July 25, 2022
July 27, 2022
New report shows higher ed board transparency improving, room for improvement remains
Scores drop at universities where board practices adopted during the pandemic were discontinued

Richmond, VA – Today, Partners for College Affordability and Public Trust released the second edition of the College Governing Board Accountability Assessments, an annual report evaluating Virginia’s public college and university governing boards on transparent and accountable decision-making. The report's release follows Governor Youngkin's first appointments to the boards of visitors and the State Board for Virginia’s Community Colleges earlier this month.

Overall, this year’s average total score of 75.8 percent was a notable improvement – 5.8 percent – over the previous assessments which were released in January 2021. The highest scoring institution this year was Virginia Commonwealth University, whose score of 92.6 percent was 18.5 percent higher than their previous score. The most dramatic drop in scores correlates with the discontinuation of practices adopted during the pandemic, including providing the public with remote video access to board meetings and holding public comment periods in the presence of the full board, rather than the three member minimum required by statute.

“It’s evident from our updated report that the efforts of lawmakers and grassroots leaders to increase public accountability in higher education have been effective,” said Stacie Gordon, executive director of Partners for College Affordability and Public Trust. “It's great to see these governing boards demonstrate a willingness to be more open and receptive to students, citizens, and other stakeholders. There is still plenty of room for improvement, but we are seeing positive steps in the right direction.”

“The greatest need for improvement remains in the category of Member Accessibility,” Gordon continued. “It’s important that each board member is available for direct, meaningful, and unobstructed interactions with the public they serve. This can be achieved by allowing the public greater access to board meetings through remote video streaming, providing every board member with an official email address, and holding public comment sessions before the entire board."

For the College Governing Board Accountability Assessments, Partners reviewed historic meeting records, board bylaws and policies, board notices, and communications channels. Each institution was graded on their performance in three areas: board transparency, member accessibility, and board receptiveness. To ensure fairness and accuracy, Partners provided each institution and their representatives with a preliminary copy of their own assessments and gave them the opportunity to provide feedback or clarifications during a 2-week period.