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MINUTES: September 24, 2018 Governance Subcommittee Meeting

Summary notes from Blue Ribbon Commission on Higher Education Governance subcommittee meeting on September 24


Subcommittee members participating: Mr. Becker; President Gee; Dr. Paine; Mr. Payne

Commission members participating: President Martin

Mr. Payne convened the meeting at 9:00 a.m.  He began by asking President Gee to provide his observations on the current governance structure based on his 38 years of experience as a university president.

President Gee said that he believed we need very strong institutional governing boards and these boards should be held to a high standard.  The members of these boards are held accountable to the Governor and the Legislature through gubernatorial appointment and oversight from the Legislative Oversight Committee on Educational Accountability (LOCEA).  President Gee went on to say that the regional institutions need access to services and technical assistance, and that a state service agency is the most efficient way to provide those services and assistance.  He said the state must avoid redundancy of governance and duplication of oversight.  He believes HEPC was created as a coordinating board but over time it has become a regulatory agency, and in so doing has gone beyond its original bounds.  President Gee further suggested that the decentralization of authority in higher education is a trend in many states across the country.

Mr. Payne then asked Dr. Paine to comment based on the recent changes in governance in the K-12 system.

Dr. Paine said that Governor Justice began the process because he felt there was redundancy and inefficiency in the way the K-12 schools are governed at the state level.  As a result, the Office of the Secretary of Education and the Arts, the Office of Education Performance Audits, and the Regional Education Services Agencies (RESAs) were abolished.  Dr. Paine said these changes led to 466 positions being eliminated, leading to significant savings that have been returned to support education.  He also observed that the Governor and the State Board of Education believe in having strong county superintendents and county boards of education, in many ways parallel to strong presidents and institutional governing boards.

President Gee said Dr. Paine’s comments affirmed that the recent changes in the K-12 system can serve as a very useful example for higher education.

Mr. Payne asked Mr. Becker for his opinion on the issue of higher education governance.  Mr. Becker said that the state went to the effort of establishing institutional governing boards and clearly the Governor and Legislature want them to continue, so he believes we should strengthen these boards.  He believes HEPC should be a service agency, not a regulatory body.  Mr. Becker also raised the question about the way the service agency would be governed.

Mr. Payne replied that there are two main options: (1) a board consisting of members selected by the institutional governing boards would oversee the office and select the director; or (2) the Governor would appoint the director.  He said this was an issue that needed further discussion.

Dr. Paine said that the first model is similar to the model used by the RESAs, which were led by a board consisting of county superintendents and one member from each county board of education in the region.  While the RESAs were in operation, Dr. Paine felt this governance structure worked well.

Mr. Payne concluded the meeting by saying that he would work on a draft report based on this discussion and distribute it to the subcommittee members for their review prior to the next full commission meeting on October 2.  He also thanked President Martin for sharing information about the structure of the State Council for Higher Education in Virginia (SCHEV) and the tiered system that Virginia has for higher education governance.  He said this information would be shared with the subcommittee and the full commission.

Mr. Payne adjourned the meeting at 9:16 a.m.