Both public and private colleges and universities are governed by their own boards of trustees, although the boards of trustees at state institutions may be subordinate to the state's board of higher education. Boards of trustees establish and approve the institution's general governing policies. The chief functions of a board of trustees are to (1) approve or revise budgets for operating the institution, (2) appoint the president of the college or university, and (3) take part in ceremonies related to school events, such as graduations. At private institutions in particular, trustees also help raise funds for the college or university by soliciting philanthropists, foundations, alumni, and other sources. Members of boards of trustees are usually people who have achieved some distinction in business, science, the arts, or education.
The board of trustees appoints the college's or university's president, who acts as the institution's chief executive officer. Presidents usually have extensive academic experience as either college or university administrators. In some cases, they may be people of notable achievement outside of academic life. For example, General Dwight D. Eisenhower served as president of Columbia University in New York City from 1948 to 1950, after commanding the Allied forces in Europe during World War II (1939-1945). He was later elected the 34th president of the United States, in 1952.
Presidents of colleges and universities enforce the policies, regulations, and other procedures that govern their institution. They also meet with the board of trustees and make recommendations to the board regarding the governance and policies of the school. They appoint and, if necessary, remove other officers of the institution, such as vice presidents or deans; they approve or disapprove new policies and procedures recommended by the institution's administrative and faculty committees; and they represent the college or university to the general public and to the institution's alumni.
Depending on the size of the institution, a college or university will appoint a number of vice presidents to assist the president in running the school. The academic vice president is responsible for faculty appointments and dismissals and for approving or revising academic programs. Often the academic vice president is a former dean of a college or other academic division within the institution. The institution's financial and budgetary matters are the responsibility of the vice president for finance. The vice president for student services is responsible for nonacademic matters relating to students, such as operating counseling services, residence halls, and student activities and organizations. The vice president for human resources is responsible for nonfaculty appointments such as the hiring of secretaries and personnel to maintain the grounds and other facilities.