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Public Policy and Administration


Hilda Shepeard


Some public university systems are considering abolishing tenure as a cost-saving mechanism, but little is known about how this change may impact organizational outcomes related to faculty retention and research productivity. Using Almendarez' human capital theory, the purpose of this concurrent mixed methods study was to explore how tenure relates to faculty retention and productivity at a convenience sample of public universities in mid-western states. Qualitative questions focused on faculty perceptions of factors that affected retention and productivity. Quantitative data from the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System and publicly available information from institutions was used to explore questions about relationships amongst tenure, retention, and academic publication. Qualitative data were collected from tenured, tenure track, and faculty members with no option of tenure using individual interviews (n = 14) and 2 focus groups with 13 total members. The qualitative data were inductively coded and analyzed using a constant comparative method, and an ANOVA was used to test for statistically significant pairwise comparisons between faculty tenure, retention, and productivity. Qualitative and quantitative results were in agreement that there was no significant difference in research productivity of tenured, tenure track, or non-tenured professors. The positive social change implications of this study include recommendations to public universities to explore incentives for research productivity that are not bound to tenure, which may reduce human capital expenditures, thereby making attendance at a public university more affordable.