Understanding the Role of HBCU Boards of Trustees in Advancing Institutional Quality and Ensuring HBCU Survival

Ivy Ruth Taylor, University of Pennsylvania


Ensuring that HBCUs survive, thrive, and provide strong educational foundations for their target population is ultimately the responsibility of their governing boards. The primary purpose of this study was to explore how HBCU board members think about institutional quality; how they work to advance institutional quality of their institutions, including collaborating with campus leaders; and how their board culture affects those efforts. The study’s scope included HBCUs that were removed from warning or probation status by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS) within the past five years. Removal from warning or probation status can be viewed as evidence of improvement in institutional quality. A qualitative methodology, with comparative case studies of three institutions, was used to determine the roles HBCU boards play in setting the strategic direction, improving institutional quality, and ensuring the survival of institutions at risk. Data was gathered through interviews with HBCU board members, presidents, and executive staff, as well as document review. Specifically, the study explored how HBCU boards of trustees think about and address institutional quality; what actions board members take to move off probation or warning; how board members partner with presidents, board culture, and composition; and board involvement with SACS. Specific exploration and comparison of dimensions of board culture provided insight into how the HBCU boards operated. Findings included the need for stronger focus by HBCU boards on institutional quality beyond financial stability. Additionally, the cases showed that an accreditation crisis could be a catalyst for stagnant boards to become more engaged and strengthen their partnerships with the presidents. The cases also crucially demonstrated that board composition is a critical determinant of a board’s ability to understand institutional quality, work with the president, and take needed actions. The study pointed to the need for additional research on how multilevel governing boards affect HBCUs, composition of HBCU boards, and whether SACS accreditation standards can fairly evaluate institutions that have historically received less investment.

Subject Area

Educational leadership|African American Studies|Black studies|Higher Education Administration

Recommended Citation

Taylor, Ivy Ruth, "Understanding the Role of HBCU Boards of Trustees in Advancing Institutional Quality and Ensuring HBCU Survival" (2020). Dissertations available from ProQuest. AAI27997364.