Trustee perceptions of effective board functioning: a survey of elected community college trustees in the Midwest

Robinson, Michelle
Major Professor
Larry H. Ebbers
Committee Member
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Educational Leadership and Policy Studies


Community college governance boards in the United States are comprised of public officials who are appointed or publicly elected from the community in which their college resides. The purpose of these governance boards is to oversee the community college with respect to mission, strategic direction of the College, hiring the CEO/President and accepting fiduciary responsibility. The fiduciary role of board members, also known as trustees, has become more critical as funding sources have been on the decline. The reality of diminishing budgets has also sparked an increase in outcomes-based accountability, with stakeholders expecting their community college to act as good fiscal stewards.

The American Association of Community College Trustees (AACT) purports, board self-assessment is a tenet of effective board governance, providing an effective means for board members to understand their role and responsibilities (Smith, 2000). While community college governance boards have the opportunity to seek assistance in the self-assessment process from trustee associations such as AACT, the shifting priorities and fees associated with these services can often impede them.

The Midwest Community College Trustee Self-assessment Survey was administered to elected community college trustees in six Midwest states: Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Missouri, and Nebraska. Since very little research has been conducted in the area of community college trustees, this research could provide valuable information as to the skill sets, which may facilitate effective board functioning and reveal areas of deficit, which may present barriers to effective board functioning.

The goals of the survey were to acquire demographic information, background information, and trustee perceptions of effective board functioning. The survey findings were analyzed using descriptive statistics, inferential statistics and qualitative analysis. There were 226 survey respondents; almost three fourths were male, 98% were white and nearly half were 65 years of age or older. The survey respondents reported high levels of agreement with most items on effective board governance.

Board self-assessment is viewed as a best practice for effective boards. However fiscal barriers can often impede boards from this process. National and state policy can be directed at making self-assessment tools available for little or no cost.