THE BLOG

Atmosphere of Accountability

02/05/2015 01:00 pm ET | Updated Apr 07, 2015

There is a growing climate of accountability for colleges and universities all across the United States. In addition to the accountability measures already in place, President Obama has proposed a measurement system in which the federal government will rate colleges as "high performing, low performing, and then everyone else."

As the President of FM, I have stated numerous times that I am accountable for everything we do here. I am confident that we: are a high quality college; help students succeed; work with employers to meet their needs; are effective and efficient; and, work to improve every day. However, in today's atmosphere of accountability - we must prove it.

So who is watching over us to assure that we are accountable? The real question seems to be - who isn't watching over us? As a community college in New York State we serve many masters.

First, FM has a Board of Trustees appointed by the Governor of the sponsoring Counties including an elected student; a Board to which I report, a Board ultimately responsible for the quality of FM. The Board oversees college policy and the fiscal health of the college; they hire auditors and receive reports on FM's fiscal condition, review quality reports, and evaluate my performance as President.

Second, FM has two sponsoring Counties that monitor us, mostly through the budget process. However, they also monitor and approve our capital projects. Additionally, we provide each County with copies of audits and other significant reports that relate to our operations.

Third, every college in the U.S. must be accredited by an accrediting association; for us, it's Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools. Every ten years we must complete a major self-study report and host a site visit to assure quality against a number of standards. We must have a continuous improvement process in place that assesses our operations and demonstrates we are taking steps to make positive changes. Not meeting these standards can mean the loss of federal financial aid for students - which would cripple any institution.

Fourth, both SUNY and the New York State Education Department have global oversight of our operations. We file numerous reports with them on any number of topics. It is not uncommon to have new requirements placed on colleges each year through new legislation. We are responsible to follow regulations issued; and, each agency must approve any curriculum that we offer.

Fifth, the Federal Government requires a plethora of reports - from student attendance to who is paying back their student loans after graduation. We must comply with all requirements.

Now, the President has implied that we are not doing enough for our communities. He is proposing new reports, standards, measurements, initiatives, and quality improvements. While I'm confident all of these proposals are to provide students with the best possible experience, I also question the necessity of MORE reporting. And, more of these reports are being tied to receiving public fiscal support.

I believe in accountability. We are stewards of the public trust. I also believe that government has a right to know what we're doing with the public funds. But too many masters can do more harm than good. Quality can suffer when the focus is too many reports.