Teacher Education, Educational Leadership & Policy ETDs


Clint Ewell

Publication Date



The Iron Triangle is the belief that Access, Cost, and Quality are linked in such a way that to change one, we must change one or both of the others. For example, to expand Access, some leaders in higher education believe that they must, by definition, either increase Costs or decrease Quality. Winston has proposed an economic model for higher education which states that Price = Costs - Subsidies. In this model, Price is what students pay to colleges to attend classes, while costs are the expenses incurred by colleges to provide those classes. Subsidies come from a variety of sources, primarily state appropriations, local property taxes and endowments. Over the past 15 years, there has been a steady decline in state appropriations to higher education. Using Winston's formula, leaders in higher education therefore have two choices to balance their budgets: increase Price or decrease Costs. Based on the fact that higher education Price increases in tuition and fees have tripled the rate of inflation over the past twenty years, it is evident that leaders have chosen to increase Price, rather than decrease Costs. Some believe that price is a proxy measure of college accessibility. If so, we are limiting Access to college. I believe the decisions to raise price rather than to cut costs are based in an unexamined faith in the Iron Triangle belief system—the belief that lowering Cost will lower Quality. This study defined instructional Costs and instructional Quality, then explored the relationship between the two at a large, urban, multi-campus community college using logistical regression analysis. Based on the results of this study, instructional cost variables can impact the predicted probability of student success. The implications for higher education policy makers and for leadership skills within higher education are discussed.


Education, higher -- Costs -- New Mexico, Community college students -- New Mexico, Education, higher -- Economic aspects, Academic achievement -- Costs

Document Type




Degree Name

Educational Leadership

Level of Degree


Department Name

Teacher Education, Educational Leadership & Policy

First Committee Member (Chair)

Allison M. Borden

Second Committee Member

Arlie Woodrum

Third Committee Member

Viola E. Florez

Fourth Committee Member

James Horton