The Fate of Higher Education Depends on Quality Board Governance

By AGB January 4, 2024 Video

AGB CEO Update, January 2024

For 250 years, governance of American education at all levels has been of, by, and for the people. Citizens take fiduciary responsibility for higher education. AGB shares and supports your commitment. We have accepted the call to step up with you. In this video, you will hear from Ellen Chaffee, PhD, AGB Interim President and CEO, about our 2024 priorities.

Click to Read the Video Transcript

Greetings and Happy New Year on behalf of the AGB team. 

Although I must admit I have misgivings about 2024, it will be not only new, but also different in ways that are not so happy. This could be the year we’ve been preparing for–the one that tips important scales.  

This is the year governing boards help direct the course of American higher education history. We will have good days and bad days. The number, magnitude and velocity of major worldwide problems keep growing and they never get solved.  

The crosswinds and blizzards buffeting higher education are fierce. On the other hand, if you brush away the snow and the mulch, you can see countless places where caring, responsible people are working for positive, meaningful results.  

We at AGB believe that good governance creates more good days. Put another way, in 2024, given an environment of low public support for higher education, unprecedented attacks on presidents and intrusion on governance, and a divisive high profile presidential election, the fate of higher education organizations and the entire sector could be determined by the quality of your good governance. 

One potential scenario would place governance in the hands of state and federal government.  

Another would turn education over to private sector business interests. 

Instead, you have committed to a different scenario for 250 years–governance of American education at all levels has been of, by, and for the people.  

As citizen trustees, you take fiduciary, that is, ultimate responsibility for higher education.  

AGB shares and supports your commitment, and we accept the call to step up with you.  

First, we are doubling down on delivering more than 100 years of experience and thought leadership on best practices in board governance.  

Second, we are emphasizing how to apply good governance to four strategic issues that you, our members, have identified.  

Number one, board independence and leadership. All public, private, and related foundation governing boards must uphold their fiduciary duties and squarely face real threats to their autonomy.  

Number two, student success, the student experience, and equity and inclusion. Governing boards need to understand and protect the essential ingredients for a meaningful student experience, including principled uncensored, freedom to learn and expertise-based curriculum.  

Number three, leadership support and succession planning. Presidents literally cannot please everyone.  

Now, the opposition Is increasingly destructive, hostile, and even dangerous. A clean conscience and tough skin are no longer enough for the fulfilling aspects of the job. To make it worthwhile, the board/ president partnership has never been more critical. 

And number four, innovation and digital transformation. Higher education’s critics have some valid points. We need to challenge the formidable barriers to change, show, as well as explain, and ramp up our ability to learn, create and empower our graduates to make a better world. 

I hope you’re ready to meet the moment.  

Start by going to agb.org and review the written audio and video resources on good governance and your four strategic issues.  

Attend online and in-person events. 

Connect with our experienced consultants, senior fellows and staff.  

Talk with your colleagues locally and across the country.  

AGB offers all of those opportunities, most of them without additional cost.  

As your nonprofit member-focused partner, ally and confidant, this is your AGB. You are the critical difference makers in 2024.  

Let’s make more good days and navigate the bad ones together. Let’s make 2024 a year of imagination, conviction, and courage.