How are private colleges governed?

Private colleges are typically governed by a board of trustees or board of regents, who are responsible for setting policies, managing finances, and overseeing the overall direction of the institution. They may also have a president or chancellor who serves as the chief executive officer.

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Private colleges are usually governed by a board of trustees or board of regents, who are responsible for the overall direction of the institution. They set policies, manage finances, and oversee the selection of a president or chancellor to serve as the chief executive officer. The board also plays a vital role in fundraising for the institution.

According to the American Council on Education, “the fiduciary responsibilities of trustees include ensuring that the institution has adequate resources to fulfill its mission, establishing policies to guide institutional direction and decisions, appointing and supporting the president, and monitoring the success of the institution in achieving its goals and objectives.” Trustees are selected for their expertise and experience in fields such as law, finance, and education.

A president or chancellor is typically appointed by the board of trustees and is responsible for implementing policies and managing day-to-day operations. They work closely with the board to ensure that the goals of the institution are being met, and are often involved in the fundraising efforts of the college.

Interesting facts about private college governance include:

  • The size of a board of trustees can vary greatly, with some institutions having as few as five members and others having dozens.
  • According to the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities, approximately 87% of private colleges are governed by a board of trustees.
  • Private colleges that are affiliated with a religious denomination may have a governing board that includes members of the clergy.
  • The role of a board of trustees can be challenging, with responsibilities that include financial management, strategic planning, and ensuring compliance with legal and regulatory requirements.
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Table: Sample Board of Trustees Composition
| Type of Trustee | Number |
| — | — |
| Alumni | 2-4 |
| Business leaders | 2-4 |
| Community leaders | 1-2 |
| Faculty | 1-2 |
| Government officials | 1-2 |
| Religious leaders | 1-2 |
| Student | 1 |
| Total | 10-14 |

In the words of Henry Rosovsky, a former president of Harvard University, “Trustees carry the ultimate responsibility for ensuring that their institutions are well-run, financially sound, and true to their missions.” Private college governance is a complex but vital system that helps ensure the success of these important institutions.

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Bob Luddy, a libertarian businessman, created Bailey’s Academy, a non-profit network of low-cost private schools aimed at middle-class families. The academy saves money by building small, inexpensive buildings, hiring fewer teachers, and grouping students according to their grasp of the curriculum. Luddy believes that constant innovation is necessary in education and argues that traditional charter schools are subject to bureaucratic regulation. He aims to extend his network to reach 100 schools across Georgia, Tennessee, and Florida and provide a low-cost private school alternative to the declining public education system.

Surely you will be interested

Who controls private colleges?
A private school is a private business or nonprofit entity and most issues are controlled by the private school unless regulated by law (such as health or safety laws) or regulated by private contract.
Do private universities have to follow federal law?
Response will be: Private colleges are not sponsored by the state or federal government and that means they do not have to abide by many rules established for public education facilities.
Is a private college run by a local government?
Response to this: A private school is a college or university that often operates as an educational nonprofit organization. It does not receive its primary funding from a state government. Private schools generally are smaller than public schools and have smaller class sizes than public schools.
Do private colleges have to follow the Constitution?
Response: That the protections of the First Amendment apply on public campuses is well-settled law. Private universities are not directly bound by the First Amendment, which limits only government action.

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