New legislation is to become effective January 1, 2012 that ties state funding for colleges to how well they are working. For taxpayers and students this is good news; it will help insure our tax dollars are used wisely and reward high performing colleges. The Council of Presidents, comprised of the 42 presidents of community colleges in Illinois, unanimously supported this legislation.
The exact method for determining the performance of a college is not a simple matter. President Obama and Governor Quinn would both like to see graduation rates increased; certainly the percent of students who graduate is a performance indicator, but the true significance is not always clear. Many students, especially those attending community college, enroll with no intention of graduating. Many students enroll in courses just for fun or skill upgrading.
For community colleges grade point averages for transferring students can be a performance measure. Sauk students who transfer to an Illinois university have historically received better grades their first semester at the university than students from other community colleges or even students who started at the university. While the success of transfer students reflects performance, this is a relatively small group of students.
Being cost effective is a way to measure performance. Cost effectiveness could be a measure by the cost per credit hour of instruction, but there are many variables including the type of programs offered, class size, the size of the college, etc. The mix of programs has a profound effect on the overall cost. Sauk has greatly improved cost effectiveness over the last few years, but even with increases in efficiency some programs are much more costly than others due to equipment costs of space limitations.
The grade point average for students could be a performance indicator. The number of A’s and B’s students receive can reflect quality teaching; Sauk faculty adhere to high standards, but as an “open entry” college any student may attend who are underprepared for college work and may receive poor grades.
Performance could be measured by “attrition” how many students complete the courses, programs, or degrees for which they initially register. Students withdraw or are unsuccessful in courses for many reasons, including personal and financial reasons that have nothing to do with the quality of instruction or the students own capabilities.
While the public deserves to have the finest educational institutions possible, the actual measure of their performance is difficult to ascertain and certainly requires multiple measures to do so. Sauk constantly evaluates itself and has recently completed a self-study in preparation for accreditation visit in September. We invite you to visit our website to see the self-study and other college information at www.svcc.edu.