College Governing Board Accountability Assessments: Virginia

July 2022

In summer 2022, 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. This report is a follow-up to a previous iteration of this report that was released in January 2021 to evaluate any changes that may have been made to board practices and policies.

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 governing board 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 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 in 2022 assessments range from 63.0 to 92.6 percent with an average total score of 75.8 percent, a notable – 5.8 percent – improvement over the average score in the previous assessments. In 2020, the total scores for each institution ranged from 54.2 to 88.9 percent with an average total score of 70.0 percent.

The highest scoring institution was Virginia Commonwealth University (92.6 percent), followed closely by the University of Mary Washington (88.9 percent), the University of Virginia (83.3 percent) and George Mason University(81.5 percent). The lowest scoring institutions were Old Dominion University (66.7 percent), Radford University (66.7percent), and Virginia State University (63.0 percent).

Performance was strongest in Board Transparency with an average score of 95.6 percent and eleven institutions receiving perfect scores. This shows an improvement over the 2020 assessments, where the average score was88 percent. Performance in the Board Receptiveness category also improved by 6.5 percent over the previous assessments, from 66.1 to 72.6 percent. Member Accessibility remained the lowest scoring of the three categories, with an average score of 59.3 percent – only a 3 percent increase from the previous average of 56.3 percent. The greatest overall improvements were seen in the scores of three institutions, with each receiving a score 18.5 percent higher score than their previous one – Longwood University, Virginia Commonwealth University, and Virginia Military Institute. James Madison University and Virginia Tech also saw significant improvement – 14.8 percent – over their previous score.

Three institutions received a score notably lower than their previous score: George Mason University (7.5 percent lower), Old Dominion University (15.3 percent lower), and Radford University (7.3 percent lower). The discontinuation of practices adopted during the pandemic correlates with these lower scores. Since returning to in-person meetings, Old Dominion University and Radford University stopped providing the public with an option to observe board meetings remotely (off-campus). After previously holding public comment in the presence of the full board during a regularly scheduled meeting, George Mason University and Old Dominion University now hold public comment during non-regularly scheduled board meetings in the absence of a quorum of the full board.