The Association of Governing Boards Stresses Educational Quality
CUNY Chancellor Matthew Goldstein on Panel
The Association of Governing Boards (AGB) of Universities and Colleges held their New York Regional Meeting recently, addressing the board’s responsibility for the oversight of educational quality. Panelists discussed how boards can take on issues affecting academic quality without overstepping the rights of faculty and academic administrators.
The AGB responded to multiple factors currently affecting educational quality at higher education institutes. Peter Eckel, vice president of governance and leadership programs at the AGB, initiated the meeting by providing educators, chairmen, college presidents and guests with numerous statistics that illustrated the problems and changes plaguing higher education.
A majority of the data presented stressed the amount of federal support colleges and universities are receiving. In the last decade, federal support for colleges and universities has increased by $125 billion, according to the American Council on Education. Despite the increase in funding, recent college graduates are earning a lot less than they expected or they are working outside their area of interest. When asked about the current job market, Chancellor Goldstein indicated that a study was currently being conducted by CUNY indicating where the greatest demand for jobs are today. Additionally, studies conducted by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) depicted that the percentage of adults aged 25-34 with a graduate degree in the United States is less than the percentage in Canada, Korea and Japan, instilling the message that American education has fallen behind the rest of the world. All of the information presented bolstered pressure for governing boards’ accountability for ensuring educational quality.
The panelists introduced relevant topics such as productivity and efficiency, student learning outcomes assessment and effective relations with faculty and academic administrators. The panelists included Matthew Goldstein, chancellor of the City University of New York; Mark Epstein, chairman of the Board at Cooper Union; Tori Haring-Smith, president of Washington and Jefferson College and Peter Eckel as the moderator.
They discussed how members of boards at their meetings spoke at greater length on fiduciary matters than academic issues. All three panelists agreed that one of the difficulties of talking about academic quality was due to the questionable validity and accuracy of current measures of student learning outcomes. President Smith said, “It becomes difficult to measure student quality. It makes the board and faculty uncomfortable, because how do you measure quality?” Epstein believes the solution to the boards’ distance and disability to communicate effectively on academic issues is due to the boards’ composition. “It needs to be comprised of more academic-based individuals who will push and focus on the educational sector and educational quality,” Epstein said.
Based on the two recent works by the AGB, the board has ultimate responsibility for the worth of the institution’s product, i.e., its education, and not only the financial health and fiscal integrity of the institution. The quality of teaching and learning is a responsibility that is delegated to the board; it is the faculty and administration’s job to implement it. Board members, college and university presidents and faculty realize that effective board engagement in academic aspects is imperative for any institution to succeed. #