The 2017 Legislature adopted some of the most sweeping governance revisions for the Board of Regents since its establishment in 1969 through SB 238, Higher Education Governance Revisions (Millner/Wilson). The legislation puts into the law significant areas of existing policy and practice of the board, including board member selection, board duties, the selection of institution presidents, primary missions of institutions, and the adoption of new degree and certificate programs. The Commissioner and Board leadership worked closely with the legislative sponsors during the session. This is a brief overview of the key areas addressed in this legislation.
Selection of Board Members
The legislation removes the non-voting members of the Board of Regents while increasing the voting membership from 16 to 17. It eliminates the minimum and maximum membership by county, but the Governor is still required to consider geographic representation, diversity and experience in higher education and economic development.
Except for the student regent, the Governor appoints all of the regents with the consent of the Senate. Eight appointments are at-large, the other eight appointments are each appointed from among three nominees made by Boards of Trustees at the eight USHE institutions. Those nominees must be a current or former trustee (any current trustee appointed must resign from the Board of Trustees).
Duties of the Board of Regents
SB 238 codifies many practices of the Board of Regents in its existing leadership role of the Utah System of Higher Education. The legislation delineates additional detail and duties including:
- Strategic leadership in linking USHE institutions to economic and workforce needs
- Enhancing impact and efficiency of the system
- Establishing system and institutional goals and metrics
- Evaluating presidents based on institutional performance
- Delegating management authority to presidents
- Maintaining statewide data collection and reporting
- Establishing unified budget, finance, and capital funding priorities and practices
- Strategic focus on system-wide academic issues such as college access, preparedness, completion, stackable credentials and new methods of instructional delivery
In 2015, the Board of Regents established a 10-year strategic plan that addresses many of these areas. The Board adopted an update to the plan in 2016 that provides additional detail, and future annual revisions will address how the Board of Regents and USHE institutions will further carry out these duties and goals.
The legislation codifies much of the current procedures of the Board of Regents for presidential selection. To appoint a president, the Board establishes a search committee that is co-chaired by a regent and a trustee. The committee also includes representatives of the faculty, staff, students, the board of trustees, alumni, and the outgoing president’s executive council or cabinet.
The search committee must advance three to five finalists to the Board of Regents, and finalists must have the support of at least two-thirds of the search committee members. If the Board of Regents is unsatisfied with the finalists, it may direct the search committee to resume its search until it has advanced at least three finalists that satisfy the Board of Regents. Search process documents are protected records, except for finalists’ application materials.
Primary Mission and Academic Programs of USHE Institutions
Beginning September 2017, new academic program approvals that fall within the primary role of the USHE institution are the responsibility of the Boards of Trustees. SB 238 delineates the primary mission of each USHE institution:
Research universities – undergraduate, graduate, and research programs:
- University of Utah
- Utah State University
Regional universities – undergraduate associate and baccalaureate programs, and select master’s degree programs to fill regional demands:
- Weber State University
- Southern Utah University
- Dixie State University
- Utah Valley University
Comprehensive community colleges – associate programs and certificates:
- Snow College
- Salt Lake Community College
All USHE institutions, with the exception of the University of Utah, have career and technical education as part of their primary missions.
Each institutional Board of Trustees may approve new academic programs that fall within the primary role of that USHE institution. Proposed programs that fall outside of the institution’s specified roles must be approved by the Board of Regents. The Board of Regents maintains its role overseeing general education, articulation of programs, transferability of credit and stackability of credentials across the system.
The Commissioner’s Office will facilitate a peer review (by the other USHE institutions) of new program proposals and provide a report to the Board of Trustees and Board of Regents. The Board of Regents may define the process and procedures to be followed such as a fiscal analysis and plan for ongoing costs. Finally, the Board of Regents must approve the establishment of any branch, extension, college, professional school, or an academic program outside the institution’s specified role.
Coordination with Education Systems
The Commissioner of Higher Education, the Commissioner of Technical Education, and the Superintendent of Public Instruction are to meet at least quarterly throughout the year. Also required to participate are the respective Board Chairs, the Executive Directors of the Department of Workforce Services and the Governor’s Office of Economic Development, and the Chairs of the Education Interim Committee of the Legislature.
Utah System of Technical Colleges
SB 238 changes the name of the Utah College of Applied Technology to the Utah System of Technical Colleges, and renames the campuses as Technical Colleges. As with the Board of Regents, it removes the regent non-voting member on the UCAT Board of Trustees. It also makes other technical changes to codify what is already in practice for the applied technology colleges.