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Higher ed strategic plan has a name

A day after a prominent legislator questioned the need for a new higher education strategic plan, members of the Colorado Commission on Higher Education got a look at what that process might look like.

Rico Munn, new director of the Department of Higher Education, gave commissioners a three-page “concept paper” for what he’s calling the Colorado P.E.A.K Plan. The document was to be circulated to college presidents around the state later in the day.

The newest entry in the thick lexicon of education acronyms stands for:

  • P – Purpose
  • E – Excellence
  • A – Access
  • K – K-12 transition

According to Munn’s brief memo, the strategic plan is designed to address what the state needs from its higher ed system, the current funding crisis, other challenges and its relationship to the K-12 system.

And, the memo says, the plan “must provide for clear accountability measures.” (Accountability, including such ideas as tying funding to students graduated, not just students enrolled, is a hot topic in higher ed nationally.)

Munn plans to meet with college presidents about the plan next week, “with an eye toward doing some sort of launch event on Dec. 15.” According to the document, “the strategic planning process should be launched by a clear articulation of goals by the governor.”

The memo said the goals “could include some mix of” doubling the number of postsecondary degrees and certificates awarded (Gov. Bill Ritter’s Colorado Promise), increase in overall postsecondary participation, a larger role for community colleges, “targeted” improvements in remediation and retention, developing “some measure” for affordability and accessibility and “a standard for efficiency and sustainability” of the state system.

What’s envisioned is a steering committee, with two co-chairs, that would supervise the work of subcommittees. The memo says the steering committee would focus on developing accountability measures while the subcommittees would be organized by the P.E.A.K. acronym, to wit:

  • Purpose – Would examine changing demographics and projected needs for higher ed, institutional roles and relationships with business.
  • Excellence – In charge of examining governance and regulation, construction and data gathering.
  • Accessibility – Responsible for working on budget issues, financial aid and system efficiencies.
  • K-12 Transition – Assigned to work on admissions, remediation and retention.

The memo ends with this cryptic sentence; “Adequate project funding has been identified in the budgets of the governor’s office and the Department of Higher Education.”

Munn told the commissioners, meeting at Community College of Aurora, that the steering committee would periodically report back to them, and the final report would be done by the fall of 2010.

Commissioner Greg Stevinson, noting the group had received the memo only three hours before the meeting, said, “We need time as a group to sit down and look at this.”

Commissioner Happy Haynes, noting the governor’s role in the plan, said she “would hope we can have a dialogue with him.”

But, the commission had no further discussion of the matter Thursday.

On Wednesday, Munn and CCHE Chair Jim Polsfut met with the Joint Budget Committee for the panel’s annual higher ed briefing.

JBC Chair Rep. Jack Pommer, D-Boulder, questioned the need for a strategic plan, noting that Ritter’s first term will be ending and that many are calling for action now to deal with higher ed’s financial crisis (see story about that meeting).

Munn gave the commission a cursory rundown on that JBC meeting, noting facetiously “that was as pleasant as root canals can be.”

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