There is no single makeup of a community college board of trustees. Members are elected or appointed, compensated or volunteer, coming from a variety of backgrounds, each with their own reason for serving. At the same time, each college faces its own unique circumstances — increases or decreases in enrollment, different funding outlooks, varied market economies or workforce pools.
What unifies these colleges and their boards is the necessity for effective governance. Without strong, informed, cohesive decision-making, a community college can founder in rapidly changing times. A previous post covered what makes an effective board.
Now we’ll take a more granular look into the role technology — and specifically a robust board meeting management portal — can play in good governance and a successful campus system.
Seven ways technology improves board performance
Each board’s experience with these factors may vary, but focusing on efficiency, effectiveness and accountability should be at the top of every board’s list of priorities. Consider what technology can offer in these categories.
Starting from day one, a trustee must be ready to evaluate and take action on issues facing the school: new or changed policies, evaluation or hiring of a president/CEO or a crisis response. No new trustee wants to be caught flat-footed. By offering a “single source of truth” for onboarding materials, trustees can reduce that period of uncertainty Offering a central point for all key documents helps set up board members for success.
Support ongoing training
As with onboarding, trustees benefit when ongoing training is offered consistently and is easily accessible. These offerings also establish a pattern for self-sufficiency and accountability that can benefit the entire leadership team. Additionally, board makeup data can provide valuable information about the board’s composition, including gaps in demographics, skills and expertise that future board transitions and development can address.
Streamline meeting management
Assembling meeting agendas and materials is an enormous task and critical to ensure trustees share a common understanding with minimal confusion. A complicated, repetitive and error-prone agenda-building process not only affects the board’s performance but uses valuable administrative support time.
By automating the development of board meeting packets, including agenda building, scheduling and approvals, trustees can spend less time comparing notes and clearing up confusion, and more time on decisive action to benefit the campus or system.
“Exceptionally unexceptional”: This is how the president of Cape Cod Community College described the theft by cyber attack of over $800,000 from the school. The college’s hacker was caught and sentenced and the school was fortunately able to recoup most of the money, but this is a relatively positive ending for a crisis so many entities face today. Many outcomes are not so favorable.
Security of digital resources is the responsibility of every single leader, administrator and employee, and schools also must account for students and community members who need access to resources. Implementing secure document storage and internal communication with granular permission controls is mandatory for every community college board.
Stay on top of funding
Like meeting preparation, the grant application process is also complex and requires detail-oriented work to stay ahead of deadlines, ensure application requirements are fully met, monitor approvals and — after a successful effort — document that the grant’s requirements are fulfilled over the term of the agreement. By incorporating these steps into the board’s portal, the entire leadership and administrative team responsible for funding can be aware of what is needed.
Beyond grants, community college funding is a frequent issue for debate across the United States, and legislative decision-making is affecting schools differently depending on the states’ economic outlook and priorities. In Texas, state leaders are considering a bill that ties funding to student outcomes. Oregon schools are facing a possible reduction in funding for operating costs. Being up-to-date on current legislative action and the environment of state and federal funding is critical for the board, and using a board portal solution enables the team to readily access consistent and reliable information.
Monitor performance and accountability
Data transparency at the college level is again in the news with reintroduction of the College Transparency Act, a bipartisan effort supported by the American Association of Community Colleges. With the higher profile of community colleges in many markets and the potential for greater visibility of school measurements to potential students, the board and its actions fall under greater scrutiny. The pressure is on trustees to work together effectively to identify the school’s mission and goals and make strategic progress.
A board portal can host tools for measurement and self-evaluation, including facilitating regular board evaluations. It can track individual and group roles and responsibilities as well as make managing groups and committees more clear-cut.
Use data effectively
Data goes beyond the board’s performance and accountability. In this era of Big Data, the issue isn’t whether data exists — it almost always does. Instead, it’s how copious amounts of data can be analyzed and used effectively. Boards need to be ready to use accurate information on standard school performance measurements such as completion rates, employment and equity gaps but also nontraditional measurements that affect their communities, including food and housing security, parenting issues, technology access, and more.
By maintaining up-to-date and historical data in a single portal, trustees can see patterns to better inform goal-setting and decision-making.
Your board software helps deliver the right information at the right time for effective, data-driven decision-making.
Access the right support
Last, boards should never be on their own in finding support to solve issues. Look for a portal with painless onboarding and a dedicated team that offers help when you need it.
Most boards can achieve improvement in one of these key areas, from cybersecurity to efficiency to accountability. When your board is ready to consider a digital platform for the modern community — and modern community college — determine the priorities that matter to your board to best evaluate and select the right tool.
The right board portal solution offers built-in tools for preparation, collaboration, efficiency and security, so boards can focus on governing effectively and making higher education more accessible to all.
We at Diligent are here to support you as you use technology to become an even more effective board. Learn how Diligent Community can help your college board.