Tag Archives: human resources

Community college survey FAQs

I thought it would be a good idea to make a post of FAQs related to the current (June 2020) survey because most invitees (1) don’t know me and (2) haven’t heard about the study until now. I will add to these FAQs as other questions arise.

Due to the pressures on everyone’s time, this survey is only being fielded for a little over three weeks. To date, invitations to participate in the current survey have been emailed to Chief Human Resource Officers (CHROs) at every locally-governed community college in the United States, and also to the CHRO of each multi-college community college district, system, or state system governing community colleges. The initial response has been very encouraging, and I’m hopeful that as many institutions as possible will participate.


1. How long does it take to complete the survey?

2. How many institutions are being invited to participate in the survey?

3. How have you chosen which institutions to request data from?

4. Will the report list or otherwise identify the institutions that participate?

5. Will institutions be identified in subsequent phases of the study?

6. If we have a living wage policy, will it be shared with other institutions?

7. Why are you asking for our contact information in the survey?

8.  I received the invitation with the survey link, but I’m probably not the person who should complete it. How should I proceed?

9.  When does the data collection period end?

10.  Why conduct this survey now?

11.  Our institution doesn’t have a living wage policy – should I bother completing the survey?

12.  Our institution has most employees covered by collective bargaining agreements – should I bother completing the survey?

FAQs & Answers

1. How long does it take to complete the survey?

The vast majority of participants complete the survey in 2 to 4 minutes, with only a couple of participants taking more than 5 minutes to complete the survey – about the amount of time than I described in the invitation.

2. How many institutions are being invited to participate in the survey?

The current number is about 950 institutions.

In the present study, I’m surveying all of the public degree-granting community colleges in the United States. Degree-granting technical colleges and tribal community colleges are also included. Based on the most recent Carnegie Classification report and the American Association of Community Colleges, that comes to between 1,100 and 1,200 institutions.

3. How have you chosen which institutions to request data from?

This survey is designed as a census rather than a sample, since I’m trying to learn about living wage policies and practices across American community college. I identified institutions using the most recent Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) database, which categorizes institutions and provides other institutional data.

The IPEDS list is cross-referenced with the AACC list of community colleges and other college lists (and even Wikipedia!) to make sure I don’t miss any institutions.

For each institution, I’m inviting participation through the top HR person in the organization, as identified by the institution either by their title (e.g., CHRO) or their functional role. In the case of multi-college community college districts and community colleges governed at the system or the state level, the CHRO of the governing authority – vested with the authority to enact a living wage policy – is invited to participate.

I should emphasize that the individuals receiving invitations to participate are being asked to respond on behalf of the institution; this is not a survey about CHROs or their individual perspectives.

4. Will the report list or identify the institutions that participate?

No, not in the present phase of the study. The list of institutions will not be included in my preliminary report on this year’s survey or the resulting cycle of papers (see (5) below).

My pre-publication report of preliminary results to participating institutions this summer will not identify participating institutions by name, nor will it otherwise over-identify any institutions. For example, I’d be using descriptors such as “multi-college district” or “state-governed community college system” and other classification labels to describe data drawn from groups of institutions.

I’ll be reporting out on the response rate, the prevalence of living wage policies and practices, and the nature of living wage policies. A paper analyzing the nature of living wage practices will follow a bit later.

There are a lot of data from IPEDS that can be used to describe the institutions that participate (e.g., enrollment of subsets of the surveyed institutions, funding sources). Again, that will also be reported in aggregate, not by institution.

For institutions where I’m interviewing someone (i.e., where the institution has adopted a living wage practice), the institutions also will not be identified by name.

5. Will institutions be identified in subsequent phases of the study?

Institutions won’t be identified from the current survey, but in subsequent phases of the project, the answer is “it depends.”

Each phase of the larger project is self-contained, and institutions can choose to not to participate in later phases of the project (described on the website under Phases). In advance of each survey or other data collection, an institution will be aware of how its data will be used.

There are a couple of other phase of the project where institutions could be, are, or will be identified, but that is not part of this study:

  • Could be identified: If an interview this spring turns up a promising case study or example of practice/policy/process, I may double back to the interviewee and see if the institution wanted to be identified in subsequent work. If not, that’s fine. My “default” setting is “no identification” and an institution would have to “opt in” to be identified, so that identification would completely be the institution’s call, as it should be.
  • Are identified: My initial research on living wage policies examined policies publicly available via the institution’s public website. The institutions in that paper – which is being prepared for journal submission – will be identified.
  • Will be identified: I anticipate that this project may become a recurring survey (not unlike IPEDS), and there may be some point in the future where institutions would be identified. However, if that is the case, I would disclose that up front on a study-by-study basis.

My intent with the current survey is to collect data from as many institutions as will participate and to understand what current living wage practices and policies look like.

6. What about the living wage policies themselves?

The survey asks institutions that have a living wage policy to provide a copy of it; in exchange those institutions will have access to other institutions’ policies that are provided.

When completing the survey, participating institutions that have enacted a living wage policy are given the choice of uploading their document with identification removed or redacted (I’ll even do the redacting, if you’d prefer).

Institutions that share redacted policies will be able to benchmark other redacted policies; those institutions that share un-redacted policies will have access to the entire library of living wage policies. Essentially, an institution gets to “see” policies equivalent to what it has shared.

7. Why are you asking for our contact information in the survey?

For a handful of reasons:

  1. If you’ve already completed the survey, I really don’t want to send you a follow-up note asking you to do it again.
  2. I need to be able to connect your institutional responses to data from other sources (such as IPEDS).
  3. I need to be able to validate who participated in the survey.

8.  I received the invitation with the survey link, but I’m probably not the most appropriate person to complete it. How should I proceed?

Simply forward your invitation to the right person within your organization.

If you are new to your organization or position, there might be someone more knowledgable about living wage policies/practices and when/how they were implemented.

After that person completes the survey, they will become my point of contact for any follow-up.

9.  When does the data collection period end?

The survey is scheduled to close June 26, although I’d appreciate you completing the survey sooner rather than later.

10.  Why conduct this survey now?

I’ve been studying living wage policies and practices since mid-2015. This year, I am on research sabbatical in order to scale up the survey and increase my – and thus our – knowledge about the subject.

Additionally, the most recent Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) changes (effective January 1, 2020) means that HR professionals across higher education have a timely sense of compensation policies and practices affecting their institutions’ lowest paid employees.

The other factor affecting timing is the coronavirus pandemic. This survey was scheduled to begin in mid-March, but that clearly was an impossible time to field a survey with any hope of an acceptable return rate. I recognize that this summer is a chaotic time for almost everyone in higher education, and particularly in human resources; I also recognize that community colleges play a critical role in helping students and building their community, and hope that an investment of 2-4 minutes won’t be too much to ask on this important subject. Given the pressures everyone is under, a survey can be a welcome diversion before diving back into a complex and intense task or project.

11.  Our institution doesn’t have a living wage policy – should I bother completing the survey?

I hope you will, because I’m trying to survey every community college in the country and get the most complete and accurate data possible.

12.  Our institution has most employees covered by collective bargaining agreements (CBAs) – should I bother completing the survey?

I hope you will, because I’m trying to survey every community college in the country and get the most complete and accurate data possible.

To date, each of the colleges that have I have identified as having a living wage policy or living wage practice have some employees covered by CBAs.

Thank you, and yes, you can still complete the survey (please do!)

Greetings! This’ll be brief, touching on three things…

First, some huge and heartfelt thanks to the hundreds (!) of institutions that completed the survey during what is a very busy time of year. It is impossible for me — or anyone — to conduct this research unless busy CHROs and their staffs make the time to provide me the needed data. I appreciate your time more than I can express. I’m beginning my data analysis this week; if you participated in the study, you can expect to receive my summary report of preliminary (i.e., pre-publication) findings by the end of March

Second, while the published closing date for the survey has passed, I’m holding the survey open for as long as I can for anyone who was unable to complete it by last Friday. The survey link I sent you via email will still work. If you need the link resent — or want me to send it to a colleague to complete the survey for your institution — please simply drop me a note at weidner@sju.edu or call 610.660.2112.

Third, I’ll also be in touch soon by email and phone with three groups of people regarding:

  1. Completion. Before I can begin my analysis of the data, there’s the important step of cleaning and verifying the data. For a handful of surveys, a response may be missing or incomplete. I’ll be engaged in some outreach to see if we can make those surveys “complete” and make the resulting data usable. 
  2. Clarification. For a handful of public institutions that are part of multi-institution systems, I’ll be in touch to clarify which wage policies/practices are centralized and which are decentralized. 
  3. Collection. I’ll be following up with CHROs in a couple of groups of institutions in which I have heightened interest, as I am trying to get as close as possible to 100% participation — as my reviewers of an earlier manuscript requested! 

Each of the above shouldn’t take more than a couple of minutes at most. Thanks in advance for your help.

Again, thank you.



Survey data collection ends February 14

We’re now in the last portion of the survey data collection phase for the study, which will continue until Feb 14.

As before, I’m personally sending an email to the Chief Human Resource Officer of every four year public and private non-profit college and university in the 50 states and DC, inviting them to participate in the study and to benefit from participating by receiving our research results in advance of their publication. The surveys will be sent on a rolling basis over the next 10 days.

The updated survey takes less than 8 minutes to complete. All invitations to participate in the survey are sent from my email: weidner@sju.edu. The survey is hosted on Qualtrics (qualtrics.com), and invitees are provided a secure link to the survey.

Based on participants’ survey responses, institutions with living wage policies are asked to submit their institution’s policy (if you wish, we’ll redact all identifications of your institution), while institutions with living wage practices are asked to be interviewed (about 30 minutes) about their practices. For either branch of the study, institutions will not be identified in our research results and reports.

If you are a CHRO and haven’t received an invitation to participate in the survey, please email me: weidner@sju.edu.

If you aren’t a CHRO, please encourage your CHRO to look for the survey and complete it. Living wage policies and practices are an increasingly important subject that higher education institutions will likely need to address, either sooner or later – but we can’t learn about HR practices in higher education without your help!

Thank you!

Exciting news: 2019 AASHE presentation

It’s been awhile since my last post; folks following the blog will be hearing from me more frequently during my sabbatical, which started earlier this week…

I’m starting off the sabbatical year with great news – I’ll be presenting at the 2019 AASHE Conference & Expo in Spokane, WA (October 27-30). I’m delighted because AASHE (Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education, aashe.org) has been an ideal venue for me to report on my research-in-progress and meet colleagues from a range of higher education institutions. This year’s conference theme is Co-Creating a Sustainable Economy, and the conference:

“…is tackling the root cause for the continued rise in carbon emissions: our dysfunctional economic system. The conference seeks to showcase and strengthen higher education’s contributions to the movement for a sustainable economy, which we see as inclusive of the exciting work happening under a variety of other names such as the solidarity economy, wellbeing economy, circular economy, post-growth economy, regenerative economy and restorative economy…”

My contribution to the conference is a presentation on the morning of Monday, October 28:

Illuminating the Invisible: How Institutions Address and Afford Social Sustainability” (9:15-10:15 AM, Monday 28 October, Spokane, Room 300D).

Click the title above for a full description of the session.

If you are planning on attending AASHE 2019 and would like to connect at (or before/after) the conference, please drop me a note.

I hope to see you in Spokane!


Great news: CUPA-HR 2019 presentation!

It’s nice to have a proposal to present accepted at a conference – and it’s even nicer to have a second proposal accepted the following year.

Last week I learned that my proposal “How Do Institutions Afford Living Wage Policies?: The Costs & Benefits” has been accepted for presentation to the 2019 CUPA-HR Annual Conference in Denver October 20-22.

I’m delighted because CUPA-HR (College and University Professional Association for Human Resources, cupahr.org) is a vibrant organization drawing HR professionals from across the spectrum of public and private higher education institutions, and this project depends upon the participation of Chief Human Resource Officers at American higher education institutions. As I posted last fall, the CUPA-HR 2018 conference was terrific, and I’m looking forward to seeing how they top that this year!

I’ll update this post with my presentation date and time when the conference schedule is finalized.

If you are attending CUPA-HR, please stop by. I hope to see you there.