ACTA is an independent, non-profit organization committed to academic freedom, excellence, and accountability at America's colleges and universities.

ACTA is an independent, non-profit organization committed to academic freedom, excellence, and accountability at America's colleges and universities.

ACTA is an independent, non-profit organization committed to academic freedom, excellence, and accountability at America's colleges and universities.

  • Academic quality, affordability, and accountability rarely happen on their own—they take engaged leadership.

    Trustees are the key. Exercising final responsibility, trustees are in a position to provide a fresh perspective, a healthy balance, and an openness to new solutions. But they can only make this contribution if they are given the information and resources they need.

    "Change in institutional strategy can only come from trustees."

    - Benno Schmidt, chairman, CUNY Board of Trustees

    What We Are Doing

    Outlining Best Practices

    In recent years, nonprofit governance has been under increasing scrutiny—and ACTA has been instrumental in outlining best practices for higher education boards. ACTA was at the forefront of reforms following the governance controversy at Penn State University in 2012, acting as a consultant to the Pennsylvania Auditor General.  In 2011, the Texas state legislature sought ACTA’s testimony on ensuring excellence and accountability in higher education. ACTA’s library of resources contains a variety of materials for trustees on best practices.

    Trustee Seminars

    In partnership with the Aspen Institute, ACTA gathers together college and university trustees for a collaborative dialogue to share perspectives on critical issues in higher education. These regional seminars, hosted at venues including the Harvard Faculty Club and the historic Mount Vernon estate, provide opportunities for trustees to reflect with others about their unique roles as public fiduciaries.

    "ACTA, like no other organization, is reaching out to trustees and alumni to insist on a quality liberal arts education that is fundamental to an educated citizenry."

    – David McCullough, historian

    Trustee Outreach

    Trustees receive timely, informative materials designed to bring authoritative insights on key higher education topics. In addition to ACTA’s various special reports and guides, trustees hear from experts such as bestselling author (and university trustee) Clayton Christensen, on disruptive innovation in higher education; or NYU sociology professor Richard Arum, on the findings from his groundbreaking study, Academically Adrift. And in collaboration with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and Apex Foundation, ACTA sent Inside the Nonprofit Boardroom, a guide to engaged and effective governance, to its network of over 14,000 trustees. Viewing trustees as responsible fiduciaries of their institutions, ACTA provides material and advice directly to trustees, giving them the opportunity for independent consultation and deliberation.

    Trustees for Better Teachers

    Launched in 2000, Trustees for Better Teachers is an initiative aimed at helping trustees understand how they can best be involved in improving teacher education in the United States.  ACTA’s report Teachers Who Can: How Informed Trustees Can Ensure Teacher Quality identifies the critical problems in teacher education, outlines the principles and criteria for an excellent teacher preparation program, along with real-life examples of programs that work in practice, along with step-by-step action plan for trustees.

    ATHENA Roundtable

    ACTA’s annual signature event brings trustees together with nationwide leaders in higher education. Each year, the Roundtable culminates in the presentation of The Philip Merrill Award for Outstanding Contributions to Liberal Arts Education, honoring individuals that advance liberal arts education, core curricula, and the teaching of Western civilization and American history.

    Customized Services

    ACTA’s Institute for Effective Governance (IEG), founded by college and university trustees, provides independent information to trustees in order to help them focus on critical issues of academic quality, academic freedom, and accountability.  Recognized by the Wall Street Journal as helping “university trustees avoid becoming a rubber stamp for the status quo,” IEG and its network of experts work with boards for orientations, retreats, board or presidential review, and strategic planning, among other areas. 

    In addition, ACTA regularly provides consultation services for individual trustees seeking to learn more about best practices, comparison metrics, or about any issue pertinent to their specific institution.


    How Much is Too Much?

    July 2017 by ACTA |  

    With recent research from the Institute for Higher Education Policy showing that college is unaffordable for as many as 70% of working- and middle-class students, concerns about college costs are mounting.… Continue Reading >>

    Bold Leadership, Real Reform 2.0

    April 2017 by ACTA |  

    Trustees face complex choices related to costs and efficiency as they navigate new accountability policies, financial headwinds, and a changing global marketplace for college education. The latest release… Continue Reading >>

    The Basics of Responsible Trusteeship

    August 2016 by ACTA’s Institute for Effective Governance |  

    There are few positions that offer comparable challenges and rewards to those of a college trustee. As a trustee, you have the legal and fiduciary obligation to ensure the academic and financial health… Continue Reading >>


    Michigan State trustees are frequent fliers on team road trips

    Detroit Free Press
    July 27, 2018 by David Jesse |

    Less than 24 hours before Larry Nassar stood in an Ingham County courtroom, pleading guilty last November to sexually assaulting seven women, three Michigan State University board members were… Continue Reading >>

    Pressure grows on Board of Trustees amid USC gynecologist scandal

    Los Angeles Times
    May 24, 2018 by Sarah Parvini, Adam Elmahrek, and Paul Pringle |

    USC's large and powerful Board of Trustees is coming under growing pressure to provide a stronger hand as the university faces a crisis over misconduct allegations against the campus' longtime… Continue Reading >>

    In Larry Nassar’s wake, Michigan State faces hurdles in finding the right president

    Lansing State Journal
    February 21, 2018 by RJ Wolcott |

    EAST LANSING - Michigan State University is embarking on its first nationwide search for a new leader in 25 years. 

    And it's facing one massive challenge, experts say: drawing in the… Continue Reading >>