It’s often said that students are our future leaders. The origin of that statement dates back to the original purpose of establishing colleges and universities. During the days of the early settlers, the focus was primarily on farming and many young people weren’t able to attend college, or perhaps didn’t want to. In those days, colleges and universities were established to educate young men and prepare them to become leaders or elected officials. In today’s world, the primary reason that students attend college is to prepare them for a career. Some students may even have their sights set on a career as an elected official.
Regardless of what profession students choose, all students need to be able to rely on their education to have a quality career. The strength of the administration, the financial health of the institution and good board governance — all have a strong bearing on student success.
The volatility of today’s economy and the current societal environment require due diligence in governance on the part of college and university boards. Board management software now plays a major role in assisting college and university boards in adhering to good governance principles, which will ultimately result in student success.
Challenges for College and University Boards
Many things are changing in and around higher education institutions. College and university boards are facing mounting pressures from regulators and the public to take a stronger role in governance. The pressure is causing changes in the dynamics between board trustees and senior managers, resulting in changes in how they define – or redefine – their respective roles.
Top problems for college and university boards include rising tuitions, saturated job markets, competition from other schools as well as from online educational institutions, and student debt. College boards are also concerned about their ability to respond appropriately to the types of educational programs that prepare students for meaningful employment in today’s world and provide employers with qualified employees.
According to the Association of Governing Boards of Colleges and Universities (AGB), about a third of college and university board trustees don’t have adequate financial training. About a fourth of college trustees admitted that they took little or no part in managing the college’s budget or finances. This lack of skill and experience can cause college boards to be too complacent. The current pressures may change this fact as college boards increasingly seek to form boards composed of members who are more skilled and experienced.
Overall, weak governance has shown to result in low college enrollment, low graduation rates, substandard education, increasing tuition rates and a poor job outlook.
Healthy Governance Drives Student Success
Healthy governance requires college and university boards to establish clear expectations and standards for board directors or trustees. Best practices for corporate governance suggest that all boards should have written standards for board duties and expectations. Most boards expect their directors to sign a copy of their expectations and to provide them with a copy for reference.
Statistics show that, as of 2009, about 68% of all boards present their directors with a statement of trustee responsibility. The same survey showed that only 15% of public and independent boards require their trustees to sign statements of responsibility.
Board Management Software Helps to Drive Student Success
Even when college or university boards have the proper skills and expertise, the challenging environment that they work in makes it nearly impossible for them to be successful without a little help from technology. Board management software supports best practices for nearly every aspect of board governance.
To begin with, board management software is a huge asset for streamlining board meetings. Board management software substantially cuts down on the use of paper and other office supplies by allowing boards to create and assemble board books within minutes. BoardEffect’s program has the capability to add hyperlinks to outside information, which saves reams of paper. A program for taking minutes automatically prefills much of the information and retrieves information from the agenda to form the basis for the minutes.
Board policies are very important to college and university boards. At a minimum, boards should have written policies for conflicts of interest, whistleblowers and codes of conduct. Board management software makes it possible to store board policies electronically using unlimited cloud-based storage.
Best practices for good governance also require boards of trustees to conduct annual board self-assessments. College boards may avoid doing self-assessments if they can because they don’t want to take the time. BoardEffect has a survey program built into their board portal so that boards can complete surveys in record time. Boards can also use the survey tool to make minor revisions from the surveys from previous years, which helps to ensure continuity and consistent results.
Board management software enhances the quality of board composition in many ways. Nominating committees can use the program to store resumes, develop programs for board orientation and onboarding, and use the self-assessment tools to identify areas for board education and development. Software programs help to view the responsibilities for trustees from the perspective of the whole institution, rather than just a part of it.
Communication is a vital part of board governance. One of the most important assets that board management software brings is security. BoardEffect’s board portal system has a highly secure platform that uses encryption and third-party testing. The high level of security will prevent data breaches, which could cost colleges thousands or millions of dollars. Cybersecurity measures also protect colleges and universities against reputational risk.
BoardEffect’s communication tool allows board directors to communicate securely inside the board portal, which also prevents confidential information from getting into the wrong hands.
Trustees need to appoint someone to be a public spokesperson for the college. This may be either a member of senior management or the board chair or board president. A board management software system gives trustees the capability to compose joint responses from the board, management and administration that demonstrate that they’re all on the same page.
An electronic minutes program provides documentation that boards are performing due diligence and properly vetting all board issues for the record in case any legal questions should arise later on.
The role of college and university boards is changing, and so must the way they conduct their business. Board management software is an important resource that enables trustees to manage their duties efficiently and cost-effectively. Ultimately, board management software programs will alleviate some of the pressures that college boards face because the software provides the documentation that proves that trustees are giving their position the due diligence it truly requires. In turn, due diligence in board governance yields student success.