Community College Governance
Community Colleges are invaluable resources in meeting the educational and economic needs of their communities. Each college reflects the standards of excellence the community sets for itself. Responsibility for continued excellence is shared by all who appoint or elect trustees to govern on their behalf.
Accreditation and Community College Trustees is an essential toolkit for new and experienced trustees alike, to assure and improve academic quality in higher education.
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.
In the midst of a pandemic, what should community college boards consider in order to function and govern when things are changing by the day?
A college details lessons learned in shared governance after a natural disaster.
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.There are many approaches to community college governance:
- For some institutions, the governance model is prescribed by statute.
- For other institutions, the governing board may choose a governance model defined in the by-laws.
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." Some regional community college accrediting commissions already require that boards have a code of ethics or similar statement in place.
ACCT has developed the following model code. Boards of trustees are encouraged to use this model as a starting point for discussion and exploration by trustees of expectations for their own behavior.
Public community colleges are complex organizations, and their budgets, financial reports, and accounting rules can be daunting. Most trustees do not have a specialized background in finance or accounting. However, as stewards of public funds and resources, they must be willing to learn key fiscal concepts, understand how to read budgets and financial reports, and know how to assess appropriate controls and audits.
As discussed in the fall 2018 issue of Trustee Quarterly, community colleges are designed and organized differently throughout the United States. In many states, each college operates independently, or through satellite campuses that constitute a single local community college system, but only four states have no state governing or coordinating boards.
CampusWorks CEO and Board Chair Liz Murphy discusses what community college boards need to know about strategic planning.