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St. Petersburg, FL 33711
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Strategic Planning Recommendations
Special Programs Division
Following is a summary of the Special Programs division's strategic plan that was developed during the spring and summer of 2003. Detailed plans and background materials for individual programs are available from the Special Programs Office.
The Special Programs division was founded in the mid-1970s to extend the mission of the college by developing and delivering educational programs to serve diverse audiences and to generate net revenue to help balance the college's annual operating budget. The division experienced continuous growth in the 1980s and 1990s; however, in recent years, the division's overall growth has been flat - some program areas have grown while other areas reached capacity, declined or were eliminated. In FY03, the division generated $10.16 million in gross revenue and returned $2.74 million before overhead charges (and $2.257 million after overhead charges) in net revenue.
In February 2003, President Eastman created a Special Programs strategic planning group and charged it with the following responsibility:
"To examine all programs and operations within the Special Programs division to determine their relationship to the core mission of Eckerd College and their relative strengths, weaknesses, challenges and opportunities."
The group was instructed to develop a comprehensive plan with a three-year planning horizon that specifies key strategies for positioning and strengthening current programs and identifying and prioritizing new programs and growth opportunities.
To complete the strategic plan, committees were established on the following topics:
Division Administration and Finance
Program for Experienced Learners
Management Development Institute
Conflict Dynamics Profile
Alternative Certification for Teachers
Summer Programs: Conferences and Summer School
Senior Programs (General)
ELS Language Center
Division Outreach and Marketing
Each group produced a report that addressed the program area's relationship to the college's mission, analyzed the program's performance over the past three years, reviewed the internal and external environmental factors, considered opportunities and priorities, and developed action plans, objectives and evaluation criteria. The plans for the respective program areas were driven primarily by the administrative staff members who will be responsible for implementing them; however, the planning process provided opportunities for input from knowledgeable people from outside the program area.
The mission of the Special Programs division was affirmed as follows:
Within the context of the mission of Eckerd College, the mission of the Special Programs division is to foster lifelong learning by providing innovative, nationally recognized, high quality educational programs, products and services for diverse audiences. These programs, products and services build upon the unique character and traditions of Eckerd College, promote lifelong learning and help individuals and organizations fulfill their potential. Special Programs contributes to the quality, diversity and financial strength of the Eckerd College community and assists Eckerd to fulfill its mission as an outstanding liberal arts college.
The Strategic Planning Report
This executive summary highlights the major trends affecting the Special Programs division and the initiatives identified through the strategic planning process that will guide the division over the next three years. Each component program area developed a plan that included an analysis of recent performance, an assessment of the current landscape (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and challenges) and both strategic and operational plans for the future. Individual program plans are available through the Special Programs' office.
Key Trends Impacting the Special Programs Division
American higher education is experiencing one of the most dynamic eras in its history. Myriad new developments, such as demographic changes, public policy shifts, calls for increased accountability, the emergence of new educational enterprises, increased demand for lifelong learning and the growing influence of technology in pedagogy, are transforming basic operations of colleges and universities. Within the context of these large, social trends, several salient local trends have impacted Special Programs and have influenced the development of our strategic plan.
Trend #1 Programs within the Special Programs division are experiencing a dramatically changed competitive landscape. After continuous growth in the 1980s and 1990s, the Special Programs division is now faced with a significantly changed competitive landscape. World events, the domestic and international economic recession and increased competition have impacted programs, as have new competitors, advances in technology, demographic shifts, globalization and changing needs of clients.
Of particular significance to Special Programs and the Program for Experienced Learners is the deregulation of Florida higher education that has enabled public sector colleges to expand both credit and noncredit programs aggressively throughout the state. Deregulation initiatives have affected PEL much more than the residential program. Impacting PEL most severely has been legislation that permitted St. Petersburg Junior College (formerly SPJC, now St. Petersburg College, SPC) to offer baccalaureate programs and USF branch campuses in St. Petersburg and Sarasota to expand their lower division and baccalaureate degree offerings. Both SPC and USF have experienced double digit growth during the past two years. PEL has also been impacted by the emergence of proprietary schools, the proliferation of satellite campuses of other private colleges and the creation of new educational models, such as the SPC University Partnership Program that enables out-of-area colleges to offer 2+2 programs in cooperation with SPC. The Partnership Program now includes over 52 degree programs. The glut of competitors in the Tampa Bay has blurred prospective students' understanding of the distinctions among postsecondary institutions, particularly between the not-for-profit and proprietary or for-profit sectors.
Decreases in traditional sources of revenue, such as tuition, endowment earnings and state and federal funding, have caused colleges to adopt more business-like practices and to pursue alternative sources of revenue. Throughout the country, colleges of all types, including some of the most prestigious private institutions, are aggressively seeking new revenue streams through expanded missions, aggressive outreach programs and entrepreneurial activities. New educational enterprises, partnerships and collaborative ventures among colleges and between colleges and for-profit groups are proliferating.
Trend #2 Current programs have limited opportunities for growth. While some programs within the Special Programs division continue to grow (e.g., executive training) or have the potential to grow (e.g., Conflict Dynamics Profile), other programs, such as Elderhostel and summer conferences, have reached capacity or have physical space constraints that limit opportunities for substantial growth. In some cases, such as PEL, programs will be hard pressed to sustain current enrollment levels. Others, such as the ELS Language Center, have experienced severe and likely long-term declines in enrollments due to geo-political and international economic conditions. If Special Programs is to grow or even sustain present revenue levels, new sources of revenue must be created.
Trend #3 Demographic and social changes present opportunities but also require program updates. Each program area has identified demographic and social changes that require programs to be updated and redesigned to meet the changing needs of clients. Given the nation's recent economic problems, a much larger percentage of students entering PEL today are unemployed, underemployed or less securely employed than anytime in our history. Consequently, PEL students appear to be more short term, job-focused than in the past. With baby boomers approaching retirement age and the growing popularity of continuing education as a leisure activity, there appear to be opportunities to expand programming for seniors. The needs and interests of baby boomers are very different from those of their parents and will require significant changes in our approach to senior programming. In corporate training, there is a discernable shift away from an emphasis on personal or individual development to a focus on business development and tangible results (i.e., training's return on investment).
Trend #4 Technology has and will continue to have a major impact on teaching-learning strategies and marketing strategies for all program areas. After several years of disappointing results and some highly publicized failures at major universities, online education is now growing rapidly throughout higher education in enrollments, acceptance and perception of quality. Almost all colleges now have online courses and over one-third offer complete degrees on line. Growth in online education has been particularly evident in state universities and community colleges and in adult education programs. Annual growth in online education is expected to exceed 20% for several years with the greatest growth occurring in private, for-profit institutions. Among institutions offering adult degree programs, there appears to be a trend away from creating satellite campuses and toward online degree programs.
Online education is already used extensively in corporate training and is expected to continue to grow and expand its share of the training and executive education market. With some notable exceptions, online education is not yet used extensively in senior education programming; however, the number of seniors owning and using computers and the sheer size of the baby boomer market approaching retirement age make rapid growth of technology-based or technology supported courses for seniors very likely.
Trend #5 Special Programs' success is very dependent upon quality programming, satisfied customers and repeat business. Continued success will depend upon new program development and entrepreneurship. Each program within Special Programs found that its success is contingent upon its reputation for quality programs and satisfied customers. Components of quality programming include outstanding program content and design, exceptional instruction, quality service, personal attention, attractive facilities and amenities. Sustaining program quality is instrumental to our future success.
Historically, the approach to budgeting Special Programs has focused on a short-term, annual net budget and an expectation that approximately 25%-30% of gross revenue (before expenditures for utilities) would be returned to the college's operating budget as net profit. Sharp declines in one program area (e.g., ELS) must be made up by gains and cost cutting in other programs. Research and new program development funds have come from operations and no provisions are presently available to carry over funds from one fiscal year to another. Cost cutting to meet the annual net budget has resulted in few funds to support investment in individual or program development activities.
The strategic initiatives presented below resulted from the overall planning process and summarize the activities that are thought to provide competitive advantage, improvement and the best opportunities for continued success of individual programs and the Special Programs division as a whole.
Initiative #1 Rename and reposition Special Programs and link it more closely with the college's institutional advancement and outreach activities.
Change the name of Special Programs to the Division of Continuing and Professional Studies to communicate more clearly the mission and function of the division.
Strengthen the outreach and marketing efforts within the Special Programs division by improving planning and coordination of individual program outreach efforts (marketing events, web pages, publications, media relations, press releases, etc.).
In cooperation with the President's Office and the Advancement Office, develop a comprehensive outreach plan for the college including general public relations and outreach to individuals, government, corporations, foundations and other key constituencies.
Meet regularly with representatives from other offices to monitor the plan.
Initiative #2 Actively encourage entrepreneurial activities within the division to identify and cultivate new sources of net revenue.
Create a 'business development group' and charge it with responsibility to identify and develop new net revenue producing opportunities; complement the campus group with knowledgeable individuals from the community who will meet periodically with staff to stimulate ideas, identify opportunities and provide advice on new ventures.
Hire a Special Programs grants writer to secure grants and gifts from corporate, government and foundations to support projects and provide seed money for new ventures. The salary for the position will be covered from currently vacant positions and through grant revenues. Funding priorities include leadership training and development programs for special audiences, such as the Center for Conflict Studies and the Center for Lifelong Learning.
Work with Advancement to cultivate friends and development opportunities for the college, including naming opportunities for the division and for facilities and programs within the division.
Develop an incentive system that encourages and rewards exceptional performance at the program level.
Explore cooperative ventures and partnerships that expand and complement current capabilities.
Develop an approach to budgeting that provides funds to support new program initiatives.
Initiative #3 Reinforce the division's commitment to quality programming and continuous improvement.
Maintain commitment to continuous quality improvement in all phases of programming including curriculum, instruction, facilities and food service. Continue to evaluate all aspects of programming and respond quickly to issues and concerns raised by participants.
Invest resources to attract, retain and develop outstanding instructors and staff. Build annual increases into adjunct pay scales.
Implement a staff development program to expand staff members' skills and abilities.
Develop and implement a repair and replacement plan to ensure that program facilities are well-maintained and attractive to program clients.
3.5 Cultivate close working relationships with arts organizations and other community-based organizations to enhance programming opportunities.
Initiative #4 Focus on executive training and development as a key growth area.
4.1 Increase capabilities for expanded programming
Hire an additional trainer (completed)
Recruit additional adjuncts to assist with program delivery
Create new custom program offerings
Create new products (e.g., games, exercises, programs) for sale to the training industry
Secure approval as a GSA (federal government) service provider
4.2 Focus on LDP as the flagship program for LDI. Explore an expanded relationship with the Center for Creative Leadership to brand LDI more broadly as a CCL network associate and to cultivate new programming opportunities.
4.3 Expand and revitalize outreach and marketing efforts to focus on target audiences, including utilities, law firms, government and not-for-profit organizations.
Initiative #5 Develop the Conflict Dynamics Profile as a revenue source.
Establish a Center for Conflict Studies to foster research, development, new products and promotion of the CDP.
Create an online version of the CDP.
Create new versions of the CDP including a 'self' version and a 'pairs' version.
Host a national conference on the CDP to increase visibility and use of the instrument.
Link with professional organizations and associations concerned about conflict issues (e.g., alternative dispute resolution; mediation) as a key marketing strategy.
Initiative #6 Reinforce PEL's position as the leading and highest quality adult degree program in the Tampa Bay region.
6.1 To remain competitive, PEL must focus on its positioning and niche in the regional adult education market. Specifically, it must: a) be responsive to the changing needs of adult students; b) articulate to prospective students the value of a liberal arts education to successful careers; c) more effectively communicate the program's distinctive features to prospective students, employers and graduate schools. These distinctive features include outstanding instruction, personal attention, exemplary customer service, innovative teaching-learning strategies and success of our graduates in graduate and professional schools, employment and community service.
6.2 Revitalize marketing and outreach efforts to focus on:
Positioning PEL as the best adult degree program in the region
Soliciting referrals from PEL students and alumni
Recruiting students and alumni from community colleges
Using technology creatively in web pages and e-marketing
Developing broad-based relationships with decision-makers at key corporations (involving PEL, LDI and continuing education)
6.3 Eliminate administrative barriers to enrollment and improve administrative systems supporting the PEL program, including:
Increasing financial aid for adult students
Developing more flexible payment options for adults
6.4 Increase PEL's online and technology-based capabilities to enable PEL to use technology skillfully to improve student learning.
Utilize online learning to complement classroom instruction
Use technology to strengthen directed and independent studies
Explore new delivery systems, such as blended learning, that address working adult students' needs and interests
Hire an instructional design specialist to work with instructors to expand technology in PEL.
6.5 Improve adjunct compensation to attract and retain outstanding instructors.
6.6 Streamline and focus curricular offerings
Determine the appropriate majors to offer at each of-campus location
Explore the feasibility of an honors track
Create dual enrollment certificate offerings to complement degree programs
6.7 Strengthen services and communications with program alumni.
Improve communications with alumni
Expand career and educational services for alumni
6.8 Market alumni college more effectively to area graduates.
6.9 Improve off-campus facilities.
Initiative #7 Develop a national center that will position Eckerd College as a leader in lifelong learning.
Build upon the success and expertise of ASPEC, Elderhostel and Senior College to develop a national center to serve people seeking to transition from their primary career to other productive activities;
Implement a two or three day transitions workshop for people making career or life changes; develop variations of the workshop for different audiences, (e.g., individuals, corporations, employment groups); secure external funding for the workshop;
Link the center with area economic development groups, government units, health organizations and practitioner groups researching issues important to seniors;
Develop linkages with key lifelong learning organizations such as the Chautauqua Institution and other leading lifelong learning institutes;
Develop a senior community leadership program for executives new to the area (through partnerships with local chambers);
Develop strategies to foster senior scholarship;
7.7 Cultivate friends of the college to support key initiatives.