Basics of Community College Governance
Effective boards form a cohesive group able to articulate and represent the public interest, establish a climate for learning and monitor the effectiveness of the institution. Boards of trustees do not do the work of their institutions; they establish standards for that work through the policies they create and approve.
Governing board effectiveness is determined in part by how boards conduct their business. Successful boards have a structure and set of practices that create an environment for meaningful policy discussions.
Governing boards function best when the ethical standards for trustee behavior are clear. ACCT recommends that all boards adopt a set of standards, often called a "code of ethics" or "standards for good practice."
ACCT’s Equity Action Agenda for Community College Governance is a guide based on the responsibilities of community college trustees and the college’s leadership to promote policies that support access, affordability, equity and completion for all community college students.
In most states, each community college has its own independently operating governing board. In nearly a dozen states, however, a statewide system governs all community and technical colleges. These systems, which are found in 11 states nationwide, offer varying combinations of local and statewide governance, but their leaders say they allow the alignment of statewide priorities and local needs.
Thirty-two states have some combination of state and local governance for community and technical colleges. Eleven states organize all of their community colleges into singular statewide systems, comprising about 22 percent of the boards across the nation. Some are exclusively for community colleges, while other states have higher education boards whose scope includes public four-year colleges and universities.
The ACCT Student Success Policy Action Agenda was issued in 2012 following a convening of more than 150 community college trustees, CEOs and experts from nationally representative organizations, as part of a grant from The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Many college boards have adopted this agenda as part of their own board guidelines, or adapted it as useful to meet their needs.
A must-read report for anyone researching the structure and composition of public community and technical college governing boards.