SVCC HLC Self-Study Document

Sauk Valley Community College
HLC Self-Study Document

September 19-21, 2011

2B: Supports its Educational Programs

Sauk Valley Community College’s resource base supports its educational programs and its plans for maintaining and strengthening their quality in the future.

2B.1: Planning System Includes Measures

Traditionally, Sauk’s annual report was a summary of all of its activities and accomplishments with minimal reference to the Strategic Plan. In FY07, it was restructured to focus on the status of achieving the Strategic Plan, with most information coming from Operational Plan Reports (link to an appendixAppendix). When used in this way, some weaknesses of the strategic and operational planning processes surfaced:

  • There was overlap among Strategic Goals and Initiatives, and some were more tactical than strategic.
  • There were common weaknesses in how groups entered information into the Operational Plan Template: some of the planned activities were unrelated to any Strategic Goals or Initiative; some of the outcomes lacked measurement; and some of the measurements did not relate to an objective.
  • The action plans from assessment activities and program reviews often were not documented in the Operational Plan. In essence, the college had multiple planning systems, but no way of determining if the Strategic Goals had been achieved.

As Strategic Planning was revised, the identified weaknesses were corrected, and various other processes were streamlined and combined to link results so that they work together toward achieving the Strategic Plan:

  • The program review process was revised: assessment was included as a component of program review, and the tasks identified to improve the program were included in the Operational Plan. The Program Review Guidelines were modified to clearly align with the Strategic Plan and to demonstrate how each program contributed toward achieving the Strategic Plan.
  • The operational planning process was organized around the Strategic Directions, with employees challenged to identify concrete, measurable results and to avoid generalized abstract results. In addition, the process concludes with areas evaluating their results as they begin making new plans for the next year.
  • In order to improve the ability of OPIC and the Board to measure progress toward achieving the Strategic Goals and Objectives, five institutional key performance indicators (KPI) were identified and added to the Strategic Directions (link to an appendixAppendix). The results of the FY11 Operational Plans should be more easily evaluated against these measurable benchmarks than previous plans.

The linking of processes has resulted in a single planning system which is designed to measure outcomes and progress toward achieving the Mission. At the time of the self-study, much of the current assessment of progress is based on anecdotal evidence about achieving Strategic Goals from the FY07 Strategic Plan. However, a couple of these Strategic Goals were measurably achieved, as illustrated by the following examples:

  • Strategic Initiative 1.2 - Develop and expand programs: Between FY07 and FY09, 12 new degree and certificate programs have been created.
  • Strategic Initiative 2.1 - Financially manage the college so an operating surplus occurs on an annual basis: Sauk has generated annual surpluses since FY07, increasing the operating fund balance from $650,000 to $3,150,000.

Sauk learned many lessons from the FY07-10 Strategic Plan regarding the clarity of stating planned activities and tracking outcomes, which have been integrated into the new system.

2B.2: Planning Responds to Changing Needs

The Strategic Planning process is becoming an increasingly important part of the college as other processes become directly linked into it. The plan itself is broad and allows a variety of actions to be taken simultaneously throughout the institution, but it does not prevent the college from responding to situations that arise unexpectedly. Sauk has structured its planning processes to be flexible enough to deal with issues that emerge throughout the academic year. Several mechanisms in the planning process allow for the required responsiveness:

  • Rolling plan concept: The new strategic planning process was developed to allow Sauk greater flexibility to recognize and adapt to the changing environment through its “rolling” process, which is spelled out in a timeline. The schedule ensures that varying data streams and planning processes are coordinated. The rolling plan allows the college to scan the environment for changes and emerging trends, review institutional progress toward achieving the Strategic Plan, and make adjustments as needed. The goal is to maintain a viable plan that is responsive to the changing environment.
  • Operational planning: In an effort to encourage “local” participation in the implementation of the Strategic Plan, every office and academic area participates in the annual operational planning process. As groups report on the status of their previous year’s plan, they are instructed to also note the unplanned activities that came up during the year. This mechanism allows and even encourages individual planning units the flexibility to take advantage of opportunities or to respond to challenges that arise.
  • President’s Cabinet (PC): At weekly PC meetings and at monthly Administrative Council meetings, administrators address issues and needs that arise outside of the planning process. For example, in the spring of 2010, the Emergency Preparedness Committee recognized that only contract security officers were on campus during weekend public events. The committee brought a recommendation to PC to hire a Sauk security officer to also be present, which PC approved. The minutes, emailed to the college community and posted on the website, show that PC discusses and resolves issues as they emerge.

2B.3: Commitment to Quality Education

As discussed earlier (Link to another section of the Self-Study 2A.1), Sauk’s commitment to provide high quality education programs balanced with its awareness of its reliance on tuition has motivated it to continue to expand programs and services, even while it strives to operate within budget and maintain its cash surplus each year. FY11 Strategic Goals and Objectives direct the college to plan around several objectives that combine fiscal management with providing quality educational service:

  • Marketing: Because student tuition and fees account for approximately 40% of operational fund revenue, Sauk must increase enrollments to offset possible funding shortfalls in order to avoid or minimize additional tuition increases. Several objectives address the need to improve the college’s financial condition through an increased emphasis on marketing and student recruitment:
    • Emphasize student success in all marketing promotions (Objective 3.4)
    • Increase the number of high school graduates who enroll at SVCC during the fall after graduation (Objective 3.5)
    • Increase the number of minority students (Objective 3.6)
    • Increase the number of non-traditional age students (Objective 3.7)
  • Student success: The Strategic Directions also address financial resource management indirectly through student success. The number of credits generated by students successfully completing classes determines the amount of funding Sauk receives through State apportionment funding. In essence, the college is rewarded financially for student success. The Strategic Plan reflects this in the following objectives for Goal 2, “The college will improve student success through effective assistance activities”:
    • Improve student persistence in classes through the end of the semester (Objective 2.1)
    • Improve student retention from one semester to the next (Objective 2.2)
    • Increase the number of program completions (Objective 2.3)

2B.4: Support for Educational Programs and Services

In the current economic climate, Sauk strives to maintain adequate resources to fulfill its Mission and to take advantage of opportunities to strengthen the quality of its educational programs and services. Sauk has practiced sound fiscal management to safeguard the quality of its educational offerings. Its diligence has helped the college continue to provide quality learning experiences for students despite the recent economic downturn and the state’s deteriorating financial situation.

The college practices the important components of sound fiscal management:

  • Monitor fiscal resources: The Dean of Business Services provides a monthly budget report to the Board of Trustees and periodically prepares multi-year revenue and expense projections for the Board of Trustees, PC, and OPIC. In addition, Sauk complies with all state statues and requirements for preparing, publicizing, and submitting budgets to the ICCB. Five-year financial data is provided to areas when they conduct their program reviews so they can evaluate the programs’ financial effectiveness.
  • Link planning to budget: Another important element in financial planning is to link strategic planning to the allocation of funds. Department heads submit requests after gathering input from personnel across their respective departments and from their Operational Plans. After identifying equipment, supply, personnel, and facility needs, they complete the required forms to initiate action. The internal budgeting process has been successfully conducted for years. The budgeting process was enhanced in FY09 when a mechanism for forwarding budget requests originating from program reviews into the budgeting process was implemented.
  • Cultivate funding sources: To ensure quality educational support and programs, the college makes use of funding opportunities to the greatest extent possible. Several sources exist:
    • Funding bonds: Sauk uses funding bonds in accordance with state statutes to purchase equipment and technology and to make facility upgrades during a multi-year period. It repays the bonds through a tax levy. Sauk has used funding bonds several times and only issues new bonds when old ones come due to maintain level taxation. In July 2007, Sauk issued bonds for $3.6 million and in July 2010, issued bonds totaling $6.8 million.
    • Partnerships: Some of Sauk’s partnerships with outside agencies result in the sharing of revenues and expenses to create cost-effective advantages. One such example is the NIOIN partnership with other community colleges and local hospitals, which spreads the costs and risks among the partners.
    • Grant funds: Sauk researches grant opportunities from State, Federal and local sources. The Director of Foundation and Grants assists with writing and submitting grant proposals on an as-needed basis. Sauk obtained close to $4 million of the nearly $6 million in competitive grants for which it applied during the five year period, FY06 – FY10. While grants account for a relatively small portion of the college’s total funding, they have been instrumental to expanding programs and services. For example, the college’s Student Support Services is funded by a federal TRIO grant, allowing Sauk to provide a range of services, including personal development, tutoring, and counseling, for 200 first-generation, disabled, or low-income students each year.
  • Community support: The Sauk Valley College Foundation has raised funds to provide support that benefits students and the institution since 1965. Private donors have funded numerous scholarships, most of which are stipulated for specific uses. Revenues not designated for scholarships may be used for special projects. The Foundation has provided nearly $1.3 million for scholarships and project funding since FY06 (see Figure 2ii), including the following examples:
    Figure 2ii: Foundation Support
     FY06FY07FY08FY09FY10*5 yr total
    Scholarships $140,106 $138,024 $175,173 $191,945 $174,964 $820,212
    Awards & other support $74,166 $84,459 $75,683 $183,954 $30,876 $449,138
    Total $214,272 $222,483 $250,856 $375,899 $205,840 $1,269,350
    Source: Sauk Valley College Foundation
    *Donor-designated scholarships no longer included, per IRS charitable contribution rules.
    • Scholarships: The Foundation provides an annual average of over $160,000 in student scholarships.
    • Support for campus projects: In 2009, the Foundation presented the College with $70,000 to fund its new Wind Energy Programs. In addition, it regularly co-sponsors events with clubs and departments. For example, the Foundation partnered with the Criminal Justice Club to present a 9/11 Thank You Breakfast for local police, firefighters, and EMT personnel; and brought in an FBI Agent who protected President George W. Bush to speak to students and the community.

    Student housing, the Sauk Commons, opened in the fall of 2005 on land adjacent to the campus to the east.  The Commons offers students the option of two- and four-bedroom apartments within walking distance to the college.  After years of work by the college and the Sauk Valley College Foundation to find a project developer, the Foundation formed a limited liability corporation to own the facility because Illinois community colleges cannot own housing facilities.  The Sauk Valley Student Housing LLC hired a student housing management firm to operate the facility.  Occupancy rates did not meet projections and the facility quickly fell into financial difficulties as the local economy took a downturn.  When it became apparent that the project had been based on flawed financial projections, the LLC began to investigate liquidation options.  The Foundation ceased its fundraising efforts to prevent undesignated donations by the community from being claimed to support the Commons.  In 2011, the LLC declared bankruptcy.  As this report is being finalized, the legal issues have not yet been resolved; however, a buyer is being sought for the Commons who will maintain it as student housing.

2B.5: Concern for Continued Educational Quality

With funding in short supply, Sauk continues to guard its future by funding quality educational programs and support:

  • Technology: Sauk’s commitment to supporting the use of technology in the classroom is evidenced through the Information Services and Instructional Technology Department (IS/IT). As the reliance on technology has increased, Sauk has invested in support of the hardware, software and staff necessary to establish an exemplary level of access for students, faculty and staff. Examples of academic support for technology include the following:
    • Staff:
      • Nine staff positions support the use of technology in the classroom and for educational support functions.
    • Classroom equipment:
      • 38 technology-enhanced classrooms (86% of all lecture classrooms) equipped with a ceiling-mounted projector, wall-mounted speakers, and an instructor console that contains a computer, document presenter, and DVD/VCR player.
      • 375 computers available for student use in classrooms, labs, Learning Assistance Center and Learning Resource Center environments.
    • Support services:
      • Technical and instructional support for 350 online and on-campus courses (via WebCT, then Blackboard, and now Moodle).
      • The Instructional Technology Center, a small, private lab where faculty can work on class projects alone or with IS/IT staff assistance.
    Total spending on technology equipment and software used for instructional purposes has averaged over $170,000 per year during the past five years, as illustrated in Figure 2iii below:
    Figure 2iii: Technology Spending
    FY06FY07FY08FY09FY10TotalAnnual Average
    $95,144 $331,354 $118,992 $146,599 160,484 $852,572 $170,514
    Source: Sauk Business Office
  • Facilities: The Sauk campus plays a vital part in fulfilling the Mission of the institution. In acknowledgement of this importance, the Strategic Directions address its maintenance and improvement in objectives related to Goal #5: “The college will pursue programs to improve the physical campus environment”:
    • Identify and implement activities to improve sustainability (Objective 5.1)
    • Redesign the campus for better utilization, efficiency, and handicap accessibility (Objective 5.2)
    • Improve, upgrade, and remodel instructional spaces (Objective 5.3)
    • Improve campus aesthetics (Objective 5.4)

Sauk is continuously looking at how the current campus can be adapted to meet the future needs of students. Over the last ten years, construction projects have been relatively small, commonly limited to partitioning rooms or improving accessibility, because Illinois’ capital funding has been difficult to obtain. The State of Illinois funds construction projects for educational facilities through the Resource Allocation and Management Program (RAMP) process. Schools submit projects for review and inclusion in the program. Sauk currently has an approved $3.6 million remodel and refurbishment of the natural science laboratories near the top of the list. This project has been waiting for funding since 2000, but the state has not released any funding for capital projects for several years.

Sauk is required to have a current master plan on file with the ICCB. The 2007 ICCB Recognition Report recommended that the college conduct a more comprehensive master plan than the internally generated plan written in 2005. In response, Sauk took action to create one:

  • In 2009 Pauline and Associates was contracted to review current building usage and future needs and to recommend building changes that would best meet current and future needs of the college.
  • The recommendations were submitted to the Board of Trustees in June 2009.
  • In February 2010 the Board of Trustees hired Wight and Company architects to take the results of the Pauline space study and to prepare a comprehensive master plan to prioritize and provide initial budgets for capital projects to change the building to meet future needs.
  • The master plan was presented to the Board of Trustees at the September 2010 board meeting.

Present plans include utilizing funding bond monies to begin building renovations according to the priorities listed in the 2010 master plan. As a result, Sauk’s technology wing remodeling is scheduled to be completed during phase 1, which will be underway during fall 2011, and the science lab remodeling will be accomplished during phase 2.

2B.6: Initiatives Enable Student Enrollment

As an open enrollment college, Sauk’s planning and budgeting priorities have traditionally included investments of time and money to help students have the opportunity to pursue higher education. Several initiatives serve the purpose of encouraging and enabling student enrollment:

  • Recruitment: In the past, counselors and the Director of Admissions made recruiting visits to each of the district’s high schools. In 2007, a full-time Recruiter position was created to maintain a comprehensive recruitment program. In 2010, the position was combined with several others and re-titled High School Liaison.
  • College Night: Every year approximately 200 people attend College Night, which features over 70 universities, colleges, technical schools and the military. Attendees receive information about the educational and transfer opportunities available at Sauk and other institutions. Sauk staff are on hand to discuss career interests, instructional programs, the registration process, and how to conduct a college search. Sauk staff conducts a special Financial Aid presentation which regularly attracts over 100 people. Focusing Families on the Future, a presentation for high school sophomores and their parents, provides information on Sauk’s dual credit options and on career and college planning.
  • Discover Sauk: Local area high school seniors are invited to campus where they are introduced to the college, meet current students who discuss their Sauk experiences and attend classes in their area of interest. Discover Sauk is scheduled twice during the fall, three times during the spring semesters, and upon request by area high schools. Each event attracts 20 to 25 students.
  • Nontraditional occupations recruitment: Each year, mini-conferences, such as Men in Nursing, Women in Engineering, and Women in Criminal Justice, introduce high school students to nontraditional occupations by gender. Each of these programs informs students about high wage, high skill career opportunities in nontraditional areas with hands-on activities and interaction with professionals from those fields. Each mini-conference attracts an average of 18 to 24 students.

As an open-enrollment institution in a community where poverty and unemployment have always been significant, especially during the latest economic downturn, Sauk’s use of resources to support student enrollment is planned and budgeted. The college’s financial aid office plays a key role in helping students afford an education:

  • Assistance and education: The mission statement of the Office of Financial Assistance describes its support role as one that “enhances learning by educating and assisting our students and community with their academically related expenses, thereby helping them achieve their educational goals.” During FY10, for example, the office held high school workshops, FAFSA workshops, and Scholarship Workshops; made presentations in  Orientation (PSY 100) classes; and worked with students on an individual basis to help them process their financial aid to maximize their financial awards.
  • Scholarships: The Office of Financial Assistance coordinates a scholarship system so that students may be considered for multiple scholarships without making multiple applications, in most cases. Information for nearly 130 internal scholarships appears on the college website, including Sauk Scholars, Single Parent grants, Sauk Valley College Foundation scholarships, and local, need-based scholarships from community groups and high school foundations. All of the scholarships that are funded are awarded each year. During the five year period ending with FY09, over 1200 scholarships were awarded for a total of $806,100.

2B.7: Effective Use of Human Resources

Since 2005, Sauk has actively analyzed its employment practices and has taken steps to better utilize employees while reducing employee expense:

  • Evaluation of positions: Each position that becomes vacant is analyzed by PC, with input from the supervising administrator, to determine if the position should be filled; if it should be eliminated and its duties added to an existing position; or if the position should be expanded to assume additional responsibilities:
    • Combining or cutting certain existing positions: In 2007, after the Activities Director position was eliminated, responsibility for student clubs and organizations was absorbed by Student Services staff. In 2010, the positions of Recruiter, Partnership for College and Career Success Coordinator, and High School Relations coordinator were combined into one position: High School Liaison.
    • Reclassifying certain positions to lower levels: Upon review, four of the 22 administrative positions, including the Director of the Learning Resource Center and Director of Admissions were reclassified as professional/technical, and six of the eight non-teaching faculty positions were also reclassified as professional/technical, including the Learning Assistance Center Coordinator and most of the counseling positions.
    • Increased use of part-time employees: Sauk has increased its reliance on part-time employees by reducing the number of full-time employees by 14% and increasing the number of part-time employees by 41%. This change is seen in most job classifications. (See Figure 2iv below.)
    Figure 2iv: Position Classifications
     Teaching FacultyNon-Teaching FacultyAdministrationProfessional/ TechnicalSupport StaffTotals
     FTAdjFTPTFTPTFTPTFTPTFTPT
    FY01 55 84 8 0 20 2 23 9 46 11 152 106
    FY11 45 108 2 0 15 0 29 25 40 16 131 149
    Change -18% +29% -75% --- -25% -100% +26% +178% -13% +45% -14% +41%
    Source: Sauk Human Resources Office
  • Faculty deployment: With diminished numbers of full-time employees in all job classifications, Sauk uses multiple approaches aimed at efficient and effective deployment of its teaching faculty:
    • Multi-disciplinary faculty: In an effort to increase flexibility in making teaching assignments, Sauk employs 13 faculty qualified to teach in multiple areas. They are sought for disciplines without enough demand for a full-time teaching load and usually paired with qualification in an area with high enrollment and numerous class offerings (for example, Humanities/English; Math/Philosophy).
    • More adjunct faculty: Sauk has increased its reliance on adjunct faculty by increasing the number of adjunct faculty by 29% while reducing the number of full-time teaching faculty by 18%. Some vacant full-time faculty positions were not filled or were changed to adjunct due to declining program enrollments. However, the college still maintains a higher proportion of full-time faculty, based on FTE, than its peer institutions and the state averages (see Figure 2v).
    • Larger class sizes: The number of courses taught and the total number of credit hours taught by full-time faculty have decreased over the last five years (53% to 45% of total courses and 64% to 55% total credit hours). While most of the total credit load has been picked up by adding adjunct faculty, the full-time faculty is averaging higher total number of student credit hours per semester, increased from 263 in FY04 to 292 credit hours in FY08, indicating that faculty today tend to have larger class sizes than they did in the past.
    Figure 2v: Comparison of Full-time and Adjunct Faculty FTE among Peer Institutions
     Full-time FTEFull-time FTE % of totalPart-time FTEPart-time FTE % of totalTotal FTE
    Sauk 44 56% 34 44% 78
    Peer medians* 47 53% 39.5 47% 92.5
    State Average 4,721 43% 6,348 57% 11,069
    Source: ICCB 2010 Databook
    *A set of Illinois community colleges with similar financial base and size.
  • Effective use of technology: Sauk looks for ways that technology can be used to accomplish tasks more efficiently to help reduce labor costs. For example, in its Operational Plan, Human Resources researched the expenses of tracking job applicants on paper with the costs of using a digital system and produced a budget recommendation to purchase an online system. In January 2009, a digital applicant tracking system was put in place. Based on follow-up data, the Human Resources Office is expending fewer staff hours processing applications, saving the expense of photocopying applications for screening committees, and has reduced the mailing expense of correspondence with applicants. In some other cases, technology has not successfully reduced workloads: for example, online registration has not reduced the number of staff required.
  • Compensatory time in place of overtime: The use of overtime for handling fluctuating workload demands has been mostly replaced by the option of compensatory time for employees who work additional hours. During FY10 for example, only $12,000 in overtime was paid. Of that amount, 59% was paid to buildings and grounds personnel, including snow removal and security. The remaining 41% was paid to support staff from departments throughout the college. Supervisor approval is required prior to any overtime or compensatory work.

2B.8: Professional Development

Professional development is available to all classifications, with a major goal being the benefit to the institution of equipping employees with current information and skills (Link to another section of the Self-Study4A.2). In the 2009 employee survey, 93% of administration, 96% of faculty, 92% of support staff, and 88% of professional/technical staff indicated that Sauk is moderately to highly supportive of professional development.

Participation in professional development is typically voluntary. In most cases, the employee determines his or her own development needs, chooses an appropriate activity from available options and formats, and obtains approval for it. However, policies and practices of the college testify to the importance of providing employees the opportunity to participate in development activities:

  • Planning: Administrators plan professional development for themselves and their respective non-faculty staff and request funds as a part of their annual budget requests. While it is recognized that professional development may occur in many different formats, most employees indicated that they attend conferences or workshops fairly regularly, once every two to three years, or every year (93% of administrators, 82% of faculty, 79% of professional/technical, and 76% of support staff).
  • Program review: In an effort to encourage participation, the 2009 revision of the Program Review Guidelines asks whether all full-time staff in the area have participated in professional development during the last five years.
  • Tuition support: SVCC provides tuition waivers for employees, as well as their families, to take classes at Sauk. In addition, Sauk reimburses an average of nearly $6,500 annually to employees who complete pre-approved classes at other institutions. Ten employees received a tuition reimbursement in FY10.
  • Faculty Development Committee: Faculty participate in their own development system, which monitors the disbursement of the $20,000 annually budgeted for faculty development. After obtaining supervisory approval, the faculty member requests funding from the Faculty Development Committee. The committee, comprised exclusively of faculty, determines whether the request meets the development guidelines.
  • In-house training: Training on-site by Sauk staff provides a cost-effective and efficient delivery method for many types of professional development:
    • The Instructional Technology staff conducts free technology workshops for staff and has several online tutorials available as well.
    • Human Resources has conducted supervisor training sessions for administrators and non-administrative supervisors pertaining to supervisory practices and employment law.
    • The staff development committee, which is comprised of employees from the support and professional/technical job classifications, conduct a variety of development activities including an annual spring retreat, bi-monthly staff information meetings, occasional teleconferences, and participation in the Northern Illinois Network of Staff Developers meetings and events.
  • Webinars: Student Services and Instructional Technology have both accessed webinars and made them available to all interested staff. The FY11 employee survey indicated an average of 78% of Sauk employees have attended at least one webinar on a work-related topic (Administration, 100%; Professional/Technical, 86%; Faculty, 70%; Support, 68%).
  • Faculty promotion policies: As an encouragement to faculty, promotion is linked to the amount of graduate education a faculty member has attained.
  • Membership in professional organizations: The college emphasizes the value of professional development through its expectation that faculty will hold memberships in relevant organizations. An annual review of faculty involvement is included on full-time faculty self-evaluations. According to the fall 2009 survey, 88% of faculty hold memberships in at least one professional organization relevant to their work at Sauk.
  • Provisional promotions: In an effort to keep and develop excellent employees, Sauk offered provisional promotions to two support staff employees who lacked the requisite degree qualifications. These employees accepted the responsibilities of the new position and agreed to complete the appropriate degree within a specified time period.