Community College of Philadelphia is an open-admission, associate degree granting institution that provides accessible, low-cost higher education for all who may benefit.  It is the largest degree granting institution in Philadelphia.  The College’s initial accreditation by the Middle States Association was granted in 1968.  Since it began operation in 1965, more than 523,598 students have enrolled at the College.  Community College of Philadelphia is the only public institution of higher education in the City of Philadelphia, and is also the largest single point of entry into higher education for students of color in Philadelphia.  The College’s Main Campus is a 14-acre complex located in the heart of Center City Philadelphia.  Three Regional Centers, situated at central points in Philadelphia’s northeastern, northwestern, and western regions, combined with more than 30 different community sites, extend the College beyond Center City.  The College’s diverse locations enable the institution to serve more than 43,000 credit and non-credit students in recent semesters.

The enabling legislation for Pennsylvania community colleges (Act 484) was enacted in 1964.  The key provisions of Act 484 created a funding model for Pennsylvania community colleges where financial support was to come from the local sponsor, the state and the student, and responsibility for institutional governance was maintained at the local level.  Under the original provisions of Act 484, a local sponsor (the City of Philadelphia in the case of Community College of Philadelphia) was to provide one-third of the operating costs and fifty percent of the capital costs of the college.  The State in turn would provide one-third of the operating costs and fifty percent of the capital costs, with the expectation that students would be responsible for the remaining one-third of operating costs.  While the notion of shared financial support for community colleges has been maintained since their inception, the equal one-third funding has been superceded by funding formula changes which have had the impact of reducing the amount of funding coming from the local sponsor for the operating budget and increasing the proportion that is paid by the State and the student.  In the current fiscal year, the City of Philadelphia is providing approximately 19 percent, the State is providing approximately 33 percent, and student tuition and fee revenues are paying for approximately 42 percent of the College’s operating budget costs.  The remainder of the College’s 2003-2004 funding is coming from other sources including investment income, grant support, miscellaneous revenues and the use of reserves.

Act 484 did not create a state system of community colleges.  The authority to appoint the Board of Trustees was delegated to the local sponsor.  Most programmatic and administrative decision-making authority was made the responsibility of the individual college and its board of trustees.  The State’s role is primarily defined in terms of financial issues which are administered through the Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE).  PDE is responsible for distributing state operating and capital dollars; approving major capital and construction projects, including capital leases; and through the State Audit staff, ensuring that a college’s use of state revenues and financial reporting practices are consistent with state laws and regulations.  All construction, procurement and hiring decisions are made at the local level without State intervention.  The State has defined standards which must be in place for credit and non-credit courses to be eligible for reimbursement, and oversees an annual review of career programs to confirm their eligibility for an additional State stipend which is provided to qualified career program FTEs.

 The College’s Board of Trustees is appointed by the Mayor of Philadelphia from a slate of candidates identified by a blue ribbon panel.  The 15-member Board of Trustees receives no form of compensation for their participation in Board activities.  Their principal duties include the appointment of the President of the College, the development of Board policies, review and approval of College budgets and fiscal year audits, approval of major financial transactions (e.g., major contracts and construction), and general ongoing review and oversight of programs and services.  The Board typically meets as a whole eleven times a year.  The full Board meetings are preceded by Board Standing Committee meetings in the three major organizational areas: academic affairs, business affairs, and student affairs.  The Board’s Standing Committees serve as vehicles for detailed discussion of specific issues, while the full Board meetings serve to officially approve the work of the Standing Committees as well as to discuss more global issues and policy directions for the College.

  Because the Pennsylvania community colleges operate outside of any formal statewide community college system, the colleges collectively formed a Commission for Community Colleges.  The Commission staff and activities are funded by membership dues paid by each of  the Pennsylvania community colleges.  The role of the Commission is to provide leadership for the formation of shared perspectives on key programmatic and funding issues for the Pennsylvania community colleges; it serves as an agent of the colleges that attempts to influence legislative and executive branch perspectives at the State level in a way that will support the financial and programmatic objectives of the community colleges.  In addition to presidents’ and trustees’ groups which meet regularly throughout the year, the Commission also supports activities by functional groups (e.g., chief academic officers and chief business officers) which help to coordinate financial and programmatic initiatives across the 14 Pennsylvania community colleges. 

The absence of a central system office means that the Pennsylvania community colleges are able to operate in a flexible manner with virtually all key decision-making occurring at the local level.  The downside of this local autonomy is that the colleges do not have an official voice and advocate at the State level for financial and policy decision-making.

Full-time faculty, part-time faculty and classified staff at the College are represented by the Faculty and Staff Federation of the American Federation of Teachers, AFL-CIO.  The Faculty and Staff Federation plays an important role in the governance and organization of the College through collective bargaining, resolution of grievances and structuring decision-making bodies.  The current Collective Bargaining Agreement extends through August 2006.

Progress Since the Last Self Study

The ten years since the last Self Study have been marked by growth and transition at the institution, including change in the College’s top leadership, most evident in the 1994 appointment of President Frederick Capshaw and the College’s profound loss at his death in 1998.  Dr. Stephen M. Curtis, a talented and experienced leader, became the President in 1999.  In the same time frame, the College redesigned its academic divisions and experienced turnover in several vice president positions.  Throughout this period, the College has had a dedicated Board of Trustees, a well qualified faculty, and a committed staff.  The collective efforts of the Trustees, administration, faculty and staff provide an environment that benefits the College’s students. 

Community College of Philadelphia has made considerable progress in addressing issues identified in the 1993 Self Study, including:

·        development of a Facility Master Plan

·        development and implementation of a Technology Plan

·        redesign and expansion of the Library space

·        replacement of the General Studies Program with two new degree programs, the Associate in Liberal Arts and the Associate in Culture, Science and Technology

·        addition of degree options at the Regional Centers

·        significant enrollment growth and facilities development at the Regional Centers

·        development of a Center for Business and Industry Building

·        creation of a Child Development Center

·        enhanced effectiveness of the College Foundation

·        increased effectiveness in securing grants. 

Since the last Self Study, a significant amount of College research has focused on assessing institutional effectiveness, including student learning outcomes.  Much of what has been learned through this research appears in published institutional reports that are circulated in electronic and paper format throughout the College.  Consequently, considerable information related to a wide range of student outcomes is available to the College community.  Follow-up studies of graduates and non-graduate former students indicate that graduates regard their education positively and perform well at transfer institutions and/or employment situations.  Furthermore, the results of licensure and certification examinations reveal outstanding performance by graduates of health professions programs.

In the past ten years, the College has worked to prepare itself, its students and the region for transformation to the new economy.  Faculty and staff strengthened the role of technology, expanded economic development initiatives, and blended global perspectives across curricula to ensure graduates are capable, knowledgeable workers and contributing citizens.  A comprehensive approach to distance education was developed including establishment of standards, faculty development, additional instructional delivery systems and development of a wide range of course offerings.  At the same time, the College significantly expanded computer based training and professional development opportunities including the creation of a Leadership Institute.

The Community College of Philadelphia Foundation, the private fundraising arm of the College, has grown significantly over the past few years.  The Foundation enhances and enriches the educational experiences of students by providing external resources to support student scholarships, capital needs, instructional equipment and the mini-grant program (which allows faculty and staff to improve the quality of the teaching and learning process or strengthen administrative services).  The assets of the Foundation have grown from $10,010 in 1995 to over $3,000,000 in 2004. 

The Office of Institutional Advancement oversees and administers all Foundation activities.  In addition to the Foundation, the Office of Institutional Advancement has secured a large number of highly competitive U.S. Department of Education grants including a Title III grant.  This five-year Title III grant focuses on improving the College’s student services system through the integration and implementation of the student services module within an integrated administrative system.  The College is also administering its third Title VI grant, designed to increase understanding of Middle East cultures, languages and relationships.  A final example of a competitive grant is the College’s newly funded Tech Prep Demonstration Program.  The goal of this five-year project is to develop a 2 + 2 Tech Prep model that will place a secondary institution of learning (11th and 12th grades) on the College’s Main Campus.  In the course of this grant, 120 students from the School District of Philadelphia will obtain an associate degree and enter the workforce in an Information Technology-related field.  Through the efforts of the Office of Institutional Advancement, the College has experienced an impressive increase in grants, growing from 24 grants in 1995 to 47 current grants with a value of over six million dollars.

  The past ten years have constituted a period of growth and achievement for the College.  The Self Study process has provided needed time for analysis and reflection as the College positions itself to meet future challenges.  The Self Study document clearly demonstrates the College’s candor, successes, areas needing improvement, and commitment to improve.  Findings of the Self Study process will serve as a template for future planning. 

 The Self Study Process

            Community College of Philadelphia’s Self Study is the result of an intense College-wide process of evaluation conducted over a period of two years.  A broad, diverse representation of faculty, administrators, staff, Board members and students were encouraged to participate in this review of institutional strengths and concerns.  Consensus on institutional strengths was sought to increase commitment and motivation; consensus on concerns and recommendations for change was sought to enable the College to move forward in realizing the ideals of its mission.

            In choosing the design of the Self Study, the College leadership concluded, after extensive review, that the new selected topics model was the most appropriate for the institution since the College had recently completed a thorough self-evaluation in the planning process and has a regular program of institutional research providing comprehensive data.  Community College of Philadelphia chose the selected topics approach for the Self Study for three main reasons: (1) directions established for the College in the 2000-2004 Strategic Plan; (2) the College’s extensive and ongoing formative assessment program; and (3) a review of progress since the 1993 Self Study at an executive staff retreat, as well as discussion about future directions for the College. 

Ultimately, six standards from Characteristics of Excellence were chosen for in-depth review and eight standards were selected for documentation.  This Self Study focuses on three standards related to Institutional Context (Standard 1, Mission, Goals, and Objectives; Standard 2, Planning, Resource Allocation, and Institutional Renewal; and Standard 7, Institutional Assessment) and three standards related to Educational Effectiveness (Standard 9, Student Support Services; Standard 12, General Education; and Standard 14, Assessment of Student Learning). 

The College felt confident that annotated documentation would demonstrate that the institution met eight of the accreditation standards. The eight standards selected for documentation are Standard 3, Institutional Resources; Standard 4, Leadership and Governance; Standard 5, Administration; Standard 6, Integrity; Standard 8, Student Admissions; Standard 10, Faculty; Standard 11, Educational Offerings; and Standard 13, Related Educational Activities.  A Documentation Roadmap was created to guide the evaluators through the supporting documentation and to summarize how the documents address each Standard. 

            The leadership structure developed to create the Self Study complements the chosen Self Study design.  As illustrated in Figure 1, a Standard Committee was created for each Standard that was a focus of the Self Study.  Co-Chairs of these Standard Committees served on the respective Institutional Context or Educational Effectiveness Standards Committees.  The Co-Chairs of the Institutional Context Standards Committee and the Educational Effectiveness Standards Committee served on the Steering Committee, providing the vital link between the Steering Committee and Standards Committees to facilitate communication of information about the progress of the Self Study.  The Steering Committee, representing institutional constituencies and led by the Self Study Chair, oversaw the work of the committees, providing structure and direction for the process. A working subgroup of the Steering Committee met regularly to guide the process.  A Documentation Committee identified and annotated documents to address standards that were not a focus of the Self Study.  Over seventy members of the College community served on Self Study Committees. 








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            The Self Study Design was completed in October 2002, giving careful and detailed charges to each Standard Committee.  From October 2002 until August 2003, Standard Committee members researched and analyzed documents, conducted interviews, designed and analyzed questionnaires, and wrote drafts of Self Study reports.  Self Study Committees reviewed extensive institutional documents, as noted in the Documentation Roadmap and the Standard Committee reports.  During the Spring 2003 semester, faculty, staff and students were invited to participate in a survey in order to provide input to the Middle States Self Study process.  Two surveys were developed.  One was targeted at current students and the second survey was targeted at faculty and staff.  The survey questionnaires were based on questions that arose in Middle States Standard Committees.  Co-Chairs of the Standard Committees identified areas of inquiry that they hoped would inform their committee’s assessment.  Responses were analyzed by the Office of Institutional Research and shared with the College community. 

An interactive Self Study website was established in the Fall of 2002 to enable full participation of the College community and facilitate communication with all constituencies of the College.  In addition, two publications were widely distributed to students to engage them in the process.   Officers of the Student Government Association met with Steering Committee representatives to solicit information to share with students.  The Vanguard, the student newspaper, published several articles about the institutional Self Study.  In addition, every issue of Transcripts, the official College newsletter, contained an article about the Self Study.   

By the end of Spring Semester 2003, all Standard Committees had participated in a round of open forums, presenting and discussing their findings with the College community.  In June 2003, each Standard Committee report was revised in response to the first round of forums.  Each Standard Committee posted its report in a second forum using an electronic format during the summer of 2003 and invited responses to its report.  A third round of open forums was held during Professional Development Week in August 2003.

The Board of Trustees was kept apprised of the progress of the Self Study through regular communication by the President and the Vice President for Academic Affairs.  A draft of the Self Study was submitted to the President in October 2003.  The Self Study report was completed in January 2004 and submitted to the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.