Duties of the Council
The Council on Postsecondary Education is the state’s legal entity for public higher education, and as such, it has the capacity to employ personnel, to own or lease real property, to engage in collective bargaining and to sue and be sued. In addition, the council has specific powers laid out in RIGL §16-59-4:
Information and Planning
- Approve a systematic program of information gathering, processing, and analysis addressed to every level of higher education in Rhode Island.
- Develop and approve a strategic plan implementing broad goals and objectives for higher education in the state as established by the Board of Education, including a comprehensive capital development program.
- Formulate broad policy to implement the goals and objectives of the Board of Education.
- Adopt standards and require enforcement and exercise general supervision over all public higher education in the state and over independent higher education in the state.
- Not engage in the operation or administration of any subordinate committee, university, junior college, or community college, except its own office of postsecondary education and except as specifically authorized by an act of the General Assembly, provided, the presidents of each institution of higher learning shall be the chief administrative and executive officers of that institution.
- Communicate with and seek the advice of the Commissioner of Postsecondary Education, the presidents of the public higher education institutions and all those concerned with and affected by its determinations as a regular procedure in arriving at its conclusions and in setting precedent.
- Govern the Division of Higher Education Assistance and exercise all powers and duties of the Division of Higher Education Assistance.
- Prepare and maintain a 5-year funding plan for higher education that implements the strategic financial recommendations of the Board of Education.
- Prepare, with the assistance of the Commissioner of Postsecondary Education, and present annually to the State Budget Office a higher education budget that shall include the budget of the Office of the Postsecondary Commissioner and of the state colleges. Prior to submitting the budget to the State Budget Office, the Council shall present the budget to the Board of Education for its review and approval.
Appointments and Staffing
- Maintain an Office of Postsecondary Commissioner; provide for its staffing and organization; and manage and oversee a Commissioner of Postsecondary Education (pursuant to duties defined in RIGL §16-59-6).
- Appoint/dismiss presidents with assistance of the Commissioner of Postsecondary Education.
- Approve/disapprove vice presidents of the public institutions of higher education with assistance of the Commissioner of Postsecondary Education.
- Appoint, with approval of the Board of Education, a Commissioner of Postsecondary Education to serve as the chief executive officer of the Council, chief administrative officer of the Office of the Postsecondary Commissioner, and executive director of the Division of Higher Education Assistance (the Governor also serves as an additional voting member of the Council for this appointment, pursuant to RIGL §16-59-6).
- Delegate to the presidents the authority and responsibility for operational and management decisions related to their institutions, consistent with the goals of the statewide strategic plan for postsecondary education, provided that president may be required to provide information on updates to the council.
Roles & Responsibilities of the OPC
Pursuant to Article 20 of the FY15 appropriation act (RIGL §16-59-1; RIGL §16-59-2; RIGL §16-59-6 as amended) relating to the Board of Education and the Council on Postsecondary Education, the Office of the Postsecondary Commissioner is charged with performing the following:
Information and Planning
- Data Analysis: Systematically gather, process, and analyze information on all aspects of postsecondary education in Rhode Island, including identifying current and future needs [16-59-6(1)];
- Strategic Planning: Develop a strategic plan encompassing the broad goals and objectives for the state’s higher education system aligned with those of the Board of Education and the Council on Elementary and Secondary Education, and with the activities of the independent higher education sector, where feasible, including a 5-year strategic funding plan [16-59-6(2), [16-59-6(6)];
- Policy Development: Formulate broad policy to implement the goals and objectives established and adopted by the Board of Education and Council on Postsecondary Education promoting coordination between public and independent higher education, PreK-12 education, and other stakeholders [16-59-6(3)], [16-59-6(4)];
- Fiscal: Assist in budget preparation for public higher education, prepare standard accounting procedures for all public colleges and universities, and, on direction of the Council, be responsible for appropriation allocations and the acquisition, holding, and disposition of property [16-59-6(4)], [16-59-6(12)];
- Regulatory & Administrative: Administer policies, rules, and regulations of the Council on Postsecondary Education including those duties relating to independent higher education institutions in Rhode Island under the terms of RIGL 16-40-1 et seq. and any other relevant laws [16-59-6(10), [16-59-6(11)];
- Advocacy & Implementation: Make recommendations to the Council on Postsecondary Education regarding the mission of each public institution and their programmatic operations and carry out the Council’s policies and priorities [16-59-6(7)], [16-59-6(8)], [16-59-6(9)], [16-59-6(13)].
In 2013, the Rhode Island General Assembly created the Board of Education to foster coordinated and innovative policymaking and planning across the entire pre-kindergarten-20 public education system. Created together in 2014, the Council on Postsecondary Education and the Council on Elementary and Secondary Education comprise the Board of Education. This consolidated governance structure replaced the Board of Regents for Elementary and Secondary Education and the Board of Governors for Higher Education. The Rhode Island Council on Postsecondary Education is the successor to the Rhode Island Board of Governors of Higher Education, which emerged from a previous reorganization of governance. In 1981, the General Assembly effectively divided the Board of Regents, then responsible for education from kindergarten through the graduate level, into two governing units — the Board of Regents, which retained responsibility for Elementary/Secondary Education, and the Board of Governors, which was given responsibility for higher education.