Do Colleges have Owners?

A college is an institution that provides higher education or professional and vocational training. It may be a tertiary education institution that awards a degree, or a part of a federal university. It may also be a part of a collegiate. A college usually does not have a university status and hence without its own degree-awarding powers. In the United States of America, a college usually offers undergraduate programs, and can be attended after completing the high school program. The colleges in the US are usually public schools and private, non-profit schools. Here we will see about Do Colleges have Owners?   

The public as well as private, non-profit colleges do not essentially have an owners as they are, almost by definition, non-profit. However, for-profit colleges are owned and run by investors instead of scholars. But due to their corruption, there has been a massive crackdown on such colleges by the federal government in recent times, with many such colleges going out of business.

Do Colleges have Owners?   

If Not Owned by Any Particular Individual, Who Runs these Colleges?

Since the colleges in the US aren’t exactly owned by a particular entity, they are usually run by a board of directors. In public universities, the governing boards are often selected by the state governor, while in private universities, the governing body can be selected by alumni vote or by the pre-existing members of the board. These colleges do not generate profits and hence, the staff of the college are usually paid by endowments and other such investments. The various names of these governing body boards are Regents, Governor, Trustees, Fellows, Overseers, and Visitors.


A board of regents govern the public university systems in the thirty-nine universities across the US. The boards of University of Hawaii, University of Texas, University of California, University of Minnesota, University of Colorado, etc are run by a “board of regents”, which oversees all public education, including the affiliated community colleges.


The University of North Carolina and the Colorado State University system are run by governing bodies known as their “board of governors”. Even West Virginia University and Marshall University maintain a board of governors. 


The term “Board of Trustees” is the most frequently used name for the governing bodies of universities in the US. The governing bodies of Miami University, Ohio State University, University of Connecticut etc are known as “board of trustees”. The Duke University maintains a board of trustees, while the graduate schools and colleges have their own board of visitors.


The governing body of the University of Notre Dame are a self-conserving body that holds the core strength of the University and selects the members of the other governing board, the Board of Trustees. this governing body is known as “board of fellows”


One of the two governing bodies of the Harvard University functions as the “Harvard Board of Overseers”, the other body being the President and Fellows of Harvard College.


University of Mary Washington, College of William and Mary, Virginia Commonwealth University, etc have boards known as “board of visitors”.

What Does the Governing Body Do?

The governing body or the council takes on the role of supervising, examining and management of the university and its affiliated colleges. The smooth running of the university is assigned to the Vice-Chancellor and the President while the principal is the chief supervisor and executive of the affiliated colleges and graduate schools. The governing body decides the educational atmosphere and ensures that college runs smoothly and without any hindrance and issues.  It is responsible for ensuring that the college continues to be financially stable and that the funds and public money is spent in the right direction. The governing body also appoints the college staff as well as the senior postholders and clerks. It also maintains the pay structure of the employees, and payment conditions of the entire staff. The governing body is responsible for maintaining the decorum and standard of the college. It has complete supervision of college activities and is responsible for the development of the institution. Hence, the governing body is responsible for all major activities in the university or college.

How Many Members Make Up the Governing Body?

The number of members in the governing body of a college or university may vary across the country. The number of members may range from as less as 10-15 members to as many as 40-50 members. Public colleges usually have less members as opposed to private universities. Most of these governing bodies contain many elected officials, often the state governor as ex-officio members. On the other hand, some boards maybe entirely composed of alumni of that specific college. 

Where Does the Money To Run The College Come From?

Public universities as well as private, non-profit universities do not generate any profits whatsoever. They are funded mostly by alumni donations, endowments or tuition fees. They are also, sometimes, funded by commercial activities and grants. Endowments are extremely important as a college with large amounts of endowments usually tends to be a good college. State funds and federal Title IV funds are also important fund raisers for a college. Public institutions are heavily relied on their support from their state, which accounts for a major part of their funding. Private colleges, on the other hand, are quite relied on private fund sources as well as tuition fee and endowments. However, private fundings support both public as well as private colleges.


In conclusion, we can say that colleges and universities are actually owned by none. They do not have any particular entity as their owner which governs and funds their activities. Instead, they are governed by a board of directors or trustees, usually composed of their own alumni or of members elected by the state governor. The colleges receive their fundings from various sources, which includes state funds, private sources, tuition fee, endowments, and other such sources. Colleges are a symbol of strength and unity for its students, and hence cannot be owned by any one particular individual. 

Frequently Asked Questions

1)  Can you become a member of the governing body without being an alumnus of the college?

Answer: Yes, it is not necessary in most colleges for the governing body to be entirely composed of the college’s alumnus.

2)  Why are for-profit colleges decreasing rapidly?

Answer: For-profit colleges are usually neck-deep in corruption. As a result of the massive crackdown on them, their numbers are decreasing gradually.

3)  What are endowments?

Answer: It is a legal structure for managing a pool of financial or other investments for a specific purpose.