Sauk Valley Community College realistically prepares for a future shaped by multiple societal and economic trends.
2A.1: Current Capacity is Known
Sauk is a small institution that serves a primarily rural district population. The majority of the college’s operating funds come from a combination of tuition and fees, state funds, and local property taxes that has traditionally been about equal. Recent economic trends in the area are causing an increased reliance on tuition. Figure 2i depicts the changes in funding proportions over the last six years.
The Board of Trustees and administration accept that Sauk has limited resources and carefully monitor the college’s financial status. The Dean of Business Services stays abreast of state funding issues and presents a monthly financial report to the Board to provide evidence that the college is operating within capacity. As a critical step in the annual planning process, the Dean of Business Services presents multi-year financial projections to administrators, the Organizational Planning and Improvement Committee (OPIC), and the Board.
Sauk’s approach to sound fiscal management consists of balancing the Mission directive to provide quality services with the obligation to honor the community’s traditional expectation of frugality. The Strategic Plan implemented in FY07, for example, emphasized the college’s commitment to achieve both quality and fiscal responsibility in setting a goal for “the highest value of educational services while being fiscally responsible.”
Examination of the Strategic Plans developed over the last ten years shows attention to various strategies to secure the fiscal welfare of the college:
Increase revenues: In FY05, an objective to “broaden the financial base” opened the door to the possibility of a tax referendum. The FY07 Strategic Goals included a direct statement that the college should position itself to run a referendum. The specific referendum goal was dropped from the FY10 Strategic Directions as the college committed to other options. The current FY11 Strategic Directions include the specific objective to “identify and implement methods to increase revenues.”
Create a cash surplus: In FY07, Strategic Initiative 2.1 committed administration to “financially manage the College so an operating surplus occurs on an annual basis.” Efforts in the last five years to reduce expenses have allowed Sauk to operate within budgeted amounts and to meet the Board’s goal for a cash surplus.
Manage tuition increases: During eight of the past ten years, tuition has been increased by increments of $2 to $10 to maintain a balanced budget. Recognizing that continued tuition increases would make it difficult for many students to enroll, Sauk held the line on increases and did not increase tuition for FY12.
Expand and improve programs, services, and operations: Although some focus group participants suggested that there was not sufficient emphasis in the FY11 Strategic Plan on reducing programs and services in response to economic conditions in the community, OPIC, administration, and the Board viewed reductions not as strategic, but as tactical responses to incidents of decreased funding. Planning efforts remain focused on expansion and improvement of programs and services to attract and retain students while not over-expending Sauk’s resources.
Control expenses: The college continuously attempts to control expenses wherever possible. In recent years, Sauk has made numerous budget cuts, which have resulted in reduced travel, fewer equipment and supply purchases, and less staff. Additional cuts are anticipated due to the state’s poor financial status. The FY11 Strategic Plan recognizes the importance of planning operating efficiencies by including an objective to “identify and implement methods to decrease expenses.”
OPIC and the Board of Trustees continue to refine the balance between the mission imperative of high quality service and that of controlling finances. The state’s decreased revenues and its accumulated debt is expected to result in significant cuts to community college funding. The FY11 Strategic Plan, in balancing expansion with controlling finances, includes Strategic Goals and Objectives specifically to “expand and improve the quality of programs and services” and to “maintain an appropriate operating fund surplus.” Offices and academic areas throughout the college are pursuing numerous activities intended to meet these Strategic Goals and Objectives, as evidenced by Operational Plans. The results of these efforts are summarized in annual reports, which are organized by Strategic Goal.
Sauk has experimented with and modified its environmental scanning during the past few years in conjunction with developing and improving its strategic planning system:
FY05: In the first version of the planning system, Internal and External Review Teams were responsible for conducting an annual SWOT (strengths-weaknesses-opportunities-threats) analysis and presenting it to OPIC, which was charged with developing planning recommendations.
FY08: Early in the year, the Internal and External Review Teams were disbanded after OPIC rejected the SWOT analysis as not being data-based. OPIC assumed responsibility for the SWOT and participated in training in the method. However, the committee members remained dissatisfied with lack of data in the SWOT it conducted and with the lack of mission focus in the actions that resulted from it.
FY09: Under a revised planning system, OPIC was reorganized to focus exclusively on planning, and all responsibilities not directly related to planning were removed from its charge. OPIC began preparing a new Strategic Plan, replacing SWOT with an environmental scan of institutional, regional, and state data:
Comparative data with peer colleges and statewide averages provided by the Illinois Community College Board (ICCB);
District demographic data generated from a variety of state and federal data websites;
Data concerning Illinois’ financial status obtained from various State of Illinois websites.
Summaries of the data and OPIC’s conclusions were presented to and discussed by faculty, administrators, and the Board of Trustees. OPIC’s data-based findings became the basis for the Strategic Directions implemented in FY11.
FY11: OPIC finalized the procedures and a timeline to create a rolling plan, which will enable Sauk to annually evaluate progress toward achieving the Mission and Vision, conduct a mini-environmental scan, and adapt the Strategic Plan as necessary.
The goals and objectives of the FY11 Strategic Plan address the factors that emerged during the environmental scan as being the most important to the college.
Demographic shifts: Sauk discovered that the total population of the college district has been slowly shrinking; the proportion of Hispanics is increasing; the overall population is getting older; and the number of school-age children is declining. In response to these shifts, the Strategic Plan includes objectives to increase the enrollment of high school graduates, minority students, and non-traditional-age students ( Profile).
Globalization: The college has a long history of involvement with local and regional economic development. Sauk views local and regional involvement as being crucial to staying abreast of emerging globalization factors. Further, as the college obtains new information and conducts planning activities, it is presumed that globalization issues as well as local community needs will be addressed by objectives to expand alternate delivery methods, assess community needs, and work more closely with organizations “that have a strategic importance to the college.”
Technology: Technology is not only a subject to teach, but an administrative and instructional tool for the institution. Sauk strives to keep instructional technology updated so students’ skills and knowledge are current. To make sure all technology decisions are wise ones, the Strategic Plan includes an objective to use technology “to improve the quality and efficiencies of programs, services, and operations.”
2A.3: Identified Authority for Decision-Making
An expectation of shared governance is now embedded in Sauk’s planning culture and evident in the cross-institutional involvement of employees in the various planning system processes. In the spring 2010 assessment survey, 79% of faculty agreed or strongly agreed to the statement “SVCC has proven its willingness to integrate employees into the decision-making process.” As the various planning systems have evolved, accountabilities have been clearly identified. Responsibility for maintaining the various planning systems and for decision-making is shared among staff throughout the college:
Strategic planning: Responsibility for maintaining and updating the Strategic Plan is included in the Dean of Institutional Research and Planning’s job description. The Dean chairs OPIC, whose charge makes it responsible for drafting and proposing planning recommendations. The Dean also prepares Sauk’s annual report, which has been tailored to become a Strategic Plan status report.
Operational planning: Responsibility for facilitating operational planning is also assigned to the Dean of Institutional Research and Planning. Non-instructional supervisors involve their subordinates in the process, and faculty Area Facilitators coordinate faculty planning. The Operational Plan Template requires responsibility for each planned activity to be assigned to an individual (Appendix).
Program review: The Program Review Committee (Appendix), which focuses on content, and the Dean of Institutional Research and Planning, who oversees the process, work in partnership to maintain the ICCB-mandated program review process. A review team, the membership of which is established in Sauk’s Program Review Guidelines (Appendix), reports action plans identified during a review in the appropriate Operational Plan. The Program Review Committee and the supervising administrator of the office or academic area approve the review before it is forwarded to the President for final approval.
Budgeting: The Dean of Business Services initiates and oversees the budget allocation process every spring in compliance with ICCB timelines. Administrators make requests based on the operational planning process. The Dean of Institutional Research and Planning forwards budget requests received through the program review process. The President’s Cabinet discusses budget issues, communicates the level of need for their respective area’s requests, and relays information and budget decisions back to their areas. The President recommends the budget to the Board for its final approval.
2A.4: Attention to Function in a Multicultural Society
Sauk has a long history of sponsoring multicultural activities and of offering classes in English as a Second Language (ESL). Also, the proportion of minority students at Sauk is roughly twice their proportion in the local population: In 2009, minorities comprised only 7.6% of the district’s population, but 15.7% of the student body.
The FY07 Strategic Plan only generally connected Sauk’s role in a multicultural society to the mission commitment as it addresses the many “diverse needs” of students and the community. In the preparation of the FY11 Strategic Plan, however, the demographics of Sauk’s district residents were examined as a part of the environmental scan. In response to these demographics, Sauk committed to increased minority recruitment efforts (Objective 3.6) and obtaining additional information about community needs (Objective 4.1). These objectives direct Sauk to continue to maintain and expand initiatives to recruit Hispanic and other minority students to campus and to provide support services:
The Cross-Cultural Coordinator, a position which has existed under several different titles at the college since the mid-1990s, has recently been expanded from recruiting only Hispanic students and assisting them with the transition to college, to recruiting and assisting students from all minority groups. This expansion demonstrates a greater commitment to serving minorities.
Families United for a Strong Education (FUSE) provides Hispanic families with family-oriented educational activities. FUSE has partnered with the Whiteside County Health Department to promote a health workshop and non-traditional occupations for Hispanic mothers and daughters. The FUSE program continues to grow through student referrals.
Student Support Services, a Trio grant program, has existed at Sauk since 1984 and has received a commitment to continued funding through 2015. The program serves 200 students a year, recruited from the existing student population. About 25% of the low-income or first-generation college students in the program are also minority students.
2A.5: Support for Innovation and Change
The Strategic Directions and aligned processes keep the college systematically moving toward its vision of excellence. Sauk welcomes and supports internal innovations, especially those that result in improvements and expansions within the college’s fiscal restrictions. Several recent changes demonstrate that spirit of innovation which allows individuals or offices to initiate changes outside the planning process:
In FY09, Sauk shifted the course schedule so that daytime classes meet two days a week, Monday -Thursday, with additional classes scheduled to meet only on Fridays. Initiated by administrative concern for students’ costs to commute to campus, this change was supported by data from a Student Scheduling Survey conducted in January 2007.
The new Academic Development Department was established in FY08 by merging several programs designed to enhance student success under one administrator. This organizational change originated as a recommendation by a developmental education faculty member to the President, who formed a cross-institutional task-force to study the issue, which eventually recommended the establishment of the department.
During the spring 2011 semester, the Retention Committee piloted a Learning Community, designed to provide the support needed to be successful to new students who had tested into two or more developmental classes. The grant-funded initiative also relates directly to several FY11 Strategic Objectives that address student retention, persistence, and program completion.
Even before the shooting at neighboring Northern Illinois University in February 2008, the Counseling Office had already initiated interventions for troubled students. The Sauk Valley Crisis Assistance Team (SVCAT) was established in FY09 and in its first year responded to 21 personal crisis situations, either by the team or individual counselors.
As Sauk began making more data-influenced decisions, the cost of packaged software was prohibitive. In response, the Dean of Institutional Research and Planning and the Dean of Information Services created an in-house digital depository of commonly used institutional and regional data. The cooperative efforts of the two departments working together have enabled timely response to all requests for data for strategic planning, grant writing, reports to external agencies, and marketing.
During the five-year period ending with FY09, Sauk initiated 27 new programs, including eight new Associates degrees. Several of these resulted directly from the creativity of college personnel:
NIOIN: The Northern Illinois Online Initiative for Nursing program is an online nursing degree partnership among four community colleges, eight hospitals, and the Workforce Investment Board (WIB), created in response to the regional shortage of skilled nurses. The Dean of Health Professions played a key role for Sauk in this partnership. After four years of development and preparation, the first cohort of students began in January 2009, and 100% of SVCC students passed their NCLEX examination.
Agriculture degrees: Sauk eliminated its agriculture programs about 25 years ago. While the general demand for agriculture programs has declined as fewer people are employed in farming, a degree of local need has remained. The Academic Vice President pursued a partnership with the University of Illinois to offer their online courses to Sauk students, establishing two new A.S. degrees in Agriculture and Agribusiness in FY09.
Wind energy certificate: With an eye to the importance of sustainability, the Dean of Information Services and several faculty developed a wind energy certificate program, for which the first classes met in FY09. The college has also been planning to erect a wind turbine on campus, which would provide a training platform for students in this program, as well as help meet college electricity needs.