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


A VP, Dean, & Dept. Chair Walked Into a Bar…

By: Phil Arcuria, Research Director

A VP, Dean, & Dept. Chair walked Into a bar to discuss a new potential GCC initiative (where did you think I was going with this?). The initiative will require various types of resources and they want to make sure it “works”. They are discussing potential steps to take to evaluate the efficacy of the initiative. I happened to be sitting at the table next to them and, being a nosy neighbor, offered the following quick tips to help guide their efforts:
Tip 1: Write down the purpose of the initiative and the expected outcome(s). Verbally conveying it is not enough. Writing it down helps actualize it into something “real” that can more easily be refined and shared. One way to articulate the expected outcome is to complete the following sentence, “If the initiative is successful, ________ is expected to happen.” Or, a slight variant, “In order for this initiative to be deemed successful it must_______________.” Further refine the outcomes to capture the properties of SMART goals: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Time-specific.
Tip 2: Substantiate in writing how you believe the initiative will result in the expected outcome(s). Be specific and detailed. Incorporate in prior research, best practices, how it has worked at other institutions, etc. If no prior research is available, lay out the logical argument on how the initiative will achieve the expected outcome. Pretend you are on an episode of ABC’s Shark Tank and you have two minutes to convince someone to invest the resources required for the initiative (e.g., employee time, funds, etc.). Craft your pitch and read over it. Does it provide a convincing argument of how the initiative will likely result in the expected outcome? If not, further refine it until can stand on its own. This step takes a lot of effort, but if we are not willing to put the effort into substantiating the value of the initiative, should we be asking anyone else to put effort into implementing it?
Tip 3a: Although Realistic is one of the characteristics of a SMART goal it tends to get glossed over. Most of us have a tendency to channel our inner Babe Ruth and swing for the grandiose aspirational outcomes. In higher education, this tends to take two forms. The first is in the unrealistic belief that most initiatives will have a direct effect on increasing persistence and graduation rates. Lots of factors go into whether or not a student persists and/or graduates, ranging from family and work obligations to their level of motivation and academic preparedness. Very few initiatives have the mass needed to directly move these metrics. Instead, focus on outcomes that you believe will be the direct result of the initiative. This also includes ensuring that the outcome and initiative are in alignment. One way to do this is visualize your outcome as a tree and your initiative as a saw. Is your saw proportionate to the size of the tree?  If you have a chainsaw to cut down a twig, your outcome is too meek given the initiative. If you have a handsaw to cut down a giant Sequoia, your outcome is too lofty given the initiative. Replace your inner Babe Ruth with your inner Zen and seek balance between the tree and the saw.
 Tip 3b: Unrealistic outcomes also come in the form of unachievable performance targets used to quantify them (e.g., [outcome] … will increase 5% over the next year). Take time to talk through what would need to happen for this to occur. For example, if the outcome and performance target is to increase enrollments in course X by Y% over two years, how many more students would need to enroll in course X? Based on the response to Tip 2, is it reasonable that the initiative will result in that? What factors might prevent this from happening (e.g., a drop in overall enrollment) and how likely are they to happen? One way to test how realistic the outcome is to ask yourself, “what percentage of my salary would I be willing to bet that the outcomes is achieved by the specified time frame?” If the percentage is low then you should consider revising the outcome to make it more realistic. It can also be very beneficial to set a range as the performance target rather than a single estimate to account for natural variability from year to year. Also, make sure you distinguish between a percent increase and an increase in percentage points. It may seem like a small nuance but increasing 20% by 10 percent points (20% –> 30%) is a lot different than increasing it by 10 percent (20% –> 22%).
 Tip 4: Write down any potential secondary or indirect outcomes of the initiative. There are outcomes that you do not expect the initiative to directly influence but might indirectly influence. In short, success on the initiative will not be determined by these things happening, but they are a nice additional potential outcome. Persistence an graduation rates tend to fall in this category. Do this by expanding the sentence in Tip 1 to, “If the initiative is successful, [direct outcome] is expected to happen, which in turn may lead to [indirect outcome] happening.” Indirect outcomes are like donuts on Friday. They are not essential to measuring the successfulness of the day, but are still worth vigorously pursuing.
 Tip 5: Make sure the metric selected to quantify the outcomes directly relates to the outcomes. Sounds straightforward, but it is easy to select the wrong metric given the outcome. My professional leaning is toward quantitative methods. There is something elegant about numbers and their utility. However, it is important to acknowledge that not all things should be evaluated in quantitative terms. Antoine de Saint-Exupéry eloquently reminds us of this in the below excerpt from his classic tale of The Little Prince:
“Grown-ups love figures. When you tell them that you have made a new friend, they never ask you any questions about essential matters. They never say to you, ‘What does his voice sound like? What games does he love best? Does he collect butterflies?’ Instead, they demand: ‘How old is he? How many brothers has he? How much does he weigh? How much money does his father make?’ Only from these figures do they think they have learned anything about him.”
 Figures are immensely beneficial and in many cases are the best method for evaluating an expected outcome. But do not let the method drive the need. Go with the approach that best fits the nature of the initiative under evaluation – but do not be deceived into thinking that pursing qualitative outcomes is an easier short cut to evaluating the success of an initiative. In many cases it is a much more difficult path. Ideally, most things should be evaluated from both perspectives.
 After enthusiastically conveying these tips, the VP, Dean, and Dept. Chair looked at me with puzzled faces and said, “So is this how research directors spend their Friday nights?”  I sheepishly slinked back to my table as I muttered to the group, “the next round is on me.”
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Top Five Changes in Higher Education in Reference to Compliance

By: Jay Kahl, PhD, Compliance Coordinator

When we think of higher education, we often think of ivory towers, hounds tooth jackets, and late-night study sessions.  Well some of us do.  Others experience higher education as part of their path while they work/parent full-time, trying to fit yet another task into their day.  While our collective experiences differ, higher education has experienced many large tide changes over the years, many in respect to Compliance. Below are 5 of the biggest changes in my opinion:

1 – Title IV Alignment – each institution that accepts Title IV funds from the federal government has to meet certain requirements.  These run the gambit from how funds are dispersed to whether Constitution Day is celebrated on your campus. Over the past 20 years, these rules have become increasingly complex, asking institutions to do more in order to remain eligible for Title IV funds.

2 – Program Integrity/Gainful Employment – in essence, these rules were brought forth to ensure that students would not leave an institution with a mountain of debt and be unemployable. While the reporting requirements are nebulous at times and we may question how useful this information is to students, this is another requirement to item #1 above. Where reporting in the past has looked to student success as indicators, we now see that new indicators may point to long-term program feasibility.

3 – NCAA/NJCAA (National (Junior) Collegiate Athletic Association) – recent developments have highlighted the need for these rules, but the NCAA/NCJAA has seen a large increase in changes regarding player eligibility, recruiting, and gifts.  Lately, student athletes have been attempting to unionize as they feel they have been cut-out of the overall profit margins.

4 – ADA/504 (Americans with Disabilities Act) – with more advanced technology, students with disabilities have more access to educational resources than they have in the past. This increase in access also means that students who may have not pursued higher education in the past are more willing to give it a go. ADA and Section 504 ensure that students with disabilities are not discriminated against, and these rules need regular updating as increased access is realized.

5 – Title IX – similar to the above, Title IX ensures that students are not discriminated against based on gender. With recent reports regarding the proclivity of sexual assaults occurring on college campuses, these rules have garnered more national attention. Institutions are being asked to take a much more active role in preventing, investigating, and (sometimes) litigating cases of assault on their campus as well.

Where will we be in the future as it relates to Compliance in higher education?  I would argue that we will see some streamlining of reporting and disclosures, but that each of the above items will continue to be further delineated and expanded upon.  More than likely, that means gainful employment for those of us who can stomach Compliance.

For more information on Compliance, please visit


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By: The Office of Strategy, Planning & Accountability (SPA)

 In 2012, ASU conducted a Preliminary Stakeholder Needs Assessment for GCC. One of the findings pointed out that there was a need for GCC STEM students to have practical experience in research through internship opportunities. In response to this need, the Office of Strategy, Planning & Accountability (SPA) established a formal internship opportunity with GCC’s psychology department. Each spring semester, psychology professors recommend a small number of high-performing students who have successfully completed (or in the process of completing) Introduction to Statistics (PSY230) and Research Methods (PSY290) and are interested in the internship. The research team then interviews them and makes a selection. The selected student works with the research team throughout the semester on specific projects.

SPA’s pioneering student intern Wendie, completed her internship in spring 2014. Following is Wendie’s feedback regarding her learning outcomes from her experience at SPA.

1) First and foremost, I learned that a successful research study takes not only teamwork within the office, but also teamwork from the organization, as well. I was working on one specific project all semester, which was the Gaucho Student Survey (GSS). The making of the survey had just started right before I began my internship and the making of the survey itself was continuing after I left. I never really understood how beneficial it is to have outside collaborators, until I went to SPA meetings to talk about this specific survey. It is so powerful to have different knowledgeable people work together because they may have ideas no one else thought of, they may catch a mistake we missed, or they would help us better word something for a person at the college level to understand. I have no doubt that the survey I helped with was successful due to the amount of team effort and work went into it. That is what makes anything successful: teamwork.

2) I learned an extensive amount about survey work. Phil, my director, showed me past survey studies that had been administered at GCC and this helped myself tremendously when brainstorming about the GSS. In addition, I had the opportunity to help Jay with an organizing a survey that was already going to be administered at all Maricopa Community Colleges. Survey studies take just as much work as any other research project and the results can be very powerful after finding the correct organizing, word choice, and main idea you are trying to find. This was my first quasi-experimental study I participated in and it was a great experience nonetheless.

3) I learned much more about SPSS. SPSS is program where data is entered and analyses can be performed. Since I was fresh out of my research methods class, I was still (and still am) learning all about SPSS. I was able, towards the end of my internship, to actually input data to get some practice. There are so many different types of tests a person can run in SPSS that it can be overwhelming. Thankfully, Phil explained everything thoroughly and efficiently to where I was able to run a few tests he wanted me to perform on data he already possessed. I was looking for significance within the analyses and recorded which results were significant and which were not. SPSS is something that has to be consistently practiced, but as I grow in my education, I will one day be just as good as everyone within the SPA team.

4) I learned how to successfully research past research articles. Before any research project can begin, you must have information backing up what exactly you want to research. There are multiple different articles out in the internet database and even books that is takes an extensive amount of time to do. When I first began with SPA, I began researching from day one until my very last day. You have to thoroughly read through everything to get an idea of what an article is about and if it will help in what you are trying to research now. There is never a limit on how much research that can be used within a research project. The more information, the better. I definitely learned that from the amount of hours I spent doing so. Not only do you have to successful research various articles, but everything must be cited correctly within a bibliography, as well. For myself personally, finding research is the hardest part of any project because this sets a foundation of where your specific project will go. The amount of research I did for SPA has helped me even within my schoolwork because with anything anyone does anymore, it needs research.

5) Most importantly to myself, I learned exactly what I want to do one day in the field of Psychology thanks to this internship. I have decided to become an Industrial and Organizational Psychologist and I hope to one-day work for a school system doing some form of research. This internship opportunity with SPA taught me a lot about how I want students to be successful in their studies, what exactly will draw them into college, and what will keep them in their studies. School is something I hold dear to my heart and working hands on with something that will be impactful for students is very satisfying. The SPA teams works very hard to get the results that the organization itself needs and I could tell how passionate each member of SPA is in regards to their studies. Each and every one of them including Phil, Alka, Jay, Eddie, Heather, and Lisa, has inspired me to follow along in their footsteps. I am not sure where I will end up in the future in regards to my future practice, but it will be very similar to what I have taken away from SPA. The internship in a whole was a wonderful experience that I will always be grateful for.

Our newest intern, Amiee, from the psychology department began her internship this semester with SPA and is hard at work with the research team! For more information, please email us at

From 1980 to 2014: How has GCC’s student body changed?

By: Busaba (Owan) Laungrungrong, Institutional Research Analyst

In 1965, Glendale Community College (GCC) was established to serve the higher education needs of the West Valley. Since then GCC’s student population has changed in a number of interesting ways. Here are five facts about how our student body has changed between 1980 (the most comprehensive data available) and 2014.

#1   GCC’s student enrollment headcount increased 65% from 1980 until 2014. During that time the number of Full Time Student Equivalents (FTSE) has increased 58%.

#2   One of the most drastic changes over the last 34 years has been the change in the racial/ethnic composition of GCC’s student body. The number of students who self-reported as being “white” has declined from 87% in 1980 to 47% in 2014. In contrast, the number of self-reported minority students at GCC went from 13% in 1980 to 53% in 2014. Hispanics had the largest percentage increase of 24% during that time span.

#3   More female students have always been enrolled at GCC than males since 1980. The gender gap remains stable at roughly 54% (female) and 45% (male) during 1980-2014.

#4   The average age of GCC students decreased from 28 years in 1980 to 25 years in 2014. The number of young students (under 25 years of age) accounted for the majority of students at GCC in 2014; 38% of students were under the age of 20 and 69% of students were under the age of 25. The decrease in age is attributable, at least in part, to GCC adoption of dual enrollment in 2001.

#5   Since 1980, the majority of GCC students attend part-time. In 2014, one-third (34%) of students enrolled full-time. However, the percentage of full-time student enrollment has increased by 21% between 1980 and 2014.


Learn more about GCC students by visiting:

What your zip code may be saying about you.

By: Eddie Lamperez, Coordinator of Institutional Effectiveness

Glendale Community College has a diverse student body. The zip code in which a student resides can tell us a lot about them. The top five zip codes for GCC students include four that surround GCC Main and one that is adjacent to GCC North.

  • 85302 (1,438 students). Location: Glendale. Median Household Income: $47,884. Most common educational intent: university/college transfer. Most common ethnicity: White. Percent that are first generation students: 58%.
  • 85345 (1,329 students). Location: Peoria. Median Household Income: $49,014. Most common educational intent: university/college transfer. Most common ethnicity: White. Percent that are first generation students: 64%.
  • 85308 (1,245 students). Location: Glendale and Phoenix. Median Household Income: $70,701. Most common educational intent: university/college transfer. Most common ethnicity: White. Percent that are first generation students: 40%.
  • 85301 (1,103 students). Location: Glendale. Median Household Income: $31,254. Most common educational intent: university/college transfer. Most common ethnicity: Hispanic. Percent that are first generation students: 72%.
  • 85303 (789 students). Location: Glendale. Median Household Income: $52,301. Most common educational intent: university/college transfer. Most common ethnicity: Hispanic. Percent that are first generation students: 67%.

If you are from the zip codes that surround GCC Main then you are more likely to be Hispanic or White, working class or middle class, and a first generation college student. If you are from a zip code adjacent to GCC North, then you are more likely to be middle class or upper middle class, White, and have parents who graduated from college. Regardless of zip code, your intent is likely to be transfer to a college or university and earn a bachelor’s degree. We embrace the  diversity of our students at GCC; helping all of our students achieve their goals is our mission.

Learn more about GCC students by visiting: