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External Review

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The purpose of the Planning & Continuous Improvement Process (PCIP) is to create a more systematic, coordinated and comprehensive approach to planning and improvement throughout the university. The strategies, initiatives and outcomes that are generated and assessed as the result of this process will allow SCSU to achieve our mission, vision and strategic objectives, align across operational units, make strategic choices about our resource allocation and report on outcomes and achievements to our external constituents.

PCIP Manual

Purpose and Goals

Purpose

The purpose of the Planning & Continuous Improvement Process (PCIP) is to create a more systematic, coordinated and comprehensive approach to planning and improvement throughout the university. The strategies, initiatives and outcomes that are generated and assessed as the result of this process will allow SCSU to achieve our mission, vision and strategic objectives, align across operational units, make strategic choices about our resource allocation and report on outcomes and achievements to our external constituents.

The goals are to:

  • Integrate institutional and unit planning efforts to allow SCSU to act in a more focused, effective, efficient and transparent way
  • Position the university so it can respond more quickly to new opportunities
  • Provide a clear direction for future initiatives
  • Demonstrate accountability to SCSU’s stakeholders through purposeful measurement and reporting
  • Provide a framework for quality improvement at the university, unit and department levels that links annual planning and budgeting with assessment, program review and accreditation self-study
  • Provide a framework for integrating action planning and budget planning

Principles

  1. The ultimate goal is institutional and programmatic improvement. The Planning & Continuous Improvement Process (PCIP) process should exist, first and foremost, for the institution and its units. It should be the means by which the institution plans for its future, critically evaluates its own performance, and makes decisions about how to move in a positive, strategic direction. Long-term program viability is dependent upon a critical mass of students, faculty and/or staff, availability of space, and access to ongoing resources. Identifying institutional and unit opportunities and weaknesses is among the goals of IPCI. It is welcomed by the institution, and will be viewed in a positive light as changes and improvements are made.
  2. The process is ongoing and will change with the University. The IPCI process is based on the “Plan-Do-Study-Act” model and is designed with the belief that organizational improvement is ongoing and iterative. SCSU and its units should be as comprehensive as possible in their goals and objectives, but plans should be viewed as works in progress that are subject to change based on feedback about the plan itself, data from evaluation and assessment efforts, and changes in the institution and its external environment.
  3. Goals and measures will vary, but the process should be consistent across the University. It is expected that some measures will vary by unit throughout the institution, but the planning and reporting procedures used should be appropriately consistent. The process of planning, improvement, and measurement should be grounded in a common framework, and the recording, reporting and interpretation of data should be consistent throughout the entire process.
  4. Both effectiveness and accountability measures will be necessary. The terms “effectiveness” and “accountability” are used to represent complementary processes that serve different functions. For purposes of this plan, accountability means the demonstration of an institution’s performance measured in quantifiable terms to a public or political audience. Accountability measurement usually involves a demonstration that the institution is fulfilling its stated purpose and is using resources efficiently and effectively. Effectiveness is aimed at an internal audience and has institutional and programmatic improvement as the goal. Assessment and evaluation is a key component of the effectiveness process.

Alignment with Higher Learning Commission

St. Cloud State University’s Integrated Planning & Continuous Improvement Process is designed to support successful alignment with the criteria and expectation of the Higher Learning Commission, SCSU’s regional accreditor. According to the HLC: “Regional accreditation as carried out by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC) assures quality by verifying that an institution (1) meets threshold standards and (2) is engaged in continuous improvement.”

Similarly, the IPCI process is designed to ensure the rigor, relevance and quality of our academic, student-support and administrative programs and services and to work toward continuous improvement of these programs as our students and external demands evolve. Consistent with the HLC’s Open Pathway process, the IPCI process will contain both a quality assurance component and a continuous improvement component.

The Program Review self-study and report aligns with the HLC’s Assurance Process, including the expectation of evidence from assessment and evaluation, to support the arguments made in the self-study. The annual planning and reporting cycle supports the HLC’s Improvement Process, including the articulation of improvement initiatives in the annual planning documents, as identified through the assessment and evaluation.

Alignment with Minnesota State Board Policy

The 5-year Academic Program Review process is designed to comply with Minnesota State Board of Trustees Policy 3.36, which states:

Part 7. Academic Review. Each system college and university shall regularly review its academic programs for the purpose of academic planning and improvement.
Each system college and university shall submit an annual summary of its academic program review activity to the chancellor.
The chancellor, as appropriate, may conduct statewide or regional reviews of academic programs or program clusters, report findings to the Board of Trustees and, when necessary, impose conditions on academic programs.

Description

Stage 1: Planning

University Strategic Action Plan

Through the strategic planning process, the University will develop strategic goals, objectives, action items, and measurable outcomes, which will be achieved in a pre-determined time frame. With an eye to the University’s changing political and market environments, the President and management team, and the Strategic Planning Committee will develop a forward-thinking plan that will allow the institution to develop strategic responses that are consistent with the University’s mission and vision and provide opportunities for continued institutional improvement and success.

Unit/College level Strategic Action Plans

Based on the University’s Strategic Action Plan, each unit/college will develop a Strategic Action Plan that supports the achievement of SCSU’s Strategic Action Plan. Each unit/college Strategic Action Plan should include plans for each of its offices/departments and include:

  • Clear mission and vision statements
  • Report on current trends, market data and best practices for the division and units
  • Strategic objectives and initiatives with clear links to SCSU’s Strategic Action Plan and division and unit data and analysis
  • Assessment or evaluation plan, including explicit and measurable outcomes

Service Evaluation, Program Review, and Accreditation

The annual work, resource planning and implementation components of the PCIP are designed to support and align with departments and programs that undergo national accreditation and program review self-studies. The planning and implementation work as well as the annual data collection and analysis should support this process.  More extensive self-study, review and evaluation opportunities should serve as a long-term planning framework for programs and services. These [programs and services] will be implemented through the annual planning and reporting process outlined in stages 3-5. Service offices should use the annual work, resource planning and implementation process to identify goals and performance measures and to report on the performance of those goals.

Stages 2: Annual Work And Resource Planning And Implementation (2-Year Cycle)

Strategy becomes action through the University’s Annual Work Plan. All items that appear in the University’s Annual Work Plan should support SCSU’s Strategic Action Plan. Timelines and responsible individuals will be identified. A mid-year progress report will be developed and reported to the campus. An annual progress report will be developed and reported to campus and key University stakeholders.

The Annual Work Plan straddles the line between futures planning and continuous improvement. It provides the framework to link institutional priorities to resource allocation. Because the annual work plan includes annual emergent and planned strategies, it becomes a natural place to evaluate progress toward strategic goals and to amend strategic priorities and actions, if needed.

At the beginning of each planning cycle, the University will provide annual work plan template, along with planning data to each unit/college. Directors, chairs and coordinators will use the University Annual Work Plan template and their own strategic action plan, program review, accreditation, and assessment, evaluation, and planning data as the basis for annual work planning within their unit.

Each department, college and unit on campus will develop a set of annual work plans, one for the current fiscal year (AWP) and one for the next fiscal year (AWP+1) that outlines:

  • the area’s planned activities and initiatives for that fiscal year
  • how those activities and initiatives support the college/unit/university strategic plans
  • expected outcomes from those activities
  • how these outcomes will be measured and reported, and a
  • budget plan that identifies anticipated revenues and expenditures for the unit

A benefit of preparing annual work plans in advance is that it provides a method to connect SCSU’s Strategic Action Plan with its budget process and allows for better resource allocation planning by the institution and its units.

Stage 3: Data Collection

Each work plan (institutional and unit) will specify anticipated outcomes, and how those outcomes will be measured. Data collected, including how market data and stakeholder feedback, will be incorporated. Because outcomes will vary based on the specific goals of each unit, data will be collected at various points throughout the fiscal year.

Stage 4 (A): Year-End Report

Each unit will submit a year-end report using institutional and unit-specific data to demonstrate achievement or progress toward the achievement of goals and outcomes. The results of this analysis will be used to update the subsequent work plan and to identify areas of improvement or opportunities for growth or achievement to be addressed in future work plans. Examples of successful initiatives will be shared with the campus community to celebrate successful examples of good practice that could be applied to other units.

Stage 5 (B): 5-Year Program Review & Evaluation

Every program and service unit will complete a self-study every five years, according to the schedule listed in Appendix C.

Academic Departments and Programs

A. Annual Planning and Performance Measurement Expectations

Consistent with the annual planning expectations in the PCIP, academic departments and programs are expected to engage in annual planning and performance review activities that include an assessment of performance based on department/program goals and outcomes.

At the beginning of each planning cycle, the University will provide annual work plan template, along with planning data to each department/program via the Department/Program Dashboard. Academic departments/programs will use the University Annual Work Plan template and their own strategic plan, program review, accreditation, and assessment, evaluation, and planning data as the basis for annual work planning within their unit.

Each department will develop a set of annual work plans, one for the current fiscal year (AWP) and one for the next fiscal year (AWP+1) using the template provided (Appendix XX). Areas to be included are:

  • analysis of data available through Department/Program Dashboard
  • progress on Improvement Project (see below)
  • the area’s planned initiatives for that fiscal year, such as implementation of specific assessment results
  • how those initiatives support the college/unit/university strategic plans
  • expected outcomes from those initiatives, including a measurement plan
  • estimated resource implications (revenues and/or expenses) for all initiatives

During September, the Dean/Associate will meet with each department/program to review annual plans and performance data. Departments/programs will incorporate feedback from their Dean/Associate Dean into their planning documents and submit final documents to Dean/Associate Dean.

Based on department/program planning documents and college or school-level strategic initiatives, the Dean/Associate Dean will prepare College/School planning documents for submission to the Provost & Vice President of Academic Affairs. Any resource requests related to the planning documents should be submitted at that time.

B. Improvement Project

At least every five years, departments/programs will identify and implement a substantial improvement project designed to improve student learning and success within their current degree programs, to develop a new degree program that is interdisciplinary in design and/or clearly meets workforce needs or to support a strategic objective within SCSU’s Strategic Action Plan. Identification of an appropriate improvement project may come from a number of sources, including assessment findings, market research, Academic Program Review or accreditation findings. Departments/programs should submit their improvement project to their Dean/Associate Dean for approval as part of the annual work plan discussion in the September following Academic Program Review or Accreditation. Progress should be reported during each annual planning report. A comprehensive report should be provided as part of the next scheduled Academic Program Review or Accreditation self-study.

C. Academic Degree Program Review (5-Year)

The purpose of the Academic Degree Program Review is to encourage the continuous improvement of SCSU’s degree programs. The process is a self-study, followed by an external review. The external consultant writes a report to which the department responds. Then, in consultation with the Dean, the department determines a plan to carry out any recommendations for program improvement which arise in the process. The plan is incorporated into the strategic and annual planning process of the department or program.

Student Support and Administrative Units

A. Annual Planning and Performance Measurement Expectations

Consistent with the annual planning expectations in the PCIP, student support and administrative units are expected to engage in annual planning and performance review activities that include an assessment of performance based on established department goals and outcomes.

At the beginning of each planning cycle, the University will provide an annual work plan template, along with performance data via the University Dashboard. Departments/offices will use the University Annual Work Plan template and their own strategic plan, assessment, evaluation, and planning data as the basis for the annual work planning within their unit.

Each department will develop a set of annual work plans, one for the current fiscal year (AWP) and one for the next fiscal year (AWP+1) using the template provided (Appendix XX). Areas to be included are:

  • analysis of data available
  • progress on Improvement Project (see below)
  • the area’s planned initiatives for that fiscal year, such as implementation of specific assessment or evaluation results
  • how those initiatives support the major unit/university strategic plans
  • expected outcomes from those initiatives, including a measurement plan
  • estimated resource implications (revenues and/or expenses) for initiatives

During September, the supervising Vice President will meet with each department/office to review annual plans and performance data. Departments/programs will incorporate feedback from their Vice President into planning documents and submit final documents to the Vice President.

Based on department/office planning documents and major unit-level strategic initiatives, the Vice President will prepare Unit planning documents for submission to the President. Any resource requests related to the planning documents should be submitted at that time.

B. Improvement Project

At least every five years, departments/offices will identify and implement a substantial improvement project designed to improve student success, operational improvements or to support a strategic objective within SCSU’s Strategic Action Plan. Identification of an appropriate improvement project may come from a number of sources, including assessment findings, market research, program review or accreditation findings. Departments/offices should submit their improvement project to their Vice President for approval as part of the annual work plan discussion in the September immediately following their department review or accreditation. Progress should be reported during each annual planning report. A comprehensive report should be provided as part of the next scheduled Department Review or Accreditation self-study.

C. Academic Degree Program Review (5-Year)

The purpose of Student Support & Administrative Department Review is to encourage continuous improvement of SCSU’s student and administrative departments. At the request of the Department or at the discretion of the Vice President, an external evaluator can be engaged. The Vice President reviews the Department Review (and the external evaluator’s report, if available) and provides recommendations for improvement. The department determines a plan to carry out any recommendations for program improvement which arise in the process. The plan is incorporated into the strategic and annual planning process of the unit, department or office.

Funding

The rules about what the University will cover are roughly the same for both the PCIP process (aka Program Review) and Accreditation.

Departments are responsible for:

  • Providing documents, such as the university catalog, relevant brochures, and the self-study report to reviewers (translation: printing and binding costs).
  • Food for faculty and staff at any events during the site visit (NOTE: this requires the submission and approval of a Special Expense Form to cover costs). Programs can, however, use their foundation funds without the need for a Special Expense Form.
  • Postage

Dean’s offices are responsible for:

  • Annual dues to accrediting bodies
  • Faculty reassignment for self-study work

The University Program Review Office will cover the direct expenses:

  • Travel for site visit (air, hotel, food, etc.)
  • Regional/National Meetings. NOTE: only if the accrediting agency requires attendance. This does not apply to Program Review.
  • Accrediting body fees due at the time of accreditation (over and above annual dues, which are paid by the Deans).
  • Honorariums for reviewers. NOTE: Program Review only unless an honorarium is included in the accrediting body invoice.  

Please contact the University Program Review office and/or the Contract Specialist in Business Services for additional information on current funding and travel policies.

Appendices (Forms and Timelines)