Research in Higher Education

, Volume 51, Issue 5, pp 483–503

An Analysis of Baccalaureate College Mission Statements


DOI: 10.1007/s11162-010-9162-7

Cite this article as:
Taylor, B.J. & Morphew, C.C. Res High Educ (2010) 51: 483. doi:10.1007/s11162-010-9162-7


We examined baccalaureate colleges mission statements to better understand how these organizations represent themselves to potential students and other external constituent groups. We drew these documents from two sources, the colleges’ official web sites and an archive constructed and maintained by U.S. News and World Report. Most sampled colleges submitted revised or different mission statements to U.S. News than published officially on institutional websites. Our findings suggested that the communication patterns of baccalaureate colleges are both vague and idiosyncratic. Official mission statements often proved descriptive or appealed to normative concepts. The statements submitted to U.S. News, by contrast, often utilized “strategically deployed shifters.” These terms suggested legitimate content but eluded precise definition. Mission statements submitted to U.S. News thereby proved amenable to student recruitment efforts.


Baccalaureate collegeMission statementsSignalingLiberal artsLinguisticAnalysis

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institute of Higher Education, Meigs HallUniversity of GeorgiaAthensUSA
  2. 2.College of EducationUniversity of IowaIowa CityUSA