SPA Goes Green

By: Alka Arora Singh, Dean of Strategy, Planning & Accountability Have you ever seen a group of six employees pacing around campus? You know, the ones talking animatedly and oblivious to the world? If you get close enough to them you might hear head-spinning terminologies like analytics, forecasting, compliance, and planning. Hey, somebody’s got to work on all these super cool projects and GCC’s lucky team is from the Office of Strategy, Planning & Accountability (SPA): Sarah, Owan, Jay, Eddie, Phil, and Alka.

SPA works on several key functions and mission critical institutional projects. Some examples follow.

  • Institutional Research. The new paradigm for higher education is data informed decision making. Some recent examples for GCC include course load analysis, data for SSI and Developmental Education, and Market Analysis.
  • Accreditation from the Higher Learning Commission (HLC) and Compliance. Abiding by federal regulations is the ticket to Title IV federal financial aid for our students. Some current work in response to stakeholder needs pertains to Gainful Employment, Debt-Income Ratios, and Student Success.
  • Strategic Planning.  GCC has three planning tiers: Tier I (college plan); Tier II (divisional plans like Academic Affairs and Student Affairs); and Tier III (departmental or operational). These plans are integrated top-down (vertically) and also integrated (horizontally) with resources, assessment, and review for continuous quality improvement and student success.

Okay, so what is the outcome from all this crazy amount of work? How does SPA contribute to the institution, and help with student success? Glad you asked!

  • SPA worked closely with the instructional deans and department chairs to develop a more data-informed and efficient course schedule development process in 2014.  The process was instrumental in reducing GCC’s instructional budget deficient by approximately $2,000,000.
  • GCC proactively sought HLC approval for our three additional locations in 2013. Had this not been done in a timely fashion, Title IV federal funds used at those locations would need to be returned to the U.S. Department of Education.  While this amount can vary by enrollment, the amount could be $100,000 or more. When GCC had its routine review from the Office of Civil Rights (OCR) in 2013, one of the items on their agenda was handicap accessible seating in the Performing Arts Center (PAC).  The college worked with OCR on a solution that met the seating needs while at the same time saving renovation costs exceeding $1,000,000.
  • GCC received an award for Institutional Innovation and Integration in 2014 from the Society for College and University Planning (SCUP). Only one college in the nation receives the annual award, which recognizes innovative thinking, planning and implementation in strategic planning. The award acknowledges GCC for allocating resources successfully and effectively linking them to the institution’s vision, mission and academic priorities. GCC received publicity value worth $218,000 from this award.

Every one of the initiatives above helps students be successful: efficient course schedules, accreditation and financial aid, and planning.

The Office of SPA is committed to meeting local and federal mandates, and providing top quality customer service in keeping with industry best practices. The office takes pride in meeting your needs in an accurate, timely, and consistent fashion. And all this while helping the college save approximately 3.3 million dollars in less than two years (from a small sample of projects). Not too shabby for a bunch of geeks eh?

If the Green Efforts Committee is reading this post, SPA does work with various dimensions of green beyond dollar bills. We skip printing when possible, turn off our lights when out of the office, and recycle!

For more information on the Office of Strategy, Planning & Accountability, please visit