The 2007 edition is the sixth report in the American College President Study series, conducted by the American Council on Education (ACE) since 1986, describing the backgrounds, career paths, and experiences of college and university presidents. This most recent American College President Study, conducted in 2006, includes information from 2,148 college and university presidents.

The American College President Study is the only comprehensive source of demographic data on college and university presidents from all sectors of American higher education. The report includes information on presidents of public and private institutions of higher education. The report presents information on presidents' education, career paths, and length of service, as well as personal characteristics such as age, marital status, and religious affiliation. It also includes information on race/ethnicity and gender.

The 2007 report marks the 20th anniversary of the American College President Study. ACE took this opportunity to take a detailed look at how presidents, and the presidency, have changed during the past 20 years. First, wherever possible, this report pairs the 2006 figures with corresponding information from 1986. Second, this edition of the survey included a special set of questions for presidents who have been in office 10 years or more, asking how their role has changed during their tenure. Finally, because no quantitative survey could truly capture how such complex positions have evolved, ACE convened two daylong roundtable meetings of long-serving presidents, who served 10 years or more in the same presidency. An essay summarizing the discussions at those meeting is presented.

Highlights of the findings of this 20th anniversary edition of the American College President Study include:

  • The percentage of presidents who were women more than doubled, from 10 percent in 1986 to 23 percent of the total in 2006, but women's progress has slowed in recent years.
  • The proportion of presidents who were racial or ethnic minorities showed a much smaller increase, from 8 percent in 1986 to 14 percent in 2006. When minority serving institutions are excluded, only 10 percent of presidents are from racial/ethnic minority groups.
  • The average age of presidents increased from 52 years in 1986 to 60 years in 2006. More telling, the proportion of presidents who were aged 61 or older grew from 14 percent in 1986 to 49 percent in 2006, suggesting that many institutions will lose their presidents to retirement in coming years.
  • Only 63 percent of women presidents are currently married, compared with 89 percent of their male colleagues. Twenty-four percent of women presidents are either divorced or were never married (excluding members of religious orders). Only 7 percent of male presidents fall into these categories.
  • Presidents had served an average of 8.5 years in office at the time of the 2006 survey. Length of service has increased since 1986, when the average time in office was 6.3 years.
  • Between 1995 and 2001, average tenure in office declined from 7.3 years to 6.6 years. However, the trend shifted in 2006, when average tenure for presidents increased to 8.5 years, the highest recorded average tenure in the study's history.
  • Just over one in five (21 percent) presidents in 2006 had served in a presidency in their immediate prior position, compared with 17 percent in 1986. The current figure is a decrease from the 25 percent of presidents who had served in a presidency in their immediate prior position in 1998.
  • Serving as chief academic officer (CAO) has become a more typical route to the presidency. Thirty-one percent of presidents served as provost or CAO prior to becoming president, up from 23 percent in 1986.
Source: American Council on Education Web site