Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)


Executive Leadership

First Supervisor

Shannon Cleverley-Thompson


Postsecondary institutions are facing challenges in addressing demands of transparency, accountability, and rising costs. This quantitative content analysis study examined mission statements of higher education institutions based on the Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE) Standard I Mission and Goals. The mission statement articulates the institutional purpose, indicates whom the institution serves, and what it intends to accomplish. Using signaling theory, the study sought to explore how language is used in the mission statement to communicate to constituents. This study examined 206 public and private institutional mission statements in the MSCHE region that confer baccalaureate and master’s degrees. DICTION 7.1 was used to conduct the content analysis. The results of the study suggest words and text patterns matter in the content of mission statements. This study found institutions used different words in the mission statements to institutionally differentiate in the higher education marketplace. Study results also found public institutions used words in their mission statements that more frequently conveyed characteristics of being common, certain, insistent, and complex than the mission statements of private institutions. This study’s findings offer guidance to the higher education sector, accreditors, and institutional leaders. A process is identified to review and improve the content of mission statements of public and private institutions in the MSCHE region. Based on the results of the study, recommendations were suggested for future research, accreditors and higher education leaders to improve the language in the mission statement that may enhance communication and increase transparency to internal and external constituents.

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