Environmental Scans

The scan includes several elements: the internal values survey, external survey (legislators, media, community), internal environment scan (survey and focus group data from all internal stakeholders), and external media scan (competition, social, demographic, economic, political/legislative, technology trends),the NCA accreditation report to the campus and the Cultural Diversity and Anti-Semitism Reviews. For the sake of this plan, we will use data from the last data collection cycle (1996) until new data is available.

Internal Environment Scan


Most staff enjoy working at SCSU, but need updated equipment resources and more training especiallycomputer training.. Staff expressed the need for more time to adequately perform the job duties. Staff think academic programs and the work ethic of employees are things SCSU is doing well. Staff overwhelmingly feel that SCSU must communicate better within and without and be more appreciative/respectful of staff. They also said security in buildings could be improved.

Departments/programs/areas/units (DPAUs)

Most DPAUs define their primary function as teaching and service to students.. They have either a mission or vision that they see as consistent with that of the University. Most DPAUs identified recruitment of faculty and students as a goal and accepted goalsfrom outside sources such as accrediting agencies. Most DPAUs expressed need for more faculty, technology, and/or space. They see licensing/legal requirements, changing level of responsibilities of our students, and changing technology as the major trends that have implications for planning.

Major strengths identified were high quality faculty, staff, and programs.. They felt that some things about the faculty need improvement, such as more research, more diversity, more up to date knowledge. They identified their main constituents as students. Many suggested that the best performance measure would be some type of student evaluation either current or after graduation and insisted that FTEs were NOT a good measure of a quality education. They suggested that we fix the current database, evaluate administrators, and do a long term follow up of graduates to assess the state of the institution. There is a widespread opinion that suggested that SCSU is distinguished by its friendly, caring campus, good size, good faculty, and international programs. Most DPAUs suggested that they were distinguished by their internships and accreditation.


Survey responses indicate that entering most freshmen want a small group class format. Two-thirds of freshman have a degree in mind, but 40% percent want advising on careers. Most say they are coming here to get a job/career, not to get an education and are NOT coming to SCSU because they heard it was a party school. Many believe they need special help in writing, reading, math, study skills, and/or speaking.Sixty percent want to participate in intramural athletics. Of the 33% that want to volunteer, 48% are females, 56% are minorities. Most entering freshmen get information by visiting the campus itself.

Student focus interviews indicated that they had positive attitudes about teaching and professor accessibility and the fact that they have teachers rather than grad assistants in the classroom. They appreciated the number and diversity of student organizations, free Internet access and e-mail, athletics and intramural sports, internships and study abroad opportunities and the Volunteer link. Many also mentioned positive attitudes toward child care center and support services.

Students included the following in their negative responses concerns about advising. Access was an important issue among students. They wanted more evening and weekend classes, more sections of English 162, 163 and Speech 161, longer hours for bookstore and library. They expressed need for smaller classes, and no auditorium classes. The only facilities concerns were for more trash cans and bicycle racks and more parking. They wanted to see all teachers use evaluations, and needed placement tests. They wanted more computers and technology. These desires have been largely met with the opening of the new Miller Center Library. They also wanted better communication between financial aid and business office.

External Environment (As Of 12/19/96)

Demographic Trends:

This is the most recent data available from Minnesota Extension Service (Minnesota profile of demographic, social and vital statistics, prepared by Bud Crewdson & Kim Holschuh, St. Paul, Minn. :, 1996) which will be updated in the near future. The changes in the population will be characterized by a leveling off of traditional college students and growth in non-traditional groups. The population of the state is aging. The proportion of those Over 40 will sharply increase. The median age of Minnesotans in 1990 was 32.5 years. By 2020, the median age will be 40.0 years. The number of traditional age students is expected to grow for the next decade. The young adult population will peak in 2015, then begin to decline. The variations in this age group are projected to be less dramatic in the coming 30 years than in the past two decades.

Minority population growth will account for a larger share of total population growth in the future. Minnesota's total minority proportion is expected to to rise from 6.3 percent in the year 1990 to 15% in 2020, , but this is still far below the current national average of 24 percent. These rates of increase are attributable to high in-migration rates for most minority groups, combined with a younger age distribution and higher fertility rates. African Americans will remain Minnesota's largest minority group in the year 2020, according to projections. Asians and Pacific Islanders will remain the state's second- largest minority group. The state's American Indian population is expected to grow from 49,909 people in 1990 to about 91,490 in 2020, a gain of more than 80 percent. The Hispanic population is projected to be about 150,000 people in 2020. This is an increase of 178 percent.

Jobs/Economy Trends:

In 2001 the economy took a downward trend which was exacerbated following the events of September 11. Many workers in the Central Minnesota area are threatened with Job loss following the closing of Fingerhut unless a buyer can be found. This may negatively impact the whole region, although there are efforts to obtain Federal relief. It is possible that some displaced workers may find means to return to school.

From Minnesota : profile of business and labor, ( 1999, prepared by Bud Crewdson & Kim Holschuh.
St. Paul, MN: Minnesota Extension Service), and from a scan of other relevant publications.

One-third of new jobs will require a college degree by the year 2010 (currently 25%), while one-third of new jobs will require a college degree by the year 2010 an even higher percentage will desire a college degree for employees.

Small firms will continue to create a significant share of new jobs. Large corporations are cutting management layers, and small firms are being created in greater numbers. The number of self-employed will grow; many will work at home using computers. Life-long learning will be necessary for workers due to restructuring and career changes. There is a growing presence of U.S. firms in other countries and greater international competition for markets. As the people of Minnesota increasingly interact across national boundaries, a better understanding of other cultures and nations is necessary.

Technology will drive the economy, but jobs will rely on the ability to acquire knowledge. Future job skills will require communications, critical thinking and analytical skills. The fastest growing occupations in Minnesota that require a college degree are: computer systems analysts, computer engineers & scientists, preschool and kindergarten teachers, special education teachers, marketing, advertising and public relations managers, social workers, physicians and surgeons, personnel/training/labor relations specialists, and physical therapists.

Competitive Forces:

The competitive forces group was charged with scanning the external environment with a focus on the competitive external environment in which St. Cloud State University operates. First the group identified our primary educational competitors . Their findings from a student choice point of view are that our primary competitors are first the University of Minnesota- Twin Cities, second the University of Minnesota-Duluth, third, Mankato State University, and fourth all the private school together with the exception of the University of St. Thomas for graduate programs. Next, we reviewed the web pages plans for these competitors to analyze our goals for distinctiveness. It was found that these institutions are responding to many of the same trends we are but our focus on the global environment in general and multi-cultural efforts in particular provide us with the greatest distinction.

The competitive forces scan revealed many positive characteristics of St. Cloud State University, including the sense that SCSU has generally strong academic programs and is a leading institution within the MnSCU environment. In addition, negative characteristics that could provide tremendous future opportunities, were identified. Many of the contacts were supportive, yet candid, regarding what SCSU must do to thrive in the future such as become less isolated.

Political-legal Trends:

The federal legislative prospect was bleak, but has improved somewhat in the 1990’s. Federal funding for higher education, including financial aid, is unlikely to increase. The public and policy-makers question the value of a bachelor's degree. Public confidence in higher education has declined. There is a public perception that higher education does not manage its finances effectively. Society expects universities to contribute to economic development and to the solution of public policy problems.

In the state of Minnesota, since 1987, the proportion of the total state budget provided for higher education has declined by more than 20%. Higher education's share of state funding likely will continue to decline in competition with other social needs. MnSCU will emphasize 1) academic accountability, defined as measuring student achievement in all areas of learning, and 2) operating efficiency. State funding and MnSCU funding increasingly will be tied to performance. SCSU does not have a strong public identity. The public and policy-makers often do not distinguish between SCSU and Mankato State, Moorhead State, and the University of Minnesota-Duluth. External leaders perceive SCSU as high quality and a positive place, but inwardly-focused, inflexible, unresponsive, and not innovative.

Technology Trends:

The technology trends group was charged with scanning the environment with a focus on identifying key technology trends that would present threats or opportunities for SCSU. Based on literally hundreds of technology-related contacts, the subgroup compiled what it considered to be the most important technology trends (threats and opportunities). Technology to support instruction and the delivery of education was a primary interest item. This includes using technology to support instruction in the traditional classroom, to using technology to support the more controversial "electronic university." This is underscored by the MnSCU chancellor's workplan initiative in e-learning. Using technology to improve services to students, including advising and administrative support, was identified as an important use of technology. Technology planning, training, and funding were also identified as key technology issues.

Specific MnSCU plans for information technology, including e-learning are as yet undertermined, although recommendations are expected in July 2002. In higher education there is a need to balance aspirations for productivity, access, and quality through use of information technology. Information technology is expensive and costs for replacement, upgrading, training, and support must become an integral part of all budgeting. Universities are recognizing the need for institution-wide planning and a vision about the use of information technology. SCSU Student interest in information technology centers on: the need for training and basic information technology literacy, careers, the need to have the requisite computer skills and the use of computers for job searching and networking, greater use of computers for student services, such as on-line registration with search capabilities, and the desire for SCSU to be a leader in the use of information technology.

Faculty/staff interest centers on: .... maintaining institutional competitiveness, .... the need for planning, .... the need for additional resources, .... the desire to see SCSU exert leadership, .... and improving teaching.

Distance education is seen as both a threat and an opportunity by faculty/staff and students. For example, the numbers of "higher education providers" will grow with innovations in information technology. The focus of concern is maintaining quality. Improving access through distance education is seen very positively. Support for use of information technology in student services is high among staff and students. Deterrents to doing so are perceived to be MnSCU barriers and funds. Staff and faculty have asked for more training and support services. The new library provides an extraordinary opportunity for SCSU to lead within MnSCU and the state and to provide focus.

Strengths/Weaknesses and Threats/Opportunities:

The Strategic Planning Committee methodology called for us to utilize the data we had gathered to identify our internal strength and weaknesses and our external threat and opportunities. On November 11, 1996, the SPC spent a full day going over all our findings (presented above). Then the SPC identified the strengths/weaknesses and threats/opportunities that SCSU faces at this times. Those identified are presented below in brief form. Recall that it was on the basis of our perceived current strengths/weaknesses and threats/opportunities, that the SPC built its draft strategic goals and objectives.

Internal Strengths

  • Talent- student, faculty, staff employees are student focused
  • Quality programs
  • Location
  • Culture
  • International programs
  • Physical plant
  • Diversity of programs
  • National accreditation
  • Dedication of faculty/staff
  • Integrity of faculty/staff
  • Faculty and staff commitment to student success
  • Advising
  • Student opportunities on and off campus
  • Enriched environment for students
  • Students get a lot for their money (educational value)
  • Lots of access for students
  • Range of academic support
  • New library is strength for campus and larger community
  • Remediation assessment (math)
  • Access to faculty
  • Variety of academic programs
  • Professionalism
  • Diversity
  • Teaching institution
  • Low faculty/student ratio
  • Comprehensive (variety of programs)

Internal Weaknesses

  • Lack of reliable, capacity information technology infrastructure
  • Communication when not in agreement
  • Lack of shared vision
  • Personal agendas/division on campus - faculty Vs staff; mgmt. Vs support staff
  • Lack of consistent leadership
  • Not tenured as an administrator at first (MnSCU)
  • Lack of ownership in campus community
  • Lack of holistic implementation of goals, vision
  • Crisis are handled differently than strategic/vision
  • Lack of student preparation
  • Parking problems
  • Lack of interaction with MnSCU
  • Not enough programs towards community
  • Chronic underfunding
  • We struggle with diversity-reactively
  • Climate of distrust
  • Distrust of administration
  • Losing diversity
  • Quality service on a shoestring
  • Budget issues
  • Lack of transparency
  • Campus communication
  • Mutual distrust
  • Peer pressure
  • Staff not trained adequately in different areas
  • New students feel lost

External Opportunities

  • Opportunity to build on National recognition (in education) NCATE -
  • Define who we are based on us versus what others are doing
  • World is valuing education more and more
  • International programs
  • International student population
  • Creative funding
  • Create an effective assessment program
  • Diversity issues give opportunities
  • Positioned well in region (large # students)

External Threats

  • Budget
  • Declining student quality
  • Future funding
  • MnSCU uncertainty
  • Distance learning
  • Faculty compensation program
  • Legislative mandate of assessment
  • Getting too big
  • Internally-inability to recognize how good we can be (settle for 2nd best)
  • Mandates from legislation/MnSCU - centralized power
  • Caught up on issues and not moving forward
  • Transfer trends

NCA Report to Saint Cloud State University

In the judgment of the team, the institution continues to fulfill this criterion. It continues to demonstrate integrity in its practices and relationships.

Institutional Strengths and Concerns

An analysis of the general institutional requirements, institutional changes during the last ten years, and evaluation of the five criteria for accreditation reveal both strengths and concerns.

Institutional Strengths

  1. Employees across the campus demonstrate a strong work ethic, commitment to the University, and sense of institutional pride.
  2. The physical plant is attractive, well maintained, and serves as a major institutional asset.
  3. The University enjoys a capable student body that exhibits a high level of pride and commitment to the institution.
  4. The commitment to technology and the addition of the new learning resource center position the institution for strong leadership in the 21st century.
  5. The commitment of the University to achieve specialized program accreditation is laudable.
  6. The collaborative effort between academic and student affairs is exemplary.
  7. There is broad support for the vision and leadership of the president.
  8. The campus leadership is commended for concurrently undertaking a large number of major initiatives.

Institutional Concerns

  1. The existing database does not provide sufficient information and data to support effective planning and decision-making.
  2. Scholarship across the campus is extremely uneven. There is little indication that faculty members across the campus understand or embrace the Teacher-Scholar model, and support mechanisms need to be strengthened.
  3. There is mixed evidence of campus-wide assessment, student achievement measures are quite traditional, and few examples exist of outcome measures producing substantial change.
  4. There is no assessment plan for the Bachelor of Elective Studies.

Suggestions For Institutional Improvement

Members of NCA teams serve a dual role as evaluators and consultants. In this section, advice and insights are offered by the current team. Statements that follow are clearly advisory and are not requirements or conditions of accreditation. Further, these suggestions should be viewed within the total context of the recommendation presented in the next section. Based upon their professional experience, team members offer the following suggestions:

  • The institution should establish an ongoing leadership development program on effective leadership in a collegial environment for new deans, department chairpersons, and selected carnpus leaders.
  • The University and City should form a joint task force to take university/business relations and economic development activities to the next level.
  • The campus needs to mount a campus-wide computer employee development effort, with a particular focus on academic applications and faculty development.
  • Campus leaders should press forward with state system officials, governmental personnel, and IFO leaders on the establishment of campus-based accountability measures, governance structures, and management procedures that will allow the institution to develop a higher level of independence and individuality.
  • The campus needs to find a way in the governance structure to ensure that the graduate dean is directly involved in the flow of material and the graduate decision-making processes.
  • Institutional and community leaders need to jointly explore ways to improve and enhance the level of interest in and support for diversity issues as they relate to minority and international students, faculty, and staff.
  • The University needs to establish an institutional research users committee to ensure the development of data processes needed for planning and decision-making.
  • The institution should conduct a campus-wide review of ADA Compliance.
  • The enrollment management team needs to develop an expanded plan including goals, objectives, timetables, and strategies.
  • The campus needs to develop a comprehensive information technology plan [including both administrative and teaching-leaning issues].

Team Recommendation

Based upon an assessment of the Self-Study and the campus evaluative process, it is evident that St. Cloud State University fulfills the Criteria for Accreditation. Under each of the five criterion areas, specific strengths and actions were identified that suggest the institution has the potential to serve the region and state in a viable manner. In the immediate years ahead, St. Cloud State has a significant opportunity to reach its fullest potential. It has an adequate level of human, physical, and fiscal resources. Effective executive leadership is present and an academic leadership team is being formed.

The leadership team is committed to creating a new future and has demonstrated a willingness to chart new directions. The strategic planning initiative currently underway has broad support and the potential to identify and support institutional priorities. The high levels of institutional pride and commitment to the institution provide a strong foundation for the future. State funding prospects and enrollment projections are strong. The emerging strength in fund-raising provides the necessary resource opportunity to shape a modest but bright future.

While the campus has made progress in its assessment efforts, continued attention is needed in this area. A progress report in the fall of 2000 is recommended in this regard. Also, a NCA site team should visit the Akita, Japan program by the year of 2000. Finally, the team's recommendation is that the next comprehensive evaluation should be 2007.

Cultural Diversity Review, Anti-Semitism Review

At the time of this writing, the president’s office had taken the lead on studies on cultural environment and anti-Semitism. Contracts have been signed, but these reviews have not yet been completed. The student government has also signed a contract with a diversity consultant with the work to be completed in the fall 2001. The 2001-2002 planning committee will work with the President’s office to define a plan to increase cultural diversity and social justice based on the findings of these reviews.