California’s current budget meltdown, the significant reductions in funding to the California community colleges, and the need for colleges to meet the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges’ (ACCJC’s) expectations on budgeting and planning have made Resolution 2.01 S08 timely. This resolution asks the Academic Senate for California Community Colleges to review its paper The Faculty Role in Planning and Budgeting to determine whether any update or further action is warranted in light of the 2002 Accreditation Standards. The paper itself was the result of Resolution 5.07 F99, which asked the Senate’s Executive Committee to research “best practices in planning and budgeting processes and to develop and present a paper … highlighting these practices with recommendations for local academic senates.” Written before the 2002 Accreditation Standards were released and applied, one could initially conclude that the paper needs immediate updating, particularly in light of the 2002 Standards which tie planning and budgeting to student learning. Yet, in reading this paper, one is pleasantly surprised by the currency of the principles used and recommendations made in the paper that apply directly to today’s accreditation and budget environment.
- In the paper, the fundamental recommendation is that local academic senates exercise their authority under Title 5 §53200(c)(10) to develop institutional planning and budgeting processes in collegial consultation with their governing boards. Moreover, faculty should ensure that planning and budgeting stay focused on providing quality instruction for students. With the 2002 Accreditation Standards and the introduction of Student Learning Outcomes (SLOs) and assessment, faculty potentially have even greater voice in this area because faculty should now have the data, whether qualitative or quantitative, to demonstrate what they need in order to improve instruction and ultimately, student learning. This goes to the heart of the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior College’s rubric on planning (see http://www.barstow.edu/accredit/rubrics.pdf ). Colleges are currently expected to be at the Sustainable Continuous Quality Improvement level of the planning rubric. Two bullets on the rubric speak directly to the fundamental recommendation in the planning and budgeting paper:
- The institution uses ongoing and systematic evaluation and planning to refine its key processes and improve student learning.
- There is consistent and continuous commitment to improving student learning; and educational effectiveness is a demonstrable priority in all planning structures and processes.
In other words, the 2002 Standards strengthen the faculty’s role in the budget and planning processes.
The paper then urges local senates to incorporate 25 principles into their planning and budgeting processes. Several of these principles bear repeating because they are coincidentally mentioned by the 2002 Accreditation Standards as effective practices and are strengthened by the faculty’s role in SLOs and assessment. The very first principle, “Planning should drive budgeting, never the reverse” is core to Standard I.B and improving institutional effectiveness. With student learning as the core of the 2002 Accreditation Standards, having assessments and data would immeasurably help a college determine its priorities and set goals even in the face of severe budget cuts.
The second principle is just as timely in the current budget meltdown: “Planning should always be for the first-rate, even in the face of second- or third-rate budget allocations.” As colleges slash their budgets, those most mindful that student learning is their core mission will find ways to prune back, rather than wholesale eliminate programs and services.
The third principle, “Planning, coupled with a critical assessment of successes and failures, is a means of taking conscious control of the process of serving students, and enables the emergence and elaboration of best practices,” is very much in line with the 2002 Accreditation Standards that colleges assess and evaluate what they are doing for their effectiveness. And the fourth principle, “Planning, in an academic context, should be a bottom-up process, that trusts to the expertise of faculty to determine what is needed to serve students most effectively,” speaks to SLOs and assessment. Faculty primacy in determining the SLOs and their means of assessment provides the data that get linked to program reviews that in turn have budget implications, which “closes the loop.”
While these are only four of the 25 principles outlined, the core of the paper is as relevant in 2009 as it was when first called for ten years ago. Based on core principles established by the Academic Senate positions, one can see how the 2002 Accreditation Standards interplay with the paper. Does the paper need updating? At the moment, it probably does not. However, should issues of SLOs, assessment, and budget and planning processes evolve as rapidly as they have in the last couple of years, it probably should be in the not so distant future.