Master Planning

Sierra’s Planning, Governance and Budget Allocation Process

The college’s planning processes are integrated with resource allocation decisions through two distinct but connected processes that occur at the departmental level: 

  1. Program Review (completed on a three-year cycle); and
  2. electronic Program Assessment and Review (ePAR) that is completed annually. Most departments engage a significant portion of their staff in developing the reports. The Program Review committees for Academic and Student Services and Operations evaluate programs, develop a summary analysis of the review process and its findings, and present these results to their respective senates, the Planning and Resource Allocation Committee, and Strategic Council. Program Review evaluations and the executive summary provide assessment evidence for resource allocations; these reports also present each department’s three-year planning and needs assessments.

e-Par Cycle

The annual e-PAR cycle provides for shorter range departmental planning and also is used to track and evaluate departmental progress on achieving course and program level student learning outcomes (SLOs). Departments identify additional resources necessary to improve their SLOs (staffing, equipment, and facilities). Each resource request is also linked to one or more of the goals and strategies contained in the Strategic Plan. The ePAR requests are reviewed and prioritized at every level of the college: departmental, division, and each executive branch, where the top-tier list is prioritized for final consideration. The top tier from each executive branch is submitted to the Planning and Resource Allocation Committee (PARAC), a subcommittee of Strategic Council that makes a final recommendation to be sent to Strategic Council for review and recommendation.

Evaluation Cycle

An evaluation cycle was adopted by the Planning and Research Office in spring 2012 to coordinate all evaluation and review processes and ensure that the college engages in a systematic and recurring review of its planning processes. As noted above, a number of these elements are fully instituted at the departmental level through ePAR, program review, and curriculum review. Significant improvements have been made to ensure an ongoing, open, and collegial cycle of planning, goal setting, resource prioritization and allocation, and evaluation. These processes incorporate a variety of data measuring the college’s success in achieving its goals and have initiated or strengthened the ongoing process of data collection, assessment, and evaluation regarding student learning.

Rigorous, ongoing, and integrated planning processes are further demonstrated by the necessary link between information that PARAC assesses to make resource recommendations to Strategic Council and department and program ePARs. These two fundamental cogs of the planning process for the college are the conduit by which assessments of student learning at the classroom and department level are translated to the larger college community in reflection of its resources assessment and allocation. In fall 2012, PARAC revised the planning cycle to better reflect student learning needs and to more tightly align integrated planning with resource allocation.

Continuous Adjustment

The college continues to make adjustments to ensure that a systematic review occurs and to ensure that the results of program outcomes are used as a central element in strategic planning and resource allocation. The shared governance bodies involved in these processes include the Program Review Committee, Operations Program Review, Academic Senate, Classified Senate, Management Senate, PARAC and Strategic Council; all of these bodies ultimately accept as their charge the continuous improvement of student learning at the college. Planning processes and their review by governance bodies are included as part of the cycle of evaluation and the results are presented to Strategic Council for improvement of these processes. 

It is worth noting that the mission of the Planning and Resource Allocation Committee (PARAC) is to “continually review institutional needs.” This review of institutional needs is a key component to assuring the effectiveness of its ongoing planning and resource allocation processes. The continuous review (as opposed to annual review) attests to the deep commitment of the college to establish a culture of effective evaluation and evolution of its planning processes. Thus, continual systematic review and modification of the college's ongoing planning and resource allocation activities is something that is well established within the culture and institution of Sierra College.

For example, in recognition of an inadequate connection between our existing budget planning and resource allocation processes, and to better align our internal process with external budget realities, PARAC recommended a reconfiguration of needs assessment and resource requests. As of spring 2013, the campus dedicated a specific day each semester during flex week for planning and assessment purposes. This revision more effectively links all parts of the planning and resource allocation cycle and strengthens campus participation in the budget and planning process.

College Regularly Reviews Processes

The institution’s willingness to regularly and systematically review its planning and resource allocation processes has resulted in an improved cycle for budget planning and resource allocation and has produced new college policies for managing finances effectively and strategically, even in budget downturns. The college has worked hard over the past seven years to improve decision-making, particularly around resource planning and allocation and student learning assessment. Significant progress has been made since the last accreditation cycle to effect continuous quality improvement in all areas of the college’s communication but particularly in regard to linking student learning to planning at all levels of the college community.

This is evident in the integration of PARAC (Planning and Resource Allocation Committee) recommendations into the resource allocation process and in the continuous refinement of the college’s budget and planning per input from the college’s shared governance bodies. Additionally, Strategic Council (whose membership includes faculty, management, classified, and students) now plays a far more definitive and active role in District decisions, serving as it does as the central link tying input from the college’s constituent groups to the college’s CEO and Board of Trustees. The need for continued refinement and improvement of the college’s planning and budgeting processes is recognized by the college community as essential. The college’s robust shared governance structure, particularly in regard to budget planning, has ensured that the regular analysis and quality improvement of processes occur. - Taken from Self-Evaluation IB

The Educational Master Plan is a comprehensive plan for the College. This Plan provides specific direction and parameters for the implementation of programs, along with activities relating to the educational and support service programs of the College. The goal of the Master Plan is to assist the College in projecting the educational programs and support services that will be needed in the future. The Plan provides direction for improving the College services to students and the community. It is a dynamic document, flexible enough to adjust to new issues and needs that may arise and will guide decision-making at the College for years to come.

The Strategic Plan addresses the major demographic, educational and economic challenges facing Sierra College over the next several years and creates a framework to establish goals, set priorities and provides benchmarks against which to chart our progress. The plan is designed to serve as the foundation for all District planning efforts over the next three years.

The strategic directions and consequent assessments contained herein are to guide and strengthen the decision-making process. Driven by the primary objective of student success, this plan will allow the District to respond to future challenges and opportunities with more clarity and certainty than ever before. The plan summarizes the District’s role as an educational institution, the commitment to the community, and identifies unique assets and strengths. It serves also as a core document in the development and revision of the District’s other major planning documents.