|Abstract or Summary
- The purpose of this study was to compare how elected and appointed board
trustees provide oversight for the community colleges they serve. The rationale for
this study was that little examination of board governance processes at community
colleges had occurred and, as a result, board members may lack the understanding
necessary for effectively performing their governance responsibilities. Although there
have been multiple studies examining the board-president relationship, little research
has examined what differences between elected and state-appointed boards may exist,
and if board members are prepared to understand and fulfill their responsibilities.
The following questions guided the research: (1) To what extent do the roles
and responsibilities of politically appointed trustees and locally elected trustees differ?
(2) How prepared are state boards and elected boards for their oversight role and responsibilities?
The goal of the research was to identify whether there were
substantial differences between how state-appointed boards and elected boards
approached their oversight responsibilities, to identify benefits or limitations for an
institution between state board oversight and elected board oversight, and to better
understand the importance of board preparation.
The research design followed a qualitative case study methodology focusing
on three community college boards in the same state -- two locally elected community
college boards and the state board of a community college system. A collective case
study provided a unique opportunity to compare if differences existed between locally
elected and state-appointed boards. The research instruments utilized to gather data
for this study were a questionnaire, interviews, board meeting observations and
examinations of board minutes, orientation packets, and board policies.
The themes that emerged from the study fell primarily into the following
categories: professional experience, board preparation, roles and responsibilities,
decision-making, and board relations. The study findings did not reveal there were
strong and unique procedural differences between elected and state-appointed trustees,
but it did confirm that board preparation is severely lacking for all boards, resulting in
boards composed of well-intended individuals, but not necessarily equipped to serve
effectively. For boards to operate at a high level of effectiveness in support of the
college mission, the findings supported the following: boards undergo initial and
ongoing training on their roles and responsibilities, employ a strong president who
understands the importance of board preparation, and have a commitment to ongoing
professional development regarding their governance roles. Lacking any of the above
can greatly impact board effectiveness and has the potential to leave institutions
vulnerable to poor oversight.