered, as well as how many students participated in and graduated from each of these programs. In addition, we analyzed the participation by various heritages and each gender in these programs. To determine performance by state, we simply compiled all the data for all postsecondary institutions within each state.