Coe Fund Survey
A Strategic Plan for
Prepared by the Long-Range Planning Council
Drafted in Spring, 2009
Ratified by the Board and Faculty, Fall 2010
It is the mission of Coe College to provide students an education of superior quality that aims at preparing them for life following graduation. Our reason to exist as an institution is to ready students intellectually, professionally, and socially to lead productive and satisfying lives in the global society of the 21st century. As such, our success as a college will be measured according to the success of our graduates. We believe that a liberal arts education earned in a residential setting is the best preparation for life. We believe that such an education allows students to discover what their real talents and interests are, and that it develops in them the skills, abilities, and habits of mind that will make possible a successful career in any field of endeavor, including ones that do not yet exist. Further, we expect that our students will develop the desire and the ability to engage actively and positively in shaping their community and their world, and in fostering the social condition that values a diverse people. It is the mission of the College to develop in students these abilities and attitudes, and in so doing to provide them an education that directs them toward meaningful and successful lives.
Defining Vision for Coe College:
By 2020, Coe College will be recognized as:
- A college with a re-enlivened commitment to be a premiere residential liberal arts college that emphasizes its effectiveness without elitism;
- A college that offers strong, vibrant programs that are revised and renewed on a regular basis through the passion and expertise of the faculty and staff. Its academic and co-curricular programs, while adhering to the mission of the College, will be relevant and attentive to the issues central to understanding today’s world, and will develop in students the skills and abilities they will need as they enter and negotiate their careers throughout the middle of the 21st century; and
- A college that is known for the superb residential experience it provides for students, emphasizing its lively learning community of teachers, scholars, and students.
Core Strategies to Make the Vision a Reality
To give life to its vision, the College must achieve a position of greater financial security than it occupies at present. To offer a premier education, with continually renewed programs, and in a residential setting requires resources. Thus the College will:
- Increase the size of the student body to at least 1,300 while maintaining selectivity: Additional net student revenue is an essential component of institutional success in the decade ahead. Moreover, given current societal preferences, a larger enrollment base is critical to the College’s recruitment efforts. We must embrace growth to beget growth.
- Operate with a spending rate from the endowment of no more than 6% annually. Indeed 6% may be too high. The college must have a sustainable financial platform, and the era of slow economic growth we are entering requires a lower spending rate than Coe has operated on historically. A key element in reducing the spending rate is to increase the size of the earning endowment.
Establishing the Context for Planning
The economic crisis and downturn of 2008 has had a stunning effect on institutions in all sectors of the economy. Coe has been better positioned to withstand these assaults than many institutions, owing in large part to the careful attention and strong leadership of its Board of Trustees and the dedication of Coe’s faculty and administrative staff. However, the years between 2010 and 2015 – the period of this Plan – likely will be challenging ones, requiring creativity, careful planning, and solid leadership. Thus, the context in which the Strategic Plan for Coe College: 2010-2015 is offered is one of financial constraint and also is characterized by the clear need to carefully assess Coe’s core mission and objectives. If Coe is to flourish during these next years, it will need to take a very careful and honest look at its programs and policies, with an eye toward retaining and fostering those that are central to its mission, while discontinuing or modifying those less central or less effective in advancing the institution. Some of the measures Coe will pursue most likely will be focused on realizing short-term efficiencies; others may be longer-term in scope.
Although some might comment that planning is useless if there are limited resources with which to address concerns, Coe’s approach is the opposite. Now is a time to carefully evaluate; to refine the many programs the College offers, focusing on those most valuable and important; and to nurture those institutional programs and priorities most central to the College’s mission and success. In this context, we offer the following prime objective and nine goals that will guide the College’s priorities during the period of this Plan:
Prime Objective and Goals
Coe College remains committed to its long-term goal of being a superior regional college with an ever greater national presence while maintaining its dedication to providing students an education grounded in the liberal arts tradition and set within a residential environment. The College’s overarching strategic objective for the period of this Strategic Plan is to secure its long-term future while retaining its commitment to this basic goal. This objective will best be accomplished by following a plan that balances our efforts toward advancing institutional excellence against our ability to secure and build financial resources. Toward this end, we accept the responsibility for carefully prioritizing the initiatives outlined in this Plan and for exercising appropriate restraint in the pace at which we undertake them.
Despite the limitations imposed by our current financial situation, we must continue to plan, both to accomplish our financial goals and to improve our academic programs. Within this context, during the five year period from 2010 to 2015 Coe will direct its energies toward addressing the following goals:
- Strengthening the Academic Culture and Academic Environment – In keeping with the College’s core mission, this Strategic Plan is designed to further the pursuit of institutional excellence so as to provide students an education of superior quality that prepares them for life after graduation.
- Crafting an Institutional Identity focused on Excellence – This goal complements the first by highlighting the need to craft and fully embrace an institutional identity that emphasizes Coe’s academic character and distinguishes Coe from Iowa competitors. This identity must be built on the theme of “a culture of excellence,” broadly defined. Every initiative that Coe pursues should be considered through the filter of institutional excellence.
- Recruiting an Academically Talented and Diverse Study Body – We aim to continue to recruit an academically talented and diverse student body, while increasing its size to at least 1,300 full-time students.
- Improving Student Retention – The former Strategic Plan called for a first-to-second year retention rate of at least 81% – a level that has been difficult to achieve consistently. Yet, it is imperative that Coe retain an even larger percentage of the student body from year to year, both as a reflection of an improved academic and co-curricular culture and more academically talented study body and because we must improve student retention over our current rate if our financial goals are to be attainable. Other institutions of the quality to which we aspire routinely have student retention rates in the mid-80% range, and this is our aspiration. As well, we endeavor to consistently attain a 6-year graduation rate of at least 70%.
- Creating an Institution-Wide Staffing Plan and Performance Evaluation System – Our goal here is to create an institutional staffing plan and develop a regular planning mechanism that considers and balances staffing needs across the institution. Although plans currently exist for staffing within the various functional divisions of the College, Coe does not have a coordinated method of evaluating staffing needs across divisions, weighing the benefits of hiring in one area of the College versus others. Furthermore, the College needs to develop an institution-wide performance evaluation system that clarifies work goals and provides useful feedback to employees. Finally, Coe seeks to achieve greater diversity in staffing at all levels throughout the institution.
- Ensuring Excellence in Academic and Co-Curricular Programs – This goal underscores our long-standing commitment to maintaining program excellence and providing students with an array of academic and co-curricular programs appropriate to our mission and to our students’ needs and interests. We must provide adequate staffing and programmatic support to ensure that these programs all can operate at a level of quality consistent with the culture of excellence we seek to embrace.
- Providing a Well-Maintained and Functional Physical Plant – The goal here is to ensure that our physical environment supports and is reflective of our status as a premiere college in the region. As such, this goal goes hand-in-hand with Coe’s recruiting and retention goals.
- Enhancing Alumni/Constituency Relations and Trustee Leadership – The College seeks to strengthen its relationships with its alumni and its volunteer leaders, including the members of the Board of Trustees. Although alumni relations presently are positive and the Board is operating at a high level, we must ensure that our volunteer constituencies are as fully engaged and positively predisposed toward Coe as is possible. Improving constituency relations will also require evaluating how Coe is perceived by the larger community, continuing to foster appropriate links between Coe and various community groups, and nurturing the College’s reputation within the larger community.
- Providing and Managing the Financial Resources Necessary to Support the Activities of the College – We endeavor to manage the College within an attainable and sustainable set of financial objectives. The former Strategic Plan calls for the College to attain a spending rate of no more than 6% of the size of the earning endowment as quickly as possible and to increase the size of the total endowment to $80 million by 2009 and $100 million as shortly thereafter as possible. Although recent economic downturns have frustrated our ability to attain these objectives, we must not lose sight of the necessity of these goals. Taming the spending rate is a crucial component of this goal, since failing to do so will place the College in considerable jeopardy, both over the short term and the longer term. Over the short term, building the size of the unrestricted (quasi) endowment is of paramount concern. The spending rate can be improved by increasing the size of the endowment, by increasing revenues, and by curtailing expenses. Undoubtedly, the ability of Coe College to attain the objectives set forth in this plan will be accomplished by a combination of all three of these strategies. However, over the long term, building the endowment is of the highest institutional priority.
The nine objectives outlined are, of course, closely interrelated and we expect that the College will make some progress on all during the period outlined by this Strategic Plan. In exercising our commitment to these objectives, we intend to monitor carefully our success by establishing reasonable and meaningful benchmarks and working to attain them.