IDENTIFICATION OF PEER COLLEGES AND UNIVERSITIES USING FACTORS OF SIGNIFICANCE TO THEIR CHIEF FINANCIAL OFFICERS, TO IMPROVE INFORMATION SHARING AND DECISION MAKING
Problem. The problem of this study was to: (1) identify the characteristics which can be used to compare privately-controlled, four-year, regionally-accredited, non-profit colleges and universities enrolling 2,000 to 5,000 FTE students; (2) determine which of those characteristics are most important to Chief Financial Officers (CFO's) interested in comparing institutions; (3) group the study institutions in terms of the "most important" characteristics; and (4) suggest ways CFO's can use this study's methods and outcomes in their work. Summary of Procedures and Findings. Based on a review of the related literature, thirty-eight institutional characteristics were identified which CFO's can use to compare colleges and universities. The CFO's of the study institutions were surveyed, using the Interinstitutional Comparison Factors Survey (ICFS), an instrument designed by the researcher, to determine which of those characteristics they viewed as most important. The twenty "most important" characteristics were used as a guide in the compilation of data on the study institutions. The institutional data were analyzed using the K-Means Clustering routine to group the 155 colleges and universities into twelve clusters. The twelve groups of similar colleges and universities constitute the major result of this study. Seven of these clusters, containing 142 institutions, each appeared homogeneous, yet distinctly separate from the others. The remaining 13 schools, grouped into five clusters, appeared to have little in common with the other colleges and universities examined. The Chief Financial Officers of the study institutions can use the twelve clusters when they wish to exchange information or compare ideas with their counterparts at similar colleges and universities. Chief Financial Officers at colleges and universities other than those examined in this research can, in addition, use the methodology of this study to construct their own groups of peer institutions. Thus this study could be of benefit to CFO's at more than just the 155 institutions it examined and clustered.