Vision: Let’s do something now

Colleges’ strategic plans usually set large, long-term goals, writes Mitch Smith on Inside Higher Ed.  “Vision (Insert Far-Off Year Here)” is a typical title, he writes.  It’s hard to see progress. A Rochester, New York community college has a different aproach:

Monroe Community College has its own set of long-term aspirations, but has also started a series of modest but tangible 100-day projects to improve the college. The first task: streamline the application and enrollment process so that prospective students have to create one password instead of three.

Anne Kress, the college president, sees 100 Days to Innovation as a way to move toward the big goals. Making it easier for students to enroll — by June 2 — will serve the college’s big goal of increasing enrollment eventually.

Monroe will select another 100-day project this summer, and one possibility is already in the works. The college wants to offer a one-credit class through community organizations designed to expose adults to college. By working with the Urban League or YWCA, Kress hopes to enroll nontraditional students who might have never pursued higher education but are intrigued by a program Monroe offers.

Improving institutional effectiveness and accountability is everyone’s strategic goal, says Kress. “But what does that mean, and how do you break that down to a micro level?”

“Mission statement rewrites, strategic planning and quality initiatives have no direct bearing whatsoever on student learning or program completion,” according to parody writer Jeffrey Ross, co-creator of the fictional Copperfield Community College and a professor at a real community college.

“At the control group institutions [No Plan Institutions—NPIs] all strategic plans, organizational studies, mission statement rewrites and quality control committee work activities were pulled, ceased, removed, bludgeoned, discarded, ignored, then sealed and buried for five years. Student completion rates for two-year AA degrees? Just nine years.”

“At the experimental group institutions [Too Many Plans Institutions—TMPIs] we encouraged constant mission statement rewrites, sustainability policy development, hired consultants to streamline strategic plans, created and duplicated feedback loops, retained additional administrators in important quality control areas and constantly asked for evaluations from internal and external stake beholders and steak eaters. Student completion rate for two-year AA degrees? Only ten years.”

The analysis  found only one  ”statistically significant input variable” determining college success: the student.