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Project Title:Curricular Audit for Cost Containment and Student SuccessInstitution Name:Lyndon State College Innovation Category:Resource Management Project Director:Donna Dalton, Dean of Academic and Student AffairsContact Information:(802) 626-6406, donna.dalton@lyndonsatate.eduWebsite:http://www.lsc.vsc.edu/
Project Description:This initiative involved an in-depth analysis of every academic program to determine its financial viability and its success in serving students.  A comprehensive set of data was compiled and analyzed by an academic administrative team.  Data and preliminary observations were shared with each academic department and the team met with departments to discuss potential curricular changes.  The analysis occurred over one year with follow-up analysis and curricular revision spilling into the subsequent year.  The project has resulted in the closure of several academic majors, minors, and concentrations and the pruning of required and elective courses.  These changes resulted in cost savings for the college.  The analysis of student success measures has focused faculty on developing strategies to increase student success in their programs.
Objectives:The main objective of this project was to “right-size” the curricular offerings and realize financial savings.   A secondary objective was to systematically review student success outcomes as an indicator of program effectiveness with the goal of calling faculty attention to program areas in need of improvement.  To do so, we had to determine which programs (majors, minors, and concentrations) were maintaining, declining, or growing enrollment and which programs were supporting student success in terms of retention, graduation, and placement rates.  To achieve these objectives, a data set was defined, collected, and analyzed and shared with department faculty.  Summary data was shared with department faculty with preliminary recommendations from the team for faculty review and comment.  The administrative team met with each department several times to finalize curricular changes to be presented to the Faculty Assembly for endorsement.
Outcomes:To date, seven majors and ten concentrations have been eliminated; over fifteen courses in other majors have been eliminated.  A first glance at the financial impact indicates approximately $500,000 was saved the first year, with greater savings anticipated over the phase-out of majors.  Other less tangible outcomes include the focused attention of faculty on the cost of delivering curricular offerings and the need to garner efficiencies in the curriculum.  The analysis has brought to faculty attention their responsibility to structure their program to support student success.  While full realization of this responsibility will take time to embed in the culture, the process has begun, and over the coming years each department will be required to develop and implement such things as a plan to increase retention and graduation rates, concrete plans to support graduate placement, etc., in order to enhance student success.  As a result of the data gathering and analysis, a set of curricular benchmarks has been established including minimum enrollment in programs, target retention rates, etc.
Challenges/Problems Encountered:Curricular scrutiny and resource containment is a significant challenge as curriculum is viewed as the sole purview of the faculty; in order to move the project toward the desired outcomes, we clearly defined the objectives and outcomes at the start and defined the data set to be used to drive the ultimate decisions.  Department chairs and faculty had open access to all data and the administrative team met intensely with each department to discuss the analysis and recommendations.  In the final stages of the work most departments supported the initial recommendations; a few decisions were ultimately made by the president.  In several instances the data did not convey the full picture and faculty discussions led to altering or abandoning the initial recommendation.  There were external challenges as well, e.g., being in a five-college system with a single faculty union, there was speculation and concerns as to whether or not the work at Lyndon might spread to other colleges.  Additionally, being located in a small, rural town, rumors of program closing created a buzz in the community as to the financial well-being of the college, which could impact student recruitment and capital campaign solicitations.  These issues required constant attention and careful messaging.
Evaluation Approach:Many aspects of this project have been evaluated through an assessment of the resulting elimination of programs and courses and the initial financial savings.  The specific data elements and outcomes were initially determined by the president and the deans’ council; other elements were included over time as the project evolved.  The president and deans will continue to work on assessing the impact of the project over the next several years.  This group is also observing and monitoring changes in the culture–such as departmental scheduling of courses, curriculum committee scrutiny and endorsement of new courses and programs, and any changes in departmental student supports.  It will be the president and academic dean who will take the lead on assessment with the assistance of the deans’ council; department chairs will be held accountable for work within their departments.
Potential for Replication:We now have a replicable model which identifies the basic data elements needed to be gathered and a methodology for the analysis.  There is a process outlined for working with faculty to bring them into the analysis, incorporate their recommendations, and endorse the outcomes.  Our experience has generated a list of considerations to be recognized throughout the project’s implementation.  Every institution is different with different stakeholders and culture; while we have developed a basis model, it will have to be customized for each college/university to ensure success.
Additional Resources:Carole A. Moore, who retired from the presidency of Lyndon State College in July 2011, served in the lead role in coordinating the curricular audit, which involved program consolidation while maintaining academic quality and boosting student success. She is pleased to consult with any inquiries on the approach/model used at Lyndon State, and the positive outcomes that were generated. She can be reached at 802-371-8390 or carol.moore@lyndonstate.edu.
CEO-to-CEO Contact:Joseph Bertolino , Presidentjoseph.bertolino@lyndonstate.edu
(802) 626-6404
Date Published: Thursday, August 18, 2011