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.


Implementing Governance for a New Era

November 2014 by ACTA |  

Implementing Governance for a New Era is an action plan to assist college and university trustees in reforming higher education. Delivered to more than 16,000 college and university trustees… Continue Reading >>

Free to Teach, Free to Learn

April 2013 by ACTA |  

This guide for trustees reports on the dangerous decline of academic freedom and intellectual diversity on college campuses. The foreword, by Benno Schmidt, chairman of the CUNY Board of Trustees and… Continue Reading >>

Leading the Charge

August 2014 by ACTA |  

With this new tool, ACTA is working to expand its outreach to governors nationwide on behalf of higher education reform, focusing on key issues of quality, cost, and accountability. ACTA has worked… Continue Reading >>


UW administrative spending higher than peers

Laramie Boomerang
November 27, 2016 |  

Administrative spending growth at the University of Wyoming appears to be among the highest of its peer institutions, and greater than all but one other institution in the Mountain West Conference.

Continue Reading >>

University of Virginia’s Crisis Reflects Wider Conflict

New York Times
March 15, 2013 |  

Nine months after the University of Virginia removed its president, prompting a storm of protest, and then reinstated her, the university still cannot go more than a few days or weeks without some… Continue Reading >>

In Report, Failures Throughout Penn State

New York Times
July 12, 2012 |  

Behind the Jerry Sandusky sexual abuse scandal at Penn State lay a series of failures all the way up the university's chain of command—shortcomings that were the result of an insular and… Continue Reading >>