Who Governs Community Colleges?

New Survey Provides Insights on Trustees

October 24, 2018

The data shed light on who is leading the institutions that serve nearly 40 percent of all college students. 

The Association of Community College Trustees (ACCT) released results of its Citizen Trustee Survey today in conjunction with the 49th Annual ACCT Leadership Congress. The survey details trustees’ backgrounds, roles, and challenges in serving community colleges and their students. From 2017 to 2018, the survey was disseminated to trustees across the country including members and non-members of ACCT. The association received approximately 1,100 unique responses, providing the field’s most current and comprehensive data of individuals serving on community college boards. 

“Trustees are elected by their communities or appointed by local leaders to serve as voluntary public servants, entrusted with ensuring that colleges meet the educational and workforce demands of their communities,” said ACCT President and CEO J. Noah Brown. “Just as it’s important to understand our students, it’s important to understand the public servants who govern our institutions.” 

A major finding from the survey highlights the disparity in demographic backgrounds of trustees, particularly with regard to gender and race and ethnicity, compared with the backgrounds of community college students. Trustees are predominately male (55%), and white (76%), yet community college students are mostly female (56%), and racially diverse, with African American (15%) and Hispanic or Latino (24%) students comprising more than one-third of all students. 

“In light of this finding,” Brown said, “it is incumbent upon trustees to focus on the value of diversity and how demographic differences between leadership and students can impact institutional decision-making. Community colleges must work to promote diversity and inclusivity on their own boards and advocate for equity-minded policies and practices to support their students.” 

The survey also reveals trustees’ strong commitments to service: 83% of respondents said improving programs for students was a motivating factor for serving as a trustee. These trustees seek to develop strategies to address many of the challenges currently facing postsecondary education such as securing funding for their colleges, improving affordability for students, and strengthening their local economies. 
To download the survey summary, go to https://www.acct.org/citizen-trustee-survey