SVCC HLC Self-Study Document

Sauk Valley Community College
HLC Self-Study Document

September 19-21, 2011

Criterion 2: Preparing for the Future

Sauk Valley Community College’s allocation of resources and its processes for evaluation and planning demonstrate its capacity to fulfill its mission, improve the quality of its education, and respond to future challenges and opportunities.

The self-study has occurred during a period of financial challenge for the college. In 2010, the state of Illinois, facing a catastrophic budget deficit, did not adhere to its established payment schedule and postponed making expected payments. Only 75% of FY10 funding was received during the year, with the remaining 25% spread over the first six months of FY11. FY12 state funding appears equally tenuous. However, Sauk Valley Community College is well-prepared to weather such economic downturns by long experience with maximizing limited capacity. According to Out of the Prairie, the Sauk founders were soon aware that “the tax rate approved in the June 8, 1965 election was too low to adequately finance the new college” (p. 17). In 1971, after just five years in operation, rejection of two referendums, and three tuition increases, the Board requested “a skeleton plan for survival for the college” (p. 45). One familiar factor in that first financial crisis was the “failure of the state to maintain financial support at the level indicated” (p. 48); another was erosion of the property tax base. However, having committed to continue its Mission and the quality of education offered, the resulting plan concluded: “Continued growth is possible and essential but the college must refine its operation” (p. 53). This expectation of frugality is one that the Board of Trustees has honored over the years.

Photo of students walking in and out of the collegeNow, as 40 years ago, the administration and Board are challenged to ensure the financial welfare of the institution while protecting instructional quality. Sauk is well positioned to continue to fulfill its Mission and to strive toward its Vision. The focus for this section of the self-study is to demonstrate that we know our capacity; that our processes for planning allow informed spending decisions; and that we are poised to take advantage of opportunities to expand services. Although once again facing challenges brought on by scarce resources, we continue to seek quality improvement.

Sauk Valley Community College asserts that it has sufficient appropriate processes by which it allocates resources to preserve its ability to fulfill the mission given it by the community and to provide the best education possible with enough set aside to weather challenges and capitalize on opportunities.

Responses to HLC Concerns

We have elsewhere responded to concerns and suggestions about the previous set of HLC criteria by the review teams at the 2002 Reaffirmation of Accreditation Visit and the 2006 Focused Visit. Several of these responses intersect with issues addressed in this criterion. Here is a brief summary:

  • The recent closing of a local steel plant, combined with a state board of education decision to transfer adult education activities to community colleges, has resulted in an approximate 18% enrollment gain for the year. Additionally, these events have provided for unanticipated operational revenues for the FY 2002 current operating budget that included a projected $115,409 deficit. While favorable to the stated budget, the revenues associated with the receipt of job-loss checks for unemployed workers are not long term. College administration should endeavor to plan for other strategies to avoid future budget deficits to ensure sound financial management for the future (2002, p. 12).
    Sauk heeded this advice to its benefit. A new president and a determined Board of Trustees committed to a balanced budget and the accumulation of a cash surplus. The college has been able to operate on that basis since FY07, with the result that despite the poor economy, which has continued to provide enrollment increases, and the challenges of cutting expenses, Sauk appears to have an adequate cash surplus to weather the unreliability of state funding.
  • The college’s Strategic Plan speaks directly and indirectly to the need for employee development. However, as indicated in the budget and as discussed with employee groups, sufficient resources to support this endeavor have been removed. The college should consider methodologies by which it can support its plan for strengthening the organization and achieving its stated goals (2002, p. 12).
    Except for brief periods in FY10 and FY11 when all “nonessential” travel was halted for cash flow reasons brought on by defaulted state payments, the trend in support of employee professional development has been to increase and systematize it as suggested by the visiting team. Faculty professional development, in particular, was overhauled and put into the hands of a faculty committee for distribution (Link to another Self-Study location2B.8 and Link to another location in the report3B.2).
  • The strategic planning process at the college has improved since the 1991 Team Visit. For example, college administrator evaluations included questions regarding their contribution to stated goals. However, surveys, meetings with trustees, administration, and staff indicate challenges associated with plan achievement, plan progress evaluation, levels of employee involvement in plan development, clear linkages with other college plans, succession plans and budgets. A review of the 2000-2003 Strategic Plan reveals no provisions for persons responsible, resource implications, timeline for implementation, nor evaluative components. Annualized operational plans do provide an improved level of detail, but fail to include many of the aforementioned elements of a quality plan. The next iteration of the Strategic Plan should include the aforementioned essential elements, linkages to other developed plans, and clarity in implementation strategies. (2002, p. 12).
    The college had addressed all of these issues by the time the Focused Visit occurred in 2006 and had in place a working strategic planning process with all of the elements specified by the 2002 HLC Peer Review Team. Improvements have continued since that visit and this section of the self-study describes the newest version of the Sauk strategic planning system: a rolling plan, linked clearly with other planning systems and timed to the budget cycle.
  • Evidence that demonstrates that further organizational attention is required in the area of focus: “Some faculty members of OPIC reported that there is still some discomfort with their role in making budget decisions as part of OPIC. . . . A review of the number of reports that OPIC must consider during their planning process confirms that SVCC should consider a more stream-lined review process" (2006, p.12).
    By FY09, OPIC’s role had been simplified, with its charge revised to focus it on strategic planning, assigning it to evaluate data to assess the success of the institution in accomplishing the Strategic Directions (Link to another location in the report2A.2).

2A: Prepares for the Future

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.

Figure 2i: Revenue Sources for Operating Funds
Chart: Revenue Sources for Operating Funds Source: Business Office

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.

2A.2: Environmental Scanning Identifies Emerging Factors

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 (link to an another section of the report 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 (link to an appendixAppendix).
  • Program review: The Program Review Committee (link to an appendixAppendix), 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 (link to an appendixAppendix), 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.

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
    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.

2C: Ongoing Evaluation and Assessment

Sauk Valley Community College’s ongoing evaluation and assessment processes provide reliable evidence of institutional effectiveness that clearly informs strategies for continuous improvement.

2C.1: Effective Systems Support Continuous Improvement

The 2002 Visit Team found Sauk engaged in collecting data, but without a system that assured that analysis of that data contributed to continuous improvement. As a result of that finding, the college recognized that much of its planning was done in “silos,” creating isolated documents in isolated settings. It set about transforming itself into a learning organization where continuous improvement could be achieved and documented through interlocked planning systems. In 2006, the Focused Visit Team recognized that transformation and made recommendations for continued growth of the systems for strategic planning and assessment. In addition, a new president added his perspectives, which effected continued changes in the strategic planning system, some of which are being set into motion for the first time during the self-study process. The primary initiative undertaken has been focused on re-engineering and linking multiple internal processes into a single efficient system and on integrating daily activities with institutional planning.

Sauk is clearly maintaining effective systems for collecting, analyzing, and using organizational information. Most importantly, the components of the planning system are linked in such a way that the data from each informs annual budget decisions that in turn support the Strategic Directions. Each of the four primary planning and evaluation cycle components includes a specific point in the timeline where prior performance is revisited in setting future plans (link to an appendixAppendix):

  • Strategic planning: OPIC is charged with reviewing “institutional progress toward achieving Strategic Goals,” which includes reviewing each year’s Operational Plan, Annual Report, Program Review Report, the status of past budget requests coming from program review and operational planning, and the status of Key Performance Indicators (link to an appendixAppendix). During its fall 2010 review, OPIC discovered some issues related to budget request feedback that required improved communication.
  • Operational planning: Planning is a two-part endeavor where units evaluate the results of their plans for the year that is ending and plan next year’s activities. All reports and plans are submitted to the unit’s supervising administrator, who provides feedback as appropriate and approves them. The reports and plans are also submitted to the Dean of Institutional Research and Planning, who also reviews them and requests revisions to assure that activities are aligned with objectives, outcomes are measurable, and that the reported results are pertinent and appropriate. The timeline requires that academic areas submit drafts in April and final plans in September. Support departments and offices submit their reports and plans in July.
  • Program review: An evaluation loop is built into the program review process. Throughout the template, the review teams are asked to report on the results of their previous efforts and identify future efforts. Supervising administrators and the Program Review Committee evaluate the reviews and request modifications or additional information as appropriate; the review is not approved until it is complete. The Dean of Institutional Research and Planning provides the final feedback loop by verifying that planned actions are transferred into Operational Plans.
  • Assessment of academic achievement: Assessment of student learning is faculty driven and based on the learning outcomes set at institutional, area, program, or course level (link to an another section of the report3A.3). Data collected from the various streams is discussed and acted upon by the faculty. Data collected through individual coursework often does not have a budgetary need. However, discussion of various area-level and institutional-level data may result in curricular proposals or budget requests, which are initiated in Operational Plans whenever analysis shows that action is appropriate. The faculty annually collects data which is analyzed and discussed at the beginning of the following academic year. Based on that discussion, the area will determine whether to repeat the assessment or to assess another outcome. By the program review, each area is to have covered all of its objectives at least once. The Sauk Valley Community College Assessment Plan establishes a schedule for assessment tasks that ensures that data flows into the operational planning system in such a way that it reaches the budget (Link to another location in the reportAppendix).

Appropriate internal and external data is made available for strategic, operational, program review and budgetary planning. Information Services creates variations of data sets as requested if a need is determined. The Board of Trustees, the President's Cabinet, and the academic areas and support departments clearly look at data. Reviews of data contribute to organizational improvement when they are used for goal creation in assessment, Operational Plans, or program review. Decisions or steps toward implementation for improvement are more difficult to trace from the President's Cabinet and Board of Trustees meetings as the decisions are housed in minutes and do not necessarily go into a planning document with Strategic Goals attached.

2C.2: Program Review Supports Continuous Improvement

All of Sauk's offices and academic areas undergo evaluation annually in the process of examining data for their Operational Plans and in preparing each year’s budget requests. A more in-depth analysis in conducted every five years as a part of the ICCB-required program review for all instructional and non-instructional units. Sauk uses this requirement to provide a comprehensive analysis and evaluation of each unit.

At the 2002 HLC comprehensive evaluation, the program review process was disconnected from other efforts of the college and suffered from some of the same weaknesses as other systems: Data was unclear and inconsistent. Action plans were often weak and few were implemented. After being approved, many of the reviews were misplaced or lost.

Three nearly simultaneous circumstances resulted in an overhaul of the system:

  • The new college president declared that the completed reviews contained useless narrative based on little or questionable data and ordered changes.
  • Learning organization principles that were transforming the committee structure and the planning system revealed the weakness of the existing system.
  • The ICCB released new Program Review Guidelines in 2007.

As a result, in FY09, program review was redefined as a tool for continuous improvement. A unique approach was utilized to revise this process: instead of forming a single cross-institutional committee, the Dean of Institutional Research and Planning facilitated a process that used specialized small groups. For example, the business faculty and college accountants discussed and designed the structuring of the financial data that review teams analyze during a program review. Also, the templates, revised again slightly for FY11, were aligned with the new Strategic Plan (link to an appendixAppendix). The resulting program review process guides each review team through a data-based examination of its current status in order to make plans for future improvement. Other features enhance the evaluation’s value to the evaluated area and to college planning efforts:

  • Quality and viability issues are separated, which allows the review to address with each separately.
  • A copy of the report that is submitted to the ICCB is also provided to OPIC as information for use in strategic planning.
  • Improvement plans and initiatives become a part of the appropriate Operational Plan and, as a result, are directly linked with the Strategic Plan.
  • When equipment, personnel, or facility needs are identified, the Program Review Guidelines direct teams to complete the appropriate budget request form to submit with the completed review, so it can be considered as a part of the budget allocation process.

While most program reviews have not resulted in major improvements, many minor improvements have been documented, including the following examples:

  • The FY10 Financial Assistance Office review reported that the office was using TELNET for faster student loan processing, verification, and audit reports.
  • The FY09 Accounting review reported the development of two online courses: ACC 101, and ACC 102.
  • The FY08 Mathematics review reported extensive end-of-course assessment data collection and analysis procedures, as well as the development of an Associate of Arts in Teaching for secondary mathematics.
  • The FY08 Property Maintenance Specialist review led to the program being discontinued due to low enrollment.

The program review process has also been consulted for unanticipated purposes, such as identifying facility needs that were shared with site planners.

As a part of the process since FY09, the chair of each program review team has been asked to complete an evaluation of the process. Responses indicate that the objectives for revising the program review format have been achieved. During the first three years of the new format, over 70% of team chairs reported that the program review was linked to other internal processes, 90% ranked the new format as an improvement over the old format, and 75% also rated the new program review as being valuable to the program.

The revised program review process is a positive approach to reviewing a program’s current status, making plans to achieve future improvements, and assuring that requests with budgetary impact get considered as part of the budget allocation process. It is expected that the process and templates will continue to be reviewed and revised slightly every year to keep the process an effective tool for continuous improvement.

2C.3: Evaluation of Institutional Effectiveness

Within Sauk's various planning and evaluation processes, benchmarks are set and results reported in ways appropriate to the system:

  • An important part of operational planning training is to orient employees to identify concrete, measurable results and avoid generalized, abstract results on the Operational Plans. The Dean of Institutional Research and Planning reviews submitted plans for their compliance with the creation of appropriate benchmarks. Results are recorded on the Operational Plan Form at the end of the plan year, in preparation for setting the next year’s objectives.
  • Program reviews use program-specific data to analyze need, quality, and cost effectiveness and then to make plans. The types of data used are consistent among all instructional programs to allow for cross-program comparisons. Results of the program review are posted on the Sauk webpage as well as reported to ICCB.
  • Faculty involved in assessment of student learning set the expected performance for the objectives and review these when discussing their findings. The results of CAAP allow Sauk graduates to be evaluated against a set of peer colleges and against state and national norms. Findings are stored in a digital system for access by the faculty.

The college measures its overall institutional effectiveness against ICCB benchmarks and the goals set by the Illinois Board of Higher Education (IBHE) through two required reports, submitted annually to ICCB: the Underrepresented Groups Report and the Performance Report. Although these reports have gone through several transitions during the past few years as the IBHE has revised its goals, Sauk intends to dovetail the IBHE and ICCB benchmarking process with the Strategic Directions.

In the meantime, the FY11 revision to the college’s strategic planning system incorporated a new awareness that the college should be accountable to its own Strategic Goals in addition to those imposed by the state. To that end, meaningful institutional key performance indicators (KPI) were identified by OPIC and are articulated in the Strategic Directions. Sauk’s KPIs measure the success of the college’s overall efforts:

  • Transfer rate - The number of students who began their baccalaureate degree at Sauk and successfully transfer to universities.
  • Employment rate - The number of students who enroll to develop occupational skills and successfully obtain employment.
  • Credit hours generated - The number of credits generated at the end of the year provides a measure of student success and determines the state’s apportionment funding.
  • Number of certificate and degree program completions - The number of completions is a measure of student success and Sauk’s efforts to make students successful.
  • Proportion of departments that operate within budget - The number of departments that do not exceed their budget is a measure of financial management.

The KPIs represent an institution-level, measureable benchmark appropriate to the broad academic and fiscal charge of the college. They focus staff on Sauk's priorities and should make it easier to determine the extent to which Strategic Goals have been achieved. Although the first cycle of the FY11 planning system will not reach the point of measuring against these benchmarks until summer of 2011, the plan design calls for administration and OPIC to examine the current year rates against the prior year and a multi-year average. From that evaluation, Sauk will generate an annual report that will become the foundation for future planning, which will be published on the website (link to an appendixAppendix).

2C.4: Support for Planning and Assessment

Between the 2002 Reaffirmation of Accreditation Visit and the 2006 Focused Visit, Sauk made a significant investment in staff time to develop new systems for both assessment and strategic planning. In the Focused Visit report, the college expressed concern that the level of investment was not sustainable over the long term, but recognized that both systems would have to be supported adequately to maintain them. As the systems have matured, assessment and planning processes are clearly supported through multiple avenues:

  • Personnel: The budget includes compensation for several leadership positions in assessment and planning:
    • The Dean of Institutional Research and Planning and an administrative assistant oversee and maintain the various planning processes, including the committee structure, as job duties.
    • Area Facilitators are faculty leaders in operational planning, program review, and assessment who receive compensation for that leadership.
    • The Assessment Core Team, the faculty committee that oversees the faculty assessment of academic achievement, requests compensation for major tasks the group deems necessary, including data management and plan revision. Once approved, these requests are directed into the budget process and have received appropriate levels of funding.
  • Time: Sauk employees are provided the time to contribute to the planning and assessment processes. Recent examples include strategic planning focus groups in spring 2010, departmental and academic area meetings, participation on OPIC and other cross-institutional committees, and in-service activities related to planning. In addition, the college has negotiated a bi-monthly faculty meeting hour that allows time for essential full-time faculty discussions related to the assessment and planning processes.
  • Data collection: While some data results have been consistent enough to warrant a move away from the burdensome expense of annual testing to sustainable levels of periodic testing, Sauk budgets regularly for the cost of several data collection tools:
    • CAAP: After providing the ACT CAAP test annually, the faculty determined that a sample every three years was adequate to provide external confirmation of several competencies. The college funds the cost of the testing and incentives for participants. For example, in spring 2010, each student participating in the test received a $5 meal card at the cafeteria, and students who scored above national norms had their names placed in a drawing for two prizes of $100.
    • Noel Levitz Student Satisfaction Inventory (SSI): The SSI, which surveys students’ opinions on topics such as class scheduling, the registration process, resources, staff, and safety, is scheduled to be conducted every four years. However, due to budget issues and staff changes, Sauk had a 6-year gap between the two most recent surveys. The results of the 2010 survey were analyzed by the Dean of Student Services. Activities planned in response have been noted in the FY11 Operational Plan.
    • Assessment data storage: Sauk maintains in-house storage of its assessment data as a better fitting alternative than a purchased system. The system is developed and maintained by compensated faculty on the Assessment Core Team, supported by Information Systems staff.
  • Professional development: There is no emphasis for employees to participate in external professional development related to planning, although in-service agendas provide a record of in-house sessions on strategic planning. For example, the spring 2010 in-service included a presentation by OPIC members to the college community of the new Strategic Directions and the alignment of the planning systems. The annual reports from the Assessment Committee show that regular opportunities for assessment-related professional development are being provided, both through conference attendance (for example, the Illinois Community College Assessment Fair) and through in-house events, especially those related to the general education competencies.

Despite budgetary challenges, Sauk continues to provide adequate monetary support for strategic planning and for assessment of student learning. The mechanisms currently in place will remain vital to the college's ability to maintain its structured planning and assessment processes and continue the progress that has occurred over the last five years.

2D: Planning Aligned with Mission

All levels of planning align with Sauk Valley Community College's mission, thereby enhancing its capacity to fulfill that mission.

Almost every reference to the strategic planning system at Sauk has included references to other planning processes and to the Strategic Directions because the alignment of the planning systems is so integral to how they each work. Much of the description of the interlocks and loops has already been evaluated in the context of previous core components. The inability to describe one process separate from others provides evidence of the conscious and careful efforts of Sauk to align planning with the Mission.

2D.1: Coordinated Planning and Budgeting

Sauk has undergone a transformation in the last ten years in its understanding of what it means to coordinate planning processes. Mission-driven planning is now embedded in the institution and is following an established process that should allow it to continue to improve itself at the same time it works to improve the college. All of the major planning systems are intertwined:

  • Strategic Directions (link to an appendixAppendix), which are reviewed annually by OPIC and the Board, contain all of the foundational priorities around which planning is coordinated. The Strategic Goals and Objectives form the basis of planning templates of other systems and for the organization of the Annual Report (link to an appendixAppendix).
  • Operational planning is organized around the Strategic Directions. Each planned activity is aligned with the Strategic Goal and Objective to which it pertains. Offices and academic areas report on the completion status of their past year's goals, based on assessment of the planned outcomes, and submit new goals for the upcoming year.
  • Program review is linked directly to the Strategic Directions through the design of its template. At the end of each section of the Program Review Template, review teams are prompted to indicate if activities they have identified to respond to issues of that section will be included in the Operational Plan. The Dean of Institutional Research and Planning verifies that activities so noted have indeed been added to the appropriate Operational Plan.

Sauk has also done considerable work to ensure that the entire planning cycle is timed to feed into the annual budgeting cycle. This reliability is evidenced by the timeline that directs various planning groups to have data discussed and action plans in place in time for the budget process deadlines to be met (link to an appendixAppendix). To further strengthen the link between the budgeting process and the Strategic Goals and Objectives, budget forms are being revised to create a direct link between the request and the planning process.

Although the data cycle which began with the FY09 revisions is just now completing its first cycle through the system, some of the successful timing connections between planning and budget are documented:

  • Over $149,000 of requests were received from FY10 Program Reviews. Nearly $9,000 of requests were withdrawn or the equipment was donated, purchases on nearly $21,000 were made, and the remainder was put on hold due to budget constraints.
  • A $35,000 request for a full-time faculty position was submitted from FY10 Operational Plans, but not funded due to budget constraints.
  • Just over $115,000 of requests were received from FY11 Program Reviews, comprised mostly of requests for three full-time faculty positions. The faculty position, the same that had been requested in FY10, was approved, along with $400 of equipment.

2D.2: Planning is Implemented in Operations

Offices and academic areas throughout Sauk pursue numerous activities intended to meet college Strategic Goals and Objectives, as evidenced by Operational Plans. These efforts are summarized in annual reports, which are organized by Strategic Goal.

For example, FY07 Strategic Objective 2.1 calls for Sauk to "financially manage the college so an operating surplus occurs on an annual basis.” Annual reports show that a variety of activities occurred in various offices and academic areas to support this objective:

  • Energy consumption outside of normal hours of operation was reduced by scheduling multiple activities within the same ventilation zones, during FY07.
  • Health Careers saved $1,000 per year by revising its off-campus clinical schedule so faculty could consolidate site visits and reduce travel expenses, during FY08.
  • The Special Needs Office reduced tutoring expenses for special needs students by linking them with other college tutoring resources, during FY09.
  • The Physical and Life Sciences area purchased more than 90% of their lab materials in bulk to maximize quantity discounts, during FY10.

A review of annual reports on file on the college website demonstrates a similar cross-institutional implementation of many of the Strategic Objectives (link to an appendixAppendix).

2D.3: Strategic Planning Responds to Change

Board policy requires annual approval of Sauk's Mission, Vision, and Strategic Goals by the Board of Trustees (link to digital resource room support). As a result, the potential has always existed for the college to respond to changing conditions in the surrounding community. However, the new strategic planning system was developed to draw attention to the changing environment through its “rolling” process:

  • Regular scanning: OPIC annually scans the environment for changes and emerging trends, reviews institutional progress toward achieving the Strategic Plan, and recommends any necessary adjustments to the Board. The goal is to maintain a viable long-range plan, and the regular environmental scanning provides the basis for updating either long-term goals or short-term objectives.
  • Long-range planning is embedded in the Mission and Vision Statements and in the Strategic Goals. These are presumed to need revision less frequently and only in response to significant changes. So, for example, the negotiations of the federal government to buy in-district Thomson prison from the state, which would bring federal-level criminal justice jobs to the local area, is being carefully watched as it affects long-range planning on the related degrees offered. A recommendation for change to long-range planning components would likely initiate institution-wide discussion.
  • The Strategic Objectives are more fluid, changing as necessary to reach the Strategic Goals. So, for example, periodic fluctuations in funding sources are likely to influence the Strategic Objectives as the college responds tactically to continue to reach its Strategic Goals.

2D.4: Planning Supports Graduate Preparation

As has already been described, the intentional alignment of the planning processes ensures that all offices and academic areas contribute to Sauk's Mission and Strategic Goals. The desire that students leave the institution ready to be successful in pursuing additional education or in their careers is intrinsic in the Mission and defined through several components of the planning system:

  • Strategic Directions: Several of the FY11 Strategic Objectives address the college’s definition of the current climate faced by students and graduates, especially those that seek to increase student access to education.
  • Operational planning: Sauk’s Strategic Objectives for student success may be seen implemented in Operational Plans. Each planning unit is prompted to consider how it contributes to these objectives.
  • Assessment: The four goals of the assessment system specifically seek to carry out the college Mission. The data from assessment of these goals flows into the planning system primarily through the Operational Plan (Link to another section of the Self-Study 3A.2).

2D.5: Planning Processes Involve Constituents

The FY04 revisions to the planning system incorporated shared governance as defined in the learning college philosophy. The planning system has retained its priority for shared governance as Sauk has personalized its system to a more sustainable learning organization model. Cross-institutional input has become embedded both in the systems themselves and in the expectations of the campus community. As evidenced in descriptions of the planning system, all members of the college community have the opportunity to participate in annual planning processes. To a lesser extent, students and external constituents are also involved in the planning processes:

  • Students: Although students are members of selected committees (as indicated on the committee charges) and in program review, participation by student members is sporadic and actual meeting attendance is low. A student trustee has a voice in the planning activities of the Board.
  • External constituents: The primary formal input of external constituents in the planning process comes through members of the Work Force Councils, although not routinely identified in Operational Plans. In addition, the Program Review Guidelines recommend inclusion of community participants to encourage input from stakeholders. A future objective of the strategic planning process as it continues to evolve is to create a mechanism by which the surrounding community may have input into reviewing and formulating the Strategic Directions.



  • Sauk has practiced sound fiscal management by controlling expenses and operating within revenues received. Effective use of adjuncts, multi-disciplinary faculty, and overload has prevented large-scale faculty reductions. Our diligence in monitoring the budget and projecting multi-year revenues and expenses has helped us respond to the recent economic downturn and the State’s deteriorating financial situation. The existence of a cash surplus provides flexibility and security for the institution.
  • We are proud of our accomplishment in creating a planning system where feedback loops exist within and between the various evaluation processes year to year. There is a clear closing of the loops in regard to student assessment, operational planning, program review and the budget. The system of links among processes has created a culture of continuous improvement that we hope has reached the Vision of being a benchmark for other institutions. In addition, the forms and procedures are well defined. The housing of most of our data and plans on the campus intranet, provides effective centralization and ready access to the participants in the system.
  • Our planning activities and documents demonstrate that we are paying attention to emerging factors that will affect the college. The environmental scan that was conducted for the FY11 Strategic Plan considered numerous factors, and the new Strategic Plan addresses those that are most prominent.


  • While Sauk has demonstrated many institution-level innovations, these tend not to be reported in either Operational Plans or in program reviews. The self-study committee recommends that both OPIC and the Program Review Committee review the need for identifying mid-year innovations on the forms used for documenting both operational planning and program review work.
  • The self-study found that turnover among administrative and professional/technical positions has resulted in some specific tasks are being overlooked and dropped. The self-study committee recommends that the college put procedures in place to avoid discontinuing necessary activities when there is staff turnover.
  • Sauk has increased its reliance on part-time employees in every job classification. The self-study committee recommends that the college examine whether sufficient support systems are in place to safeguard the quality and continuity of the tasks they undertake for students and the institution.
  • In addition to collecting information about the class, student course evaluations also collect feedback on facilities and technology. However, that information is shared only with faculty and is not shared with Buildings and Grounds or IT. The self-study committee recommends that the student evaluation system be revised to allow selected pertinent institutional data to be shared with appropriate offices.

Opportunities for Growth

  • The self-study recognizes that the planning system has only recently identified KPI’s as a measurement of improvement. However, the self-study committee recommends that benchmarking be given high priority by OPIC as its next step in developing the college’s institutional improvement system.
  • The current planning process involves staff and the Board, but input from students and external constituents is still somewhat limited. The self-study committee recommends that these two groups be included.
  • The self-study found that as operational planning has been expanded into the whole campus community, some of the faculty and staff are only comfortable including activities on the Operational Plan that they are confident they will be able to complete successfully. The self-study committee recommends more professional development be provided to the college community on this aspect of planning.
  • Although routine data collection has been coordinated into processes that allow results to be communicated into the planning system, the data from periodic surveys appears to be isolated. The self-study committee recommends the development of a more systematic link for student feedback from periodic surveys, such as Noel Levitz or the scheduling survey, into the planning system and broader communication to the campus community.
  • Although Sauk has invested heavily in administrative technology, the self-study found examples where the available technology has not yet been integrated into work processes. The self-study committee recommends that Sauk examine its processes to ensure that technology is effectively used to streamline operations and reduce routine staff tasks.
  • Over the years, financial support of professional development and training for support, professional/technical staff, and administration has been reduced. The self-study committee recommends an increase in funding for professional development for the non-faculty positions, especially for job-specific needs.
  • Professional development is primarily voluntary and the selection of topics generally left to the individual. The self-study committee recommends that Sauk create a system that encourages professional development in identified topics of importance to the college, while also continuing to be responsive to personal growth needs.
  • Nontraditional occupations mini-conferences have successfully attracted potential students to Sauk. However, a review of the data suggests that high school students who attend the programs do not always enroll at Sauk. The self-study committee recommends that Sauk proceed with its plans to review and revise the programs during FY12 to address these issues.