Education & Government
Jennifer Rose Hale Image
Jennifer Rose Hale
Former Client Partner, Texas Association of School Boards

Checklist for community college board success

May 17, 2023
0 min read
Members of a community college board having a meeting

As higher education costs continue to rise and employment opportunities remain uncertain, community colleges have never been more important. Prospective students may be looking to your community college to provide the flexible education they need without life-altering debt.

College boards of trustees are under pressure to respond to these factors and more. Like traditional four-year colleges and universities, open-access higher education is being pushed to prove student success.

However, state funding levels are reduced and unreliable; in a fact sheet on public funding, the Community College Research Center noted, “Per-student college spending is directly related to student outcomes, which makes a lack of reliable resources a major impediment to community college effectiveness.” Meanwhile, recent trends in community college enrollment show highs and lows dependent on geography.

Throw COVID into the mix, with mitigating factors like federal relief funding and ongoing challenges such as staffing shortfalls, and you have a changing set of demands placed on the community college board of trustees. So, how can a community college board be most effective in these times? Preparation, collaboration, efficiency and security are key, and smart technology can help boards achieve all four.

Checklist for community college board success

Offer a robust onboarding program and accessible training opportunities

Whether appointed or elected, new trustees must get up to speed quickly and understand the processes for budgeting, accreditation and approvals.

Staying up to date on trends, laws and policies that affect the campus requires constant attention. Trustees must understand the changing landscapes of funding, student outcome issues and employment trends.

Board portals make it easier to offer accessible training opportunities along with unbiased and up-to-date sources of information.

Foster a spirit of collaboration

The relationship between the community college board of trustees and the president or CEO is complicated; one administrator in a college newsletter noted the board simultaneously plays the role of “confidant and boss.”

Additionally, boards often rely on presidents to share accurate information about the school’s performance, a situation that can lead to “asymmetric information,” as one Forbes piece called out.

But in order for a school to thrive, leadership teams must work together. The American Association of Community Colleges includes Exemplary CEO/Board Relationship as one of its Awards of Excellence categories, highlighting the importance of this collaboration.

Look for a board management solution that facilitates secure communication and teamwork among the governance group.

Streamline funding and grant applications

The rollercoaster of COVID shortfalls and subsequent relief funding has affected many community colleges. Shrinking state budgets have compounded this and left many entities struggling.

As the Community College Research Center study reported, while some schools have thrived in recent years, many are seeing declining enrollment numbers or changing enrollment trends, such as an increase in dual-enrollment high school students.

Technology solutions can help you keep documents related to funding up-to-date and accessible for the entire team.

Understand how to measure success

Success measurements and funding go hand-in-hand. Graduation and retention rates are among the traditional methods for measuring college success, especially for full-time, four-year enrollees, but community colleges often serve nontraditional students in different ways.

For example, students may need assistance with food, housing and parenting needs. You can easily share reports on all the college’s success metrics using an effective board management system, and make their connection to funding opportunities clear.

Commit to equitable student success

As organizations increasingly focus on ESG — priorities related to environmental, social and governance issues — in shaping policies and strategic plans, college boards must also look at these areas when planning. For example, equitable student access is key to reaching goals for attainment, completion rates and employment.

As community college leaders work on nontraditional measurements of performance and incorporate measures for ESG, easily accessible materials that are consistently shared by the board can make discussions more productive.

Develop effective committee and group management

As the terminal point for campus-wide and systemwide decision-making, boards must be ready to absorb information from multiple committees, groups and staff; working to set goals and objectives with the president or CEO.

Look for technology that includes secure two-way communication and progress tracking, with granular permissions to ensure different levels of access as required.

Streamline communication and administrative tasks

Compensation for college board members can vary greatly, and many are not compensated for their service at all.

Because trustees must consider a great deal of information and often operate outside of other work priorities, efficiency is crucial.

Boards must implement “single source of truth” repositories and consistent communication strategies to ensure time isn’t wasted with confusion and unnecessary administrative tasks.

Technology can help the board secretary save time with board packet preparation, agenda changes and the management of meeting documents. Board members will have easy access to the latest version, allowing them to prepare for upcoming meetings.

Embrace leading-edge technology for leadership teams

When it comes to board technology, efficiency matters — but it is not the only factor you should consider.

With the growing risk of cyberattacks on nontraditional victims, boards must use up-to-date platforms with strong security features and granular permission controls.

An effective board will also prepare a cyber-readiness plan that all board members can reference quickly, should a cyberattack occur.

Meeting board goals with technology

As the role of the community college changes, governance supported by technology is the key to success for the college, the staff and the students.

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.


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