Category 8 – Planning Continuous Improvement

8C1 Institutional Overview

The College vision and mission statements were adopted in 2000. These principles guide the
institution in its planning efforts. The mission statement–“East Central College will provide an
environment for lifelong learning”–encompasses the wide range of programs and services offered
by the institution. This statement is adopted as institutional policy by the Board of Trustees (Policy
1.2). The vision statement–“ECC will connect its community to its future”– reflects the College’s
desire to meet the multitude of needs found in its constituencies. Taken together, these principles
comprise the general purpose and mission of many comprehensive community colleges.

8C2 Strategies and Their Alignment

Beyond the mission and vision statements, the 2008-2011 Strategic Plan outlines the institution’s
common learning objectives (Figure 1.1), and seven strategies (Figure 8.1) which outline the
expectations the College has for itself over the next three years. Each strategy includes specific

Figure 8.1

Strategy One:
Student Success

East Central College will provide students with the necessary learning resources to develop and achieve their educational and personal goals.

Strategy Two:
Student Support

East Central College will provide comprehensive support services to foster a positive and effective learning environment.

Strategy Three:
Academic Affairs

East Central College will design, enhance and deliver comprehensive instruction to promote academic excellence and student learning.

Strategy Four:
Community Leadership and Collaboration

East Central College will establish and strengthen collaborative relationships with its educational and community partnerships.

Strategy Five:
Institutional Environment

East Central College will effectively organize and manage its human and financial resources.

Strategy Six:
Facilities and Grounds

East Central College will maintain, improve and expand physical facilities in order to provide a safe and effective learning environment.

Strategy Seven:

East Central College will maintain current technology in order to provide a modern learning and working environment for its students and employees.

In 2003, ECC adopted the AQIP accreditation model and began transformation to a continuous
quality improvement institution. As with most institutions, transformation is not easy and takes time
and effort. ECC has provided faculty and staff training and used staff development days to
promote continuous quality improvement strategies. The nine AQIP Categories figure prominently
in planning discussions and the Action Projects have emerged as a useful tool in addressing
processes strategically.

The College’s Campus-Wide Master Plan, completed in 2005, reviewed physical space
utilization on campus and provided a vision for campus growth. This plan led to the construction
of the Allied Health and Science building, the addition of a second campus entrance and other
campus improvements.

Academic units on campus maintain current three- to five-year plans to address academic
programs, scheduling, staffing and budget needs. Taken as a group, these documents guide
planning to ensure student learning. In addition, the College plans in areas of instructional
technology, learning support and assessment.

8P1 The College Planning Processes

The Board of Trustees, as elected representatives of the College district, provide the overall
direction of the institution. The authority for administration of the institution is delegated by the
Board to the College President. Strategic plans, including the 2008-2011 plan, are developed at
the direction of the President. With input from various stakeholders, the plan outlines the broad
goals of the institution. Each semester, as part of in-service development activities, the Strategic
Plan is a topic for presentation/discussion.

Annual planning is reflected primarily in the budget and staffing plan, which is developed
collaboratively by administrators and department heads.

While the plans are developed concurrently, the needs outlined in the staffing plan drive much
of the budget development. In fiscal year 2009, salaries and benefits account for 72% of spending
in the general fund. Decisions regarding staffing and salaries have significant influence on the
budget as a whole.

Annual review of staffing typically begins in January. Deans and Division Chairs review current
staffing levels, planned retirements or resignations, needs for new personnel and/or changes in
employment status (full-time versus part-time, professional [exempt] versus support [non-exempt]
staff). These needs reflect the strategies and goals of the Strategic Plan.

Budget planning also begins each January. Deans and Division Chairs begin the process with
a review of current budgets and plans for increasing or reducing spending in the coming year.
Administration begins the planning process with a review of revenue, including projections from
tuition and fees, state aid and local property tax revenue. As the budget development proceeds
in the spring, state aid for the coming year is determined by the legislature and governor, providing
a refined estimate for approximately 33% of the College’s general fund revenue. By March of
each year, the College has received the largest share of local tax revenue due by the close of
the preceding calendar year. These receipts provide the basis for projecting estimates for the
coming year. Local tax revenue accounts for approximately 35% of general revenue in FY09.
The third major source of revenue comes from tuition and fees, which are reviewed beginning in
January. The College typically establishes tuition and fees for the coming year prior to the start of
fall semester enrollment, which begins in mid-March. Tuition and fees provide approximately 28%
of general revenue.

With revenue projections in place, and preliminary decisions made regarding staffing and
salary adjustments, development of the proposed budget is completed by April.

Other planning decisions that affect the budget include the outlay for capital projects (many
of which are or have been identified in the Campus-Wide Master Plan), funding for new initiatives
(which may result from processes such as AQIP Action Projects), and review of expenditures for
items that may no longer be strategically important.

The budget and staffing plan are adopted concurrently by the Board of Trustees, typically by
May of each year; the fiscal year begins July 1. Taken together, the budget and staffing plan
determine how the institution’s resources are to be deployed over the course of the year. Both
documents are continuously reviewed and may be amended as necessary as needs arise.

Assessment planning is done through the appropriate divisions and the assessment committee;
department plans are reviewed by the committee and submitted and reviewed annually.

The College does not utilize a standing process or committee for long-range planning. Planning
does occur and is effective but may not occur within the framework of a formal or structured
planning process. The College does ensure that various plans—whether long-term or short-term,
institutional or departmental—are integrated and include specific and measurable goals by which
to measure effectiveness.

8P2 Short-Term and Long-Term Strategies

Long-term strategies are included in the Strategic Plan, the development of which is described
in 8P1. Factors influencing the adoption of long-term strategies include state long-term plans
and their effect on the institution (the current plan, “A Coordinated Plan for the Missouri Higher
Education System,” was adopted by the Coordinating Board for Higher Education on July 30, 2008),
trends in state budgeting, legislative action and other governmental influences. In addition, the
strategies may be affected by external events such as national or regional economic conditions,
current issues in higher education such as campus violence and emergency preparedness.

Short-term strategies are adopted and reflected primarily in conjunction with the budget and
staffing plans. These plans are developed collaboratively by administrators and departments.

Whether or not a strategy is accomplished is a function of budget, commitment and student
need; conflicting expectations are resolved by the President.

8P3 Annual Action Plans

Goals supporting the organizational strategies are included in the 2008-2011 Strategic Plan.
These goals provide a foundation on which specific plans can be developed. Strategies were
developed through input from College personnel who had a direct connection (e.g. Director of
Information Technology supplied input on technology plans) to specific goals and strategies, as well
as, input from the entire College. While specific targets have yet to be defined, accomplishments
towards the strategic goals and targets will be tracked and communicated to the College and its
stakeholders through an annual strategic plan performance report.

The development of action plans may take place in a variety of ways. In some instances,
the plan is developed at the direction of the President, typically under the supervision of the
appropriate Dean. Action plans are also developed within the context of AQIP Action Projects
which are carried out by the institution, with review and comment by the HLC. In other cases,
planning originates from needs identified or expressed by various constituencies (students, faculty,
community, staff, and external entities) out. Through the use of existing departmental structures, or
by committee, these plans are then developed and carried out.

8P4 Planning Alignment and Coordination

Coordination and alignment of departmental planning processes, organizational strategies
and goals and action plans are the fundamental responsibility of administrators. By definition,
administrators are responsible for ensuring that the work of the institution is effectively planned
and executed, and sufficient resources are provided and organized to carry out these plans. The
institution’s governance structure—including the Board of Trustees, President, administrators, and
input from other stakeholders—is intended to ensure that this alignment takes place.

The Office of Institutional Research, Assessment and Planning is charged with coordination of
these processes and ensuring that the institution reports, gathers and analyzes appropriate data
to measure their effectiveness. This Office also ensures that the Strategic Plan addresses all levels
of the institution (faculty, staff, administration, divisions/departments) and considers the needs of
the College’s other campuses.

8P5 Measures and Performance Projections

Measures are determined contextually. For assessment planning, measures typically are tied to
benchmark data or other related measures. Performance projections are often based on these
static data sets; others are established as targets. Where external measures exist, the institution uses
this data as appropriate; the information is provided through the Office of Institutional Research,
Assessment and Planning.

The College also follows the guidelines and performance expectations determined by the
Missouri Department of Higher Education. The recently adopted Coordinated Plan for the Missouri
Higher Education System serves “as a foundation for prioritizing goals, justifying an increased
resource base, allocating resources, and implementing dynamic strategies to provide Missouri
residents with the educational opportunities they need to be competitive on a global scale.”
The College has also identified two institution-specific measures to complement the Coordinated
Plan and fulfill reporting requirements set forth in Senate Bill 389. An annual performance report
generated from The Plan will include information about the performance of Missouri’s higher
education system as a whole, and performance of individual institutions where relevant and

In other cases, appropriate indicators are determined as part of the administrative process. A
recent example is the classification and market study conducted by the College in order to make
salaries more competitive. Through the use of a firm engaged by the College, market salaries from
peer institutions and employers were used to establish goals for wages at both the entry level
and for employees who have been in their current position for a minimum of five years. Those
benchmarks were used to enact salary adjustments that brought salaries to the appropriate levels
beginning in FY2009.

The College now participates in the National Community College Benchmark Project (NCCBP).
This project will provide a mechanism by which the institution can determine appropriate measures
of effectiveness and compare itself to peer institutions.

Finally, departments may incorporate measurable objectives as part of their specific goals or

8P6 Accounting for Resource Needs

Resource allocation is determined as a result of the budget process previously described. Budget
planning and staffing are based on historical data and performance, projections as appropriate
and identified needs within the institution.

Units at the College have the flexibility to reallocate resources within their divisions as needed
and as prioritized. The business office has in place processes to streamline the reallocation of both
financial and human resources as needed.

In addition to priorities at the unit level, the College considers regulatory or legal obligations,
accrediting or approval requirements, health and safety matters, alignment with the College’s
planning processes, and all items associated with helping students learn as resources are

8P7 Developing Faculty, Staff and Administration Capabilities

Each employee is evaluated annually. As part of that evaluation, particular goals are determined
based on institutional needs, plans and requirements. Development plans are devised based on
the evaluations. Individuals are sent to various workshops and seminars as institutional needs are
determined (i.e. assessment planning, AQIP).

Institutionally, annual planning activities revolve around institutional needs and major initiatives.
Each semester’s in-service activities present development opportunities for all faculty and staff
and are targeted to specific learning needs. For example, as the College moves from WebCT to
Moodle as the institutional learning management system, training and development opportunities
have been and will continue to be ongoing. A majority of faculty and many staff have had
opportunity to participate in such training.

The College ensures that faculty, staff and administrator capabilities are developed and
nurtured through a variety of means. Employee evaluations provide an opportunity to review
performance and identify individual strengths and weaknesses. The evaluations also provide a
mechanism to review individual goals that have been developed collaboratively by the employee
and supervisor and establish goals for the coming year.

On a larger scale, the College looks for opportunities to provide training or other resources to
ensure staff are able to address the changing requirements demanded by the organization’s plans.
In some cases this is done through broadly based initiatives designed to provide the opportunity
for development and advancement. For example, the College has recently increased its level of
reimbursement for employees who wish to pursue advanced degrees. The College now reimburses
those employees at a rate equivalent to 100% of the current University of Missouri tuition for the
appropriate course. As a result, nearly 20% of full-time employees have taken advantage of this
opportunity to enhance their skills and expertise.

8P8 Measures of Effectiveness for CQI

The best measure of the effectiveness of planning continuous quality improvement is analyzing
if strategic goals are being met. While a formal Strategic Plan performance report and a statewide
performance report have yet to be created, many goals in these plans are continuously being
measured. Measures, such as listed below, are monitored, analyzed and reported on regularly.

  • Enrollment
  • Finances
  • Retention
  • Completion
  • Student success
  • Community involvement and collaborative relationships
  • Financial aid and affordability
  • Student satisfaction

Other measures of effectiveness related to continuous quality improvement include, but are not
limited to:

  • AQIP Action Project feedback, updates, and implementation
  • Master Plan project implementation
  • Course and faculty evaluations
  • Graduate student survey
  • Campus Orientation surveys
  • Technology survey
  • Advisement survey
  • Performing Arts Center survey
  • Evaluations of particular activities on campus
  • Performance evaluations of employees

Results from these activities are used by various College departments or academic divisions to
monitor the performance or progress towards that department/division’s strategic goal.

8R1 Results for Institutional Strategies and Plans

The College’s previous Strategic Plan identified 3 strategic areas with 13 overall goals. The plan
lacked a system for measuring the institution’s performance toward strategic goals. In 2008, the
College began the process to develop a revised plan. The plan expanded to 7 strategic areas,
24 goals, over 100 goal supporting strategies, and nearly 100 measures of performance. While the
plan is still under review, there is already evidence that the plan supports the College’s continuous
quality improvement initiatives. Figure 8.2 displays the relationship between retired and ongoing
Action Projects and specific goals and strategies outlined in the College’s Strategic Plan (see
Figure 1.18 for Action Project descriptions and status).

Figure 8.2

Strategic Plan Goal
A.P. 1
  • Increase access and improve the success of “at-risk” students (Goal 4, Student Success)

4.1, 4.2

A.P. 2
  • Provide the opportunity and support for all students to take advantage of postsecondary education (Goal 2, Student Success)
  • Create a college-wide understanding of assessment and establish a process for assessing student learning (Goal 3, Academic Affairs)
  • Enhance teaching and learning by integrating and increasing instructional technology (Goal 4, Academic Affairs)


3.4, 3.5, 3.6


A.P. 3
  • Increase access and improve the success of “at-risk” students (Goal 4, Student Success)

4.3, 4.4

A.P. 4
  • Ensure an institutional climate that values employees (Goal 2, Institutional Environment)

2.3, 2.4, 2.5

A.P. 5
  • Promote and strengthen the academic advising system (Goal 2, Student Support Services)
  • Provide an array of student support services to enhance students’ collegiate experience (Goal 1, Student Support Services)
2.1 – 2.8
A.P. 6
  • Provide the opportunity and support for all students to take advantage of postsecondary education (Goal 2, Student Success)
  • Provide an array of student support services to enhance students’ collegiate experience (Goal 1, Student Support Services)
A.P. 7
  • Improve the visibility and positive awareness of East Central College (Goal 2, Community Leadership & Collaboration)

In some departments and organizational units, strategies and implementation plans are carefully
laid out and accomplished; results are dependent upon the unit developing the plan and the
nature of the plan or project. Results may be tangible and/or measurable (e.g., a remodeled art
gallery, improved salary plan - see ECC 2008-2011 Strategic Plan, Institutional Environment, Goal 2,
Strategy 2.2), or intangible and/or indirect (e.g., revised and updated assessment plans, results of
Action Projects).

A current example is the cost to attend East Central College. Currently, the College has the
lowest tuition in the state. This is the result of the institution’s affordability goal (see ECC 2008-
2011 Strategic Plan, Student Success, Goal 2, Strategy 2.2) and based on sound management of
resources. The result is quantifiable and can be compared to peer institutions.

8R2 and 8R3 Performance Projections and Comparison Measures

Within the College, certain strategies and plans are clearly defined and articulated with
performance goals. One example is the College Master Plan. The Master Plan has provided a
framework for the College to implement several major projects and renovations to be carried out
in the next 1-3 years.

The Strategic Plan, now under development, does not include performance projections. As the
Strategic Plan evolves, performance projections and implementation plans will be included. The
College’s participation in the National Community College Benchmark Project and the statewide
Coordinated Plan has provided the framework for the institution to develop relevant targets and
a mechanism for comparison to other higher education institutions.

8R4 Evidence of the Effectiveness of Current Planning Processes

As previous sections of this document indicate, the emerging planning process has helped the
College order its priorities and achieve significant results. To facilitate the state and institutional
goal of increasing student access, the College has made keeping tuition and fees low, a high
priority. Likewise, the College has sought to recruit and retain high quality faculty and staff by
making significant salary increases and professional development opportunities a high priority.

Action Project #5, Redesigning Student Advisement, led to the formation of the ECC Quality
Services Group (QSG). The group tackles issues related to student support services; primarily dealing
with improving customer service and the enrollment process. QSG is lead by the Dean of Student
Development and has representatives from departments such as Admissions and Registration,
Counseling and Advisement, the Bookstore, Business Office, Information Technology, the Learning
Center, Library and Instruction. The group meets regularly and through this collaboration has
effectively tackled several issues, such as:

  • Improvements to online registration through changes in the cutoff date for online course
  • Cost-effective and timely communication to students has improved through a
    collaborative effort to get all students to activate and utilize their Falconmail (student
    email accounts)
  • The process for student deregistration for non-payment was changed because the current
    process was ineffective and time consuming

The College also expects specific evidence of continuous quality improvement to be shown
once the ECC Strategic Plan is fully integrated, implemented and measured.

8I1 Improvement of CQI and Planning Processes

ECC continues to integrate continuous quality improvement and its related process within the
institution. Comprehensive strategic planning processes continue to be refined at the College.
Since these processes are being more fully developed, a measure of improvement will be their
complete implementation. Part of the development process includes methods for analysis of
effectiveness and accountability.

8I2 Targets, Improvements and Communicating Results

The Action Projects have been a useful tool in helping faculty and staff determine targets for
improvement, planning for improvement and evaluating results. Each Action Project group has
learned from its predecessors in goal setting, planning and timelines. These iterations of project
teams and project development have been examples of improvement.

The College recognizes its need for a structured planning process that is integrated across
the institution. Seeking feedback on the College’s various planning processes needs to occur at
every level of the institution. The College will continue to collect and use data to determine the
effectiveness of the current planning process. Additionally, finalization of the ECC Strategic Plan
will address improvement priorities, targets and communication of results.

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