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Getting Governance Right: Changing the Business Model

Getting Governance Right: Changing the Business Model

Scott Pattison is executive director of the National Association of State Budget Officers. He served on AGB’s National Commission on College and University Board Governance, which released its final report earlier this month, “Consequential Boards: Adding Value Where It Matters Most.”

Board members’ value to their institutions is more important than ever given national economic changes. The outlook for public and private university budgets is one of constraint rather than growth, even as governments and consumers demand more of higher education.

Rather than lament this frustrating financial picture, board members have a distinct opportunity to assist institutional leaders in improving the business model.

AGB research shows presidents want their boards’ input on this issue, and boards need to hear that call. Boards can contribute in the following ways:

  1. Ask difficult questions and provide guidance on increasing efficiencies across the budget.
  2. Ensure the academic business of the institution remains its main business, and that funds are spent with an eye toward mission effectiveness.
  3. Be a liaison between the institutions, government, and private sector leaders to fully leverage the resources they can offer.
  4. Advocate for institutions by understanding financial realities and discussing the need for change with both external and internal stakeholders.
  5. Finally, without micromanaging, boards must help to set realistic goals that institutions can seek to meet—goals that contribute to medium- and long-term achievements in fulfillment of the sector’s public purposes.
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