Several goals outlined in an interim strategic plan for East Central College have been met.
In March 2018 the ECC Board of Trustees approved an interim strategic plan with goals for the following year.
“That was intended to take the existing plan and narrow it down to those items we knew we would be focused on in the next year,” President Jon Bauer said at Monday night’s meeting.
The interim plan was developed around categories with goals and objectives within each category.
One of the categories selected last year was helping students learn online by improving educational programming and offerings.
The goal was set at 3 percent growth through online credit hours. That goal was met and surpassed with a 11.9 percent growth.
“We certainly achieved that and then some,” said Dr. Michelle Smith, executive director of institutional effectiveness.
Improving the quality of online classes also was a goal. In October of last year, Chad Baldwin was named director of Online Eduction. Since then an Online Education Advisory board has been established and meeting regularly.
“We’re not just looking to increase numbers,” Smith said. “We want to do this well.”
Smith noted the addition of Baldwin and the advisory board has helped with the focus on quality.
The trustees also wanted to see an increase in dual credit and dual enrollment, specifically at area high schools.
ECC currently offers dual credit at 13 area schools and dual enrollment (online) at 20 schools.
Recently, a strategy called Three for Free was established to give high school students an opportunity to take three credit hours this summer at no cost through ECC.
The intent of this program is to motivate students to continue to take dual credit classes during the school year.
The college had 40 students enrolled in the Three for Free program with eight of them taking more than one class as of Monday.
Another objective set in the interim plan was to improve student retention rates. The target goal was to improve the rate from 57 percent to 60 percent by spring 2019.
The retention rate is based on a “fall-to-fall” semester analysis to see if they come back for a fall semester if they haven’t graduated in spring.
Smith said this goal was met.
In addition to retention rate, Smith said the completion rates also were a focus of this year. The goal was to improve from 34.94 percent to 42.6 percent by this spring.
Completion or transfer rates are based on whether a student graduates or transfers to a four-year institution.
The college has raised the rate by 10 percentage points in the last two years, passing the goal set last year by almost 2 percent.
“That’s really something to be proud of,” Smith said. “It certainly reflects the great work of our students.”
It also reflects the attention to detail of the student development division, she said, and the faculty’s support of the students.
Some of the work the student development division has been focused on is setting weekly enrollment goals. Attention to data, such as continuing student enrollment, new student enrollment and full-/part time enrollment, has led to these goals being met.
In turn, enrollment numbers have increased this spring compared to spring 2018 by 5.6 percent.
“We’re getting a handle on the really nitty-gritty work of enrolling students,” Smith said.
A new Early Alert Warning System also has been implemented for faculty and staff to use to reach out to students who are struggling in school. The system was implemented to help students reach completion of a degree.
Another objective in the interim plan was improving programs and services related to workforce development. Smith reported that the goal was met over the last year.
Compared to last year, the Center for Workforce Development Training enrollment increased 15 percent and the number of businesses and industries that were served increased from 28 to 41.
The third category in the interim plan focuses on how the college values its employees. This goal was measured through a survey that was administered last spring and again this spring.
The college has committed to offering the survey annually instead of every other year.
The survey results indicted the college needed to increase the engagement with employees through communication, collaboration and shared governance.
The spring 2019 survey has been completed by 145 employees and the results will be received in May.
Smith noted work on the new official strategic plan has begun and is hopeful it will be completed by August.