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PostsecondaryPostsecondary Governance and Structures
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Postsecondary governance refers to any policies or structures that hold public colleges and universities accountable to state goals and strategies.

In most cases, state legislatures have constitutional authority to govern public postsecondary institutions. However, in states like California and Minnesota, the flagship university systems enjoy constitutional autonomy, so that legislatures cannot mandate institutions adopt certain academic policies. These legislatures retain some power over these systems with the finance levers they possess.

State legislatures usually delegate authority to a state-level agency. Most states have one or more governing, coordinating, or advisory board. As their names indicate, governing boards have the most authority. Coordinating boards can have policy authority, but more often serve to advance state access and completion goals. Advisory boards fill an important role in data collection, financial reporting, and negotiated rulemaking. However, advisory boards usually lack the authority to set academic or fiscal policy.

Some states have responded to budget cuts by consolidating or eliminating boards. Indiana's Commission on Higher Education and the Tennessee Higher Education Commission authorize proprietary institutions and administer student financial aid programs–functions once held by other agencies since eliminated.

At the institutional level, governance often relates to faculty senates, shared decision-making, and the professionalization of departmental administration. State policymakers have often avoided legislating how institutions govern themselves internally.

To learn more about postsecondary governance, please check out the “What States are Doing” and the “Selected Research and Writings” links on the left side panel.


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