Work Session Agenda
May 22, 2002

Boston, Mass.
April 20-23, 2002
Ed Jasmin


Information Technology -- Most of our Regents' discussions have centered on distance learning. This AGB session focused on adding value to existing lecture courses i.e. part lecture and part internet. They used the term "to bolt on" an internet segment to an existing lecture class. Most of the classes now using this format are large, mainly introductory courses like math and English.

Results have been:

  • Quality -- Higher grades by 66%, better retention, opportunity to self-test
  • Access -- 24/7 (24 hours a day and 7 days a week)
  • Costs -- Examples were given of the cost of one chemistry class being reduced from $91,000 to $65,000. Another was an algebra class costing $21 per student and being reduced to $9.

Apparently there is existing software on the market so it is not necessary to invent internet support programs. One company mentioned was Blackboard.

Currently the Pew Foundation is funding 30 colleges in developing and monitoring this concept. These institutions are combining self-paced learning and reduced seat time with structured face-to-face contact with instructors. Teaching assistants are also taking on new roles. A review of this project can be seen on <nonworking link>

Strategic Responsibilities in a Climate of Uncertainty - This panel discussed the changing environment of declining funding, increased internal spending and enrollment increases. Hans Brisch, Chancellor of Oklahoma's State Regents, emphasized moving his state forward through student success, not institution success. Celebration of the mind as "human capital". Oklahoma has a project called "Brain Gain 2010" which they are measuring by a report card system.

Others agreed that student learning is the most important objective. Relationship and success of the K-12 program is very important to our own success.

On accountability we must get ahead of the curve and not let others try to set our success measurements or outcomes. It was mentioned that Maryland's governor supports funding but also wants control.

The panel criticized the U.S News and World Report Annual Ranking as not student focused. They ranked student retention as one of the most import measurements.

Weathering the Double Whammy - The challenge of doing more with much less. In 45 states, current-year revenues were below forecasted levels and 28 states reported above-forecast spending-primarily Medicaid. 36 states have cut or frozen budgets. Public institutions in Ohio, Missouri, and South Carolina have undergone budget cuts and have instituted mid-year tuition increases. Washington State is proposing a tuition raise of up to 40 percent over the next six years. California university systems have taken a $100 million hit this year. Board members across the nation will need to do everything to address short-term budget issues and long- term investment needs. This may require reducing funding for low-performing programs. Here are five suggestions

  • Identify the institution's short-term and long-term challenges
  • Refocus the institution's mission, planning and programming
  • Assess and integrate tuition, aid and outreach strategies
  • Redouble the commitment to cost management
  • Pay attention to enrollment planning and management

Intercollegiate Athletics and the Academy- This was a discussion led by Thomas Hearn, President of Wake Forest and member of the Knight Commission. Dr. Heam is concerned that college sports at the I-A level have subscribed to the entertainment ethic and have de-emphasized teaching and learning. Of the 300 schools in I-A only 48 make money. Graduation rates for student athletes are critical. Football has a national rate of 51% and basketball 31%. He said that there is a growing trend that young gifted people are enticed into college athletics with the hope of making it to the professional level. This is not a high probability and if they sacrifice the educational opportunity, they have a chance of remaining economically disadvantaged. Dr. Hearn also worries about internet gambling by students on college athletic events.

Aligning Policies to Achieve a Public Agenda - What does the public expect from its Universities and Regents? How do we know? What are we doing to deserve the public money? Some examples discussed:

  • A great university systems makes a great state
  • Administrative efficiency -- run higher education like a business
  • The public university system exists to serve the people
  • Extending and sustaining universal access

Terrance MacTaggert and James Mingle studied in depth these issues in four states:

Illinois, Kentucky, Oregon and Texas. Their report, prepared for the AGB meeting, is attached.

WICHE has a grant to bring together representatives from higher education, governors' offices and legislatures in our western states to discuss these topics. Montana has been invited to participate. The deadline for a response is at hand.

Pursuing the Public Agenda: 

A Trustee Responsibility
Executive Summary

Terrence J. MacTaggart
James R. Mingle

Prepared for the Association of Governing Boards
Center for Public Higher Education Trusteeship and Governance

April 2002


What does "the public" have a right to expect from the trustees of its public colleges, universities and systems? Most would agree that good stewardship of the public's resources holds a top priority. Providing quality education and a safe learning environment for students, ensuring adequate compensation for faculty, safeguarding academic freedom, and hiring, supporting and occasionally firing presidents are also traditional parts a trustee's job description. Good boards also nurture their own members, seek to practice the art of trusteeship and generally subscribe to the various principles of good practice developed by the Association of Governing Boards.

But beyond these basics of responsible trustee process and behavior, do boards also have an additional obligation to ensure that the institutions they oversee address state economic and social needs? Certainly, by offering solid educational programs to large numbers of citizens, public higher education creates multiple social and economic benefits for the state and its people. But should institutions go beyond this basic educational agenda to help address, say, economic stagnation, poverty, the condition of children, health care inequities, literacy rates, or inadequate housing? If so, how should they go about addressing these concerns?

In the midst of this uncertainty, we investigated four states that provide some answers to these critical questions: Illinois, Kentucky, Oregon, and Texas. In them, we found educational leaders, trustees and executives alike struggling to carve out a more grand sense of public purpose beyond merely managing their institutions in an increasingly competitive market. Here are some of the defining characteristics of boards that pursue a public agenda:

  • Go beyond their traditional and essential responsibilities for overseeing responsible management of their institutions and systems to envision a larger set of objectives centered on improving the condition of the state and its citizens.
  • Accept their responsibility as a board to assert leadership in directing the institutions they oversee to improve the condition of citizens and taxpayers.
  • Place the educational, economic, and social needs of the larger society first, above the priorities of higher education institutions.
  • Emphasize working in close concert with other state leaders and organizations in pursuit of this agenda.
  • Change educational and research priorities within the academy, if necessary, to address critical state needs.
  • Make up for "market shortcomings" by identifying specific problems to be addressed, including low college participation rates, an under-prepared workforce, rural development, inadequately prepared teachers and adult literacy.
  • Depending on mission, location and clientele, pursue a still broader social agenda which includes actions to improve the condition of children, crime, poverty, inadequate schooling, health care, the environment and poor housing in addition to the social challenges traditionally linked to higher education.
  • Engage in political -- not partisan -- advocacy for specific policy initiatives and funding to support their public agenda.

The Public Agenda for the Years Ahead

In many ways, higher education has been extraordinarily responsive to its changing environment. It shifted radically away from a classical curriculum to a practical one in response to the industrial revolution of the 19th century. And again, following World War II it not only opened its doors to returning GI's, but also greatly expanded its research capacity in response to the needs of national defense, health care and other priorities. In the 1960s higher education was dragged reluctantly into the social revolution of equal rights for minorities and women and the political revolution that found administrators and students on opposite sides of the controversy over the Vietnam War.

To predict the public agenda for higher education is a matter of crystal ball gazing, no less hazardous for us than other prognosticators. Human events have a way of surprising and shocking us with new challenges and new understandings very quickly. The range of issues higher education will face in the future is no less complex than the full range of human endeavor. We think, for example, of the ethical challenges we will face as our understanding of biogenetics increases or the extraordinary environmental changes that have been predicted.

Not all of these issues, however, find their way to the "state" agenda, which is the primary focus of this study. In our view, boards will center their public agenda primarily around four objectives, none of which are entirely new, although approaches to these challenges may be radically different than in the past.

  1. Extending and sustaining prosperity to all of the state's citizens.
  2. Expanding our education systems in ways that will meet the needs of universal access to postsecondary education and lifelong learning.
  3. Playing a greater role in improving the quality of life in the states and locales where our institutions exists.
  4. Conducting our affairs as partners with other social and educational organizations so that we can achieve these goals.


Most states, despite shortcomings in resources and other natural assets, do have the opportunity, under the right circumstances and leadership, to make a difference. When change comes, we believe it comes for some of the following reasons.

Political Leadership

An aggressive public agenda for higher education is often led by the governor, one who has made education a top policy priority, who is adroit enough to translate campaign rhetoric into legislative and budgetary reality, and who is lucky enough to persevere for two terms. Paul Patton of Kentucky, and, in a quieter way, James Thompson and Jim Edgar of Illinois stand out. Zell Miller, governor of Georgia from 1991 to 1999, epitomizes the modem "education governor." His predecessors in the South -- Riley of South Carolina and Alexander of Tennessee, among others -- created the model of state leaders who envisioned education as the tool to transform their state economies.

But what if you don't have an education governor? If a governor chooses to push for other priorities or lacks a reliable political base, then others must step into the vacuum. Leadership in these situations often comes from the higher education community itself or a coalition of business, community and educational leaders who persuade legislators of the economic benefits of investing in higher education.


Vision in policymaking is often pooh-poohed as soft headedness. Our experience demonstrates that an inspirational ideal clearly communicated is essential to winning support. One of the first governors to set this example was Rudy Perpich of Minnesota. In his terms as governor (1976-79 and 1983-91) he championed the ideal of Minnesota as "The Brain Power State" and asked a former Republican governor and successful businessman, Elmer Anderson, to lead a commission to recommend policies to deliver on the potential of higher education. Anderson and Perpich shared a generous vision of broadly accessible, affordable higher education.

The most effective statements of a vision take a populist tone that speaks to the hopes and fears of a range of citizens. Patton in Kentucky knew this instinctively when he put the relationship between education and economic well-being in the simplest terms -- "Education Pays."

Well-Designed Initiatives

In states that have had successful programs, well-designed initiatives translate the vision into projects that legislatures can fund. The best ideas combine sound policy goals with potential for actually being passed by the legislature and implemented by the state's colleges and universities. As one sage observer told us, our state needs "good ideas that work."

The idea that higher education needed to take responsibility for adult literacy efforts in Kentucky may not have been the most obvious move, but it was essential to achieving the state's ambitious participation goals. The matching grant program, Bucks for Brains, which brought substantial state and private commitment, is another simple idea that worked. The Illinois Great Cities initiative showed the state's commitment to the Chicago public schools and put the University of Illinois, Chicago at the center of the successful governance reform. Texas took the widely popular Hope Scholarship idea linked eligibility to curriculum, not grades.

Effective Governance Structures

Effective governance structures exhibit several consistent traits. They foster close ties between the governor's office and the state or system board, but ensure enough distance so that the university or system does not become "another state agency." To deliver for the people of the state, trustees by and large must believe that the public agenda, however defined, is more important than academic self-interest. They also should display unqualified support for their executive in carrying out this vision, at least in public. Ideally, a board is capable of developing or negotiating a public agenda, overseeing its implementation, and holding itself and others accountability for progress in achieving it.

Whether the leadership comes from a governing board or a coordinating board is less important than other factors. Three of the states we studied -- Texas, Kentucky and Illinois -- have strong coordinating boards coupled with local campus boards. Oregon employs a governing system with the chancellor at the helm but the system encourages a great deal of campus independence and presidents there play a prominent role in system decision making. A judicious balance between campus autonomy encouraging creative leadership and entrepreneurship on the one hand, and some central control -- especially of the political agenda and overall budget -- on the other seems to be the right combination.

New Financial Resources

Just as governance structures must be capable of delivering on a public agenda and assuring its implementation and progress, it takes new money to start and sustain a public agenda. The states studied tapped a wide variety of new sources, including lottery funds, increased sales taxes, tuition hikes, tobacco settlement money, and most importantly the excess revenue generated by the economic boom times of the 1990s.

And it often takes sizeable amounts of money. Kentucky, for example, has put 800 million new dollars into its Bucks for Brains program alone. In Texas the legislature increased funding for the biennium beginning in September 2001 by more than $1.2 billion or 13.3%. Among our cases only Oregon managed its initiatives with modest increases.

Some governors make the case that institutions should redirect their own resources to the public agenda. Although not a practical solution in the short run, over a five-year period it is fair to expect that universities could redirect monies. Illinois, for example, documented substantial reallocation during the 1990s with its Priorities, Quality and Productivity initiative.

Aggressive Public Campaigns

Systems and major universities with a statewide mission possess extraordinary potential for shaping public and political opinion in their favor, although they are just beginning to realize and act on this capacity. Higher education goes directly to the public to build support for better funding from the legislature, for votes in a capital bonding referendum or to secure (and occasionally oppose) a policy change requiring voter approval. Their campaigns, if intelligently managed and based on solid claims to serve public needs, are almost uniformly successful. The successful $3.2 billion bond campaign in 2000 that involved both the University of North Carolina and the state community college system is the most recent example.

The fact that public institutions and systems usually prevail with the voters should come as no surprise in light of their political assets. Through campus locations, centers, extension sites and distance education, these institutions touch virtually every community and most of the people in their states. The public tends to respect, and often like, their local campus leaders who are generally substantial employers as well. Universities serving a public agenda can affiliate with a remarkable number of allies including groups representing business, labor, and women, not to mention alumni, students and boosters.

Campaigns for building programs, athletic facilities or high-tech research centers are often easier to sell than the more abstract idea of "universal postsecondary access." Many in higher education assume that such a goal is worthy of public support. But legislators and state budget directors pressed with other priorities may, in fact, be looking for ways to limit student access, not expand it. A public-spirited board will need to make its case.

Pursuing the Public Agenda: The Need for Board Attention

As we review the successes and shortcomings of the past decade and look to the future we see the need for boards to adjust some of their headings. Higher education has been most responsive to the economic agenda that has been at the center of the nation's adjustments to a global economic environment. But in an environment where free market economics so completely dominates policy, it may now be higher education's job to more carefully examine the gaps and shortcomings in the market's response and to purposefully try and make up for the difference. Despite all of our temporary limitations in meeting the demand for science, math, and technology skills, many forces both inside and outside of higher are likely to solve some of these problems.

This is not so apparent in many public service jobs where the financial incentives of the marketplace are not attracting students in large enough numbers and the needs of research are not as well supported. Whether our efforts to increase the teacher supply will be enough to overcome the lack of external incentives is highly questionable. In the areas of public health, safety and the environment we may also be severely challenged in the years ahead to respond to public need. In the area of access, it is not so much a lack of effort but a constantly rising standard that we must meet. Our efforts to enroll students and move them to higher levels of achievement are constantly being held to ever-higher benchmarks.

But it is not higher education's job to simply respond to the public. It must bring to political leaders and the public at-large those educational needs and goals which may be less obvious in their immediate impact. Support for the arts, for the value of a liberal education, for greater commitment to the developing world and to solutions to pressing environmental problems may require more persuasion, but remain no less important to our broader social purposes.

Further Reading

The Kentucky Council for Postsecondary Education. Strategic Policies.

The Oregon University System.

The Texas Higher Education Coordination Board. Closing the Gaps.

The Illinois Board of Higher Education. The Illinois Commitment.