Strategic Planning

Strategic planning is a systematic process to identify and analyze problems, to set goals and objectives for addressing those problems, to select and implement evidence-based strategies for solving those problems, and then to evaluate the success of the strategies.

Engaging in these steps will ensure that (1) efforts are targeted to meet a campus’s needs and problems as documented by local data and (2) selected strategies are evidence-based, drawing on research literature and theory. Safe and supportive learning environments do not just happen—they are the result of careful, coordinated planning across stakeholders who use evidence-based practices to accomplish measurable goals.

Climate issues must be woven into broader institutional strategic plans.

Climate issues such as student physical, mental, and sexual health, campus and community safety, substance use, and crisis intervention should be woven into the broader institutional strategic plan and aligned with the broader mission and activities of the university. Incorporating these concerns involves creating clear data-based arguments that connect these issues with the accomplishment of institutional growth, academic success, and funded research. Rather than having separate plans to address these issues, planners should find ways to integrate safety, wellness, climate, and civic engagement into larger institutional goals.

Effective strategic planning involves a broad group of stakeholders.

Although involving multiple stakeholders in the strategic planning process can feel time-consuming and cumbersome, it is important that information and perspectives come from those who are directly involved in the environment. Critical, then, is the involvement of students, faculty, administrators from various levels, alumni, professional staff, parents, and community partners. Consensus may not always be possible, but a good plan gets input from a variety of perspectives. 

Data should drive the strategic planning process.

Strategic planning requires timely data that can paint a clear picture of the institution‘s current climate. Data on outcomes as diverse as graduation and attrition, student health, substance use, crime and judicial affairs, student engagement, cocurricular engagement, diversity, and student development must be reviewed by the group to guide goal setting.




Featured Resources

Thumbnail cover image - Women’s Student Debt Crisis in the United States

Offers a broad overview of how student debt became a women’s issue. The report aims to change the conversation around student debt so that it includes gender-based analysis and solutions. The analysis examines the experiences of women as a diverse population and presents statistics by race and ethnicity as well as other demographics. The report relies heavily on publicly available federal government survey data as well as published studies undertaken by academics and organizations researching the issue of student debt.

Screenshot cover of report - Trauma, Environmental Stressors, and the African-American College Student: Research, Practice, and HBCUs

Discusses how African Americans from underserved backgrounds are more likely than other racial and ethnic groups, including Asians, Hispanics, and Whites, to be exposed to traumatic events. There is little research that examines how traumatic events have an impact on African-American students attending Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU).

Larry J. Walker
Basic image of title of the document

Describes the planning and evaluation process for organizing campus-based programs and policies that address alcohol and other drug abuse and violence and provides an overview of the elements and purposes of sound planning, consistent with the U.S. Department of Education's principles of effectiveness for prevention programs.




L. Langford and W. DeJong
Thumbnail cover image - Safe Place: Trauma-Sensitive Practices for Health Centers Serving Students

Encompasses a broad range of material introducing and endorsing trauma-sensitive practice with an emphasis on sexual assault trauma. It is designed specifically for health center staff who serve as primary care providers to students in higher education. These tools are designed to supplement higher education efforts to develop campus-wide plans addressing sexual assault at their institutions. 

National Center for Safe Supportive Learning Environments

Provides information and data on the opioid crisis, safer prescribing, addressing illicit supplies, saving lives, and supporting veterans.


Screenshot cover of report - Minority-Serving Community Colleges Community and Affiliates Community of Practice

Provides an online knowledge sharing portal, designed for minority serving community colleges and affiliates, for sharing documents and engaging in discussion groups around how to support student success by enhancing connections to practitioners of adult basic education, developmental education, English Language Learners, and career and technical education. 

Higher Education Update: Reducing Risk During the First Few Weeks on Campus

Details what can be done to keep first-year students safe during their first few weeks on campus. Suggests reducing behavioral tendencies that include high-risk alcohol consumption, drug use, hazing, and other behaviors contrary to successful assimilation into college life. 

National Center for Safe and Supportive Learning
Thumbnail cover - Helping Women to Succeed in Higher Education: Supporting Student-Parents with Child Care

Proposes building on the Child Care Access Means Parents in School (CCAMPIS) Program to structure an institutional grant program that better supports the availability of high-quality child care for parents pursuing postsecondary credentials (student-parents). Compared with the existing federal program, the proposed program would be larger and better targeted to address the substantial needs of low income student-parents. The program would encourage enrollment practices and educational investments that benefit the individual as well as the overall economy.

Bridget Terry Long
Thumbnail cover image - College Completion Toolkit

Highlights promising practices from a dozen schools across the country that are doing the hard work of increasing college completion rates for students on their campuses. The report contains links to resources and stories written by institutions themselves and will serve as an additional resource for schools as they seek to promote student degree completion.

Thumbnail cover image - Addressing Basic Needs Security in Higher Education: An Introduction to Three Evaluations of Supports for Food and Housing at Community Colleges

Evaluates three new promising approaches to addressing food and housing insecurity. All three programs were developed by community colleges and their partners based on their local needs, resources, and opportunities. 

Sara Goldrick-Rab, Katharine M. Broton, & Daphne C. Hernandez
Thumbnail cover image - First-Generation and Continuing-Generation College Students: A Comparison of High School and Postsecondary Experiences

Examines background and educational characteristics, plans for college, postsecondary enrollment, and postsecondary completion patterns of first-generation college students and their peers whose parents have college degrees. The brief also explores how postsecondary plans, attendance, and completion varies between these two groups of students. In addition, the brief presents the reasons why some 2002 high school sophomores who were postsecondary enrollees did not obtain a credential by 2012.

Jeremy Redford & Kathleen Mulvaney Hoyer

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