Board Roles & Responsibilities: An Overview

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.

The Leadership Team of the Governing Board


Specific responsibilities are to:

  • Act as a unit.
  • Represent the community and serve the public good.
  • Be visionary; think strategically.
  • Establish policies to support the mission of the institution.
  • Employ, evaluate and support the College President.
  • Create a culture of evidence that monitors institutional performance.

Suggested Reading:

Trusteeship 101

Trusteeship in Community Colleges: A Guide for Effective Governance (updated edition coming soon)

Financial Responsibilities

Adopting fiscal policies that require prudent use of funds, boards set policy standards that ensure high expectations and fair treatment of students.


Ensure sound budgetary and fiscal management of the college

  • Review and adopt a sound budget.
  • Ask questions that make sure the budget is reflective of the college’s strategic plan/mission.
  • Periodically Monitor Fiscal Progress
    • Revenues Received
    • Expenditures Spent and Encumbered
    • Cash Balances
  • Hire external auditor and review the findings of the audit
  • Be aware of your financial metrics
  • Follow the law

Suggested Reading: Increasing Your Budget Know-How: A Checklist

Federal Financial Aid

Federal-aid programs have a significant impact of student outcomes, staff responsibilities, institutional revenue and enrollment levels. Trustees are responsible for many board governance decisions that relate to federal financial aid, and a primary role of trustees is to advocate for critical financial aid at the federal level. 

Suggested Reading: Financial Aid 102

The Board's Role in Advocacy

Trustees exercise influence on behalf of their community college. Being an effective advocate means taking every opportunity to champion the cause of community colleges by educating policymakers and opinion leaders at all levels about the transformative power inherent in today's community college. Trustee advocacy requires passion and drive, but passion must always be informed by data and proven results to convince policymakers to act on behalf of community colleges and their many constituents who depend upon those institutions.  Trustees exercise their legitimacy as leaders and advocates by exploiting opportunities to be seen as policy leaders within their communities. They must be honest brokers of information about the needs of their communities and the myriad ways that the colleges affect lives and economies for the better.

Suggested Reading: The Trustee's Role in Effective Advocacy

More advocacy resources can be found here.

The Board's Role in Fundraising

Trustees expect presidents to lead their colleges through the financial labyrinth so that they can meet the needs of their communities. Community college trustees must, in turn, support their presidents in efforts to expand and stabilize college financial operations through increased fundraising efforts.  As the most visible stewards of their colleges, trustees can bring both legitimacy and leverage to community college fundraising efforts.  Being a strong advocate for the college includes being an advocate and partner in college fundraising.

Suggested Reading:

The Power of One: How Community Colleges Can Find Sustainable Funding from Individual Giving

The Trustee's Role in Fundraising: From Arm's Length to Knee Deep


The Board's Role in Student Success

Effective governance with an emphasis on student success is a priority for our nation’s community colleges.  Assuring student access, equity, success, and completion, primary components of institutional accountability, is the most important public policy work that college trustees can undertake to fulfill their governance and fiduciary responsibilities.

Suggested Reading: Making Good on the Promise of the Open Door