College Governing Board Accountability Assessments: Virginia

January 2021

In fall 2020, Partners for College Affordability and Public Trust (Partners) conducted the College Governing Board Accountability Assessments, evaluating the governing boards of Virginia’s public institutions of higher education. The project’s objective is to provide insight into the policies and practices of these governing boards to assess the degree to which their members are transparent, accessible, and receptive to students and the public.

The College Governing Board Accountability Assessments were conducted through observation and review of publicly available information related to board policies and practices, including historic meeting records, board bylaws and policies, board notices, and communications channels. An assessment rubric was used to score each institution in three areas: board transparency, member accessibility, and board receptiveness. Each institution was provided a preliminary assessment report and given an opportunity to provide feedback or clarifications during a 4-week period before the final report was issued. Following this period, scores for several institutions were adjusted because of their clarifications or changes made to their practices.

The total scores received by each institution range from 54.2 to 88.9 percent with an average score of 70 percent. The highest scoring institution was George Mason University (88.9 percent), followed closely by the University of Virginia(85.2 percent), Old Dominion University (81.5 percent) and the University of Mary Washington (81.5 percent). The lowest scoring institutions were James Madison University, Longwood University, Virginia Military Institute, Virginia State University, and Virginia Tech.

Performance was strongest in Board Transparency with an average score of 88 percent and eight institutions receiving perfect scores: Christopher Newport University, the College of William & Mary, George Mason University, Old Dominion University, Radford University, University of Mary Washington, Virginia Commonwealth University, and the Virginia Community College System. Performance in the other two categories was largely dissatisfactory, leaving significant room for improvement. The institutions received an average score of 56.3 percent for Member Accessibility and 66 percent for Board Receptiveness, with the University of Virginia and George Mason University receiving the highest scores in each section, respectively. The category with the greatest need for improvement is Member Communication.