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Appalachian State University is one of 16 constituent universities in the University of North Carolina system. The administrative head of the University of North Carolina is the president elected by the Board of Governors. Each institution is headed by a chancellor who reports to the president of the University of North Carolina.

The Board of Governors plans and develops the coordinated system of higher education in North Carolina and in doing so maintains close liaison with other state, as well as private, educational agencies.

The Board of Governors elects each of the chancellors of the constituent institutions and determines compensation for each chancellor. It also appoints and determines the compensation of all vice chancellors, senior academic and administrative officers, and persons having permanent tenure.

The Board of Trustees of Appalachian State University promotes the sound development of the institution within the functions prescribed for it, helping it to serve the state in a way that will complement the activities of the other institutions and aiding it to perform at a high level of excellence in every area of endeavor. The board serves as advisor to the Board of Governors on matters pertaining to Appalachian State University and also serves as advisor to the chancellor concerning the management and development of Appalachian State University. The powers and duties of the Board of Trustees are primarily defined and delegated by the Board of Governors.