The expanding role of community college trustees in student success
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For generations American community colleges, governed by boards of trustees, have successfully provided open access to higher education. Today, all colleges are under intense pressure to improve student success rates. Using qualitative methodology, this grounded theory case study analyzed the expanding role of community college trustees in a college that has transformed to embrace student success. This study examined the expanding role of trustees through their eyes and the eyes of senior administrators. Their perceptions culminated into eight major themes: Achieving the Dream, Board of Trustees Institute, student success, data, leadership, partnership, trust, and vision. Two other themes of note developed: outcomes-based funding and the influence of Dr. Byron McClenney. Time expenditure on trustee duties and professional development concluded the findings. Conclusions drawn reveal that a transformational culture change from an emphasis solely on student access, to one of access plus student success began with the Board. Trustees developed an expanded skill set of awareness and acuity regarding student success data in order to interpret and use data effectively, resulting in an increased amount of time spent on Board duties and training. The Board now makes data driven decisions that have transformed fiscal policy to reflect the student success agenda. The primary focus of the Board is on how their actions affect student success rather than only on enrollment numbers and budgets. Through this process, the Trustees and Chancellor have developed a genuine and open partnership that extends to senior administrators. The Trustees continue to observe the boundaries of their policy-making roles as they ask the right questions without getting into day-to-day operations of the college. Because of limited research on community college trustees and student success, this study adds to available literature and may provide value to trustees, presidents, and chancellors who are changing their institutional culture to one focusing on student success. Conclusions drawn from the study may be used to enhance the education of trustees on their expanded role. The findings may also serve as a guide in helping trustees understand how to prioritize student success without stepping over the line into daily college operations.