The institution engages in ongoing, integrated, and institution-wide research-based planning and evaluation processes that (1) incorporate a systematic review of institutional mission, goals, and outcomes; (2) result in continuing improvement in institutional quality; and (3) demonstrate the institution is effectively accomplishing its mission. (Institutional effectiveness)

Compliance Judgment

X     In compliance     Partially compliant     Non-compliant


Francis Marion University evaluates a variety of its services and programs through several reports, surveys, and frequent research. Proof of reviews are found in the minutes of meetings from both the Board of Trustees and the Francis Marion University faculty. Additionally, findings are provided from surveys that are conducted frequently to investigate student and faculty satisfaction. Additional information is provided on the university’s website.

Francis Marion University has a mission statement that delineates the unique role of the University which is “to make available excellent educational programs for the people of the region and the state” [1]. The statement is reviewed periodically by the university’s constituents with the last review approved by the Francis Marion University faculty, [2], and ratified by the Francis Marion University Board of Trustees, [3]. The mission statement defines the university’s overall direction and serves as the foundation for all planning and evaluation activities.

Over the past decade, Francis Marion University has developed, enhanced, and used a systematic, institution-wide, research-based planning and evaluation process to guide decision making toward fulfilling its mission. Francis Marion University’s highest priority is excellence in teaching and learning anchored in a belief that intellectual inquiry and analysis by students and faculty members are essential.

As demonstrated in the following descriptions of that process, the result has been continuous improvement of the institution. Furthermore, the analysis demonstrates that the University has and will continue to effectively accomplish its mission.

A Brief History of the Institutional Effectiveness Process

The table below shows significant events in Francis Marion University’s recent history of institutional effectiveness.

DateSignificant Event
2005After a lengthy series of studies, the faculty adopted a formal procedure for evaluation of the university’s general education program [4].
2006Strategic Plan approved by the Faculty on April 11 [5].
2007The Provost’s Assessment Work Group established in August to review IE reports and other accreditation reports related to student learning outcomes. This group determines appropriate courses of action based on their review of the data from Institutional Effectiveness reports [6].
2010Resolution 02-10 for approving a change to the mission statement for FMU received unanimous approval by the Board of Trustees. This resolution included the new specialist degree [7].
2012Updated Strategic Plan approved by the Francis Marion Faculty and ratified by Francis Marion Board of Trustees [8].
2016The Board of Trustees approved a change to the university’s mission statement to reflect the offering of professional degrees at the doctorate level [9]. Pending approval by the Commission on Higher Education.

Table 1. History of Institutional Effectiveness

Critical Components of the Planning and Evaluation Process

Francis Marion University’s planning and evaluation process encompasses all areas of the University and is cyclical and broad based. The University uses a multi-faceted system to ensure input and evaluation of all segments of the university’s system. The process is carried out by the university’s academic programs, support services, the Office of Institutional Effectiveness, the faculty’s Institutional Effectiveness Committee [10], the Office of Institutional Research, the university’s colleges and schools, and the president’s Senior Staff.

Ongoing Planning and Evaluation

The processes for program/unit planning and institutional effectiveness are ongoing and include an evaluation by academic departments and unit staff persons driven by identified goals and missions. For example, the results of exit surveys of graduating seniors conducted by the Office of Career Development provide feedback on the quality of programs and support services [11]. Figure 1 provides a schematic of the formal planning and evaluation process cycle as it pertains to programs and services, and Table 2 provides an overview of the ongoing institutional effectiveness process indicating at what point institutional research and realistic budgeting intersect with the process:

Description: OSPIRE 2

Figure 1. Schematic of the Formal Planning and Evaluation Process

Description of Points in the Institutional Effectiveness Process
1Review mission and preliminary plan for upcoming year. Evaluate budget implications.
2Finalize vision, goals, and goal indicators for upcoming year with assistance from Institutional Effectiveness and Institutional Research. Refine unit and student learning outcomes.
3Determine assessments. Implementation period.
4Collect data. Conduct the mid-year review. Review budget implications.
5Complete preliminary outcome evaluations. Determine if the targets were achieved or not achieved, and state the status.
6Finalize Institutional Effectiveness reports. Document and develop action items for upcoming year. Document the use of results and prepare the preliminary plan for the upcoming year based upon outcomes from the current year.

Table 2. The IE Process

How Goals are Developed

The processes of developing goals for program planning and institutional effectiveness include an evaluation of program and student learning outcomes by academic departments, an example of which is the Institutional Effectiveness Report Psychology 2015-2016 [12], student support units [13], and auxiliary units [14]. In all cases the process is data driven and focused on the university’s mission. The university Mission Statement serves as the main reference point for goal development. Each academic program and student support unit carries out an in-depth evaluation of its success in meeting program/unit goals and mission.  Plans for modifications and/or changes in the unit/program’s goals and mission are made based upon an annual evaluation. Based on these outcomes, goals are developed for the upcoming academic year.

Length of Planning Cycles

The planning cycle is 12-months long and

  • Starts on July 1 and ends on June 30 (ongoing)
  • Includes academic units, student affairs offices, student support offices, auxiliary services, and administrative units all linked and coordinated as an interrelated whole (integrated)
  • Includes students, faculty members, administrators, departments, offices, support units, alumni, stakeholders, etc. (institution-wide)
  • Includes a diligent and systematic inquiry or investigation of questions or problems in order to discover or revise (research-based).

Table 3 below provides an overview of the Institutional Effectiveness schedule.

JulyReview mission and preliminary plan for upcoming year.
August, SeptemberFinalize vision, goals, and goal indicators for upcoming year with assistance for Institutional Effectiveness and Institutional Research. Complete unit outcomes. Define student learning outcomes. Determine assessments.
October through MayImplementation period.
January, FebruaryConduct the mid-year review with assistance for Institutional Effectiveness and Institutional Research.
MayComplete preliminary unit/program outcome evaluations. Define student learning and unit goals for upcoming year based on outcomes. Determine assessments measures with assistance for Institutional Effectiveness and Institutional Research.
JuneFinalize Institutional Effectiveness reports. Document the use of results. Prepare preliminary plan for upcoming year based on results from current year. Present planning results at Institutional Effectiveness planning hearing.

Table 3. Planning and Evaluation Schedule

Integrated Planning and Evaluation

At Francis Marion University, institutional effectiveness is university-wide and includes planning at three levels: the institution level, the program or unit level, and the course and student level, as seen in the Organizational Chart [15].

Each level is intricately linked and is impacted by the university’s mission, the institutional goals, assessment strategies within academic programs and administrative services units, and the incorporation of results into the planning process for improvement.

The Three-Level Integrated Planning and Assessment Model is described in Figure 2 below.

Figure 2. Three-Level Integrated Planning and Assessment Model

Institutional Level

Development of the Strategic Plan entails institution-wide involvement and is crucial for the success of the planning and evaluation process. The institutional plan is developed for a five-year cycle and is assessed yearly to measure success, institute changes for improvement, and make adjustments based on results of assessments. Each year institutional priorities are reviewed, assessed, and modified as necessary. The last update was approved in the fall of 2012 [16-scroll down to last page].

Program or Unit Level

Program/unit level planning follows the institutional model in that each Program Coordinator/Unit Director works with faculty/staff to develop a plan for their area that supports the institutional goals and objectives. The yearly plans for each educational and support unit directly support the Program’s goals and objectives.

Course and Student Level

The annual Institutional Effectiveness Report guides course-level planning. Student learning outcomes that have been developed based on best practices in the discipline are reviewed and assessed to ensure quality instruction and learning. The details of each Institutional Effectiveness Report can be accessed through the Office of Institutional Research and are available on the Francis Marion University website [17].

Institution-Wide Planning and Evaluation

The Director of Institutional Research collects all individual Institutional Effectiveness Reports and develops a summary report that is posted on the web and presented annually to the South Carolina Executive Budget Office, as seen in the Annual Accountability Reports [18]. In addition, the Director of Institutional Effectiveness and the faculty’s Institutional Effectiveness Committee complete an annual review and evaluation of the Institutional Effectiveness Reports [19]. The reports are maintained in the Office of Institutional Research [20]. All reports are then provided to the President’s senior staff for use in planning and operating the University.

A Special Committee on the revised Francis Marion University Strategic Plan was impaneled to direct this effort. The Committee met periodically in 2012 to review and integrate items from the unit plans and community input report. In addition, the committee sought to balance the plan’s topical coverage by emphasizing areas of interest, such as the university’s strong liberal arts foundation; enrollment; financial resources; technology; institutional image; athletics; diversity; faculty; staff and administrative development; the physical campus; community relations; campus governance; student development; and arts and culture. The process of bringing these pieces together was transparent and deliberative. At every step the committee sought input from key stakeholders. The resulting plan was approved by the faculty on October 18, 2012 [21-scroll down to last page], and by the Board of Trustees on November 9, 2012 [22-scroll down to last page].

The University follows its established procedures to demonstrate transparency and accountability in its institution-wide planning and evaluation process by publishing Transparency Reports [23] and Budget and Accountability Reports [24] online. In fulfilling its academic mission, Francis Marion University promotes the economic, cultural, and educational development of the Pee Dee region and the state of South Carolina. The results of the planning evaluation process are documented annually.

Research-Based Planning and Evaluation

The University engages in research planning and evaluation as part of its efforts to guide decision making toward fulfilling its mission. A variety of data is collected on a regular basis at the University. This data serves as a primary source of measurable information for assessment and planning purposes. Examples of data collected at least annually and in some instances every semester include, but are not limited to:

  • Annual Graduate Senior Surveys [25]
  • Annual Student and Faculty Library Surveys [26, 27]
  • The National Survey of Student Engagement [28]

Francis Marion University participates in the Voluntary System of Accountability [29]. The Voluntary System of Accountability is a program created by public colleges and universities to provide greater accountability to higher education stakeholders through accessible, transparent, and comparable information. The extensive data provided and the level of analysis engaged in demonstrates that the University engages in research planning and evaluation as part of its efforts to guide decision making toward fulfilling its mission. The Voluntary System of Accountability provides descriptive and summative data in the following areas: students; admissions; college cost and financial aid; classes and campus life; student experiences; student success and progress; majors, graduation and next steps; and student learning outcomes.

Program Evaluation

Institutional effectiveness is an ongoing process at Francis Marion. It is integrated into the University Academic Program Review process, also known as Program Review.

Outcomes from the Program Review process guide development of individual programs, inform administrators making decisions about allocation of resources, and provide a systematic means of assuring continuous improvement in the university’s academic, research, and service missions.

Examples of the Change and Improvement from the Process

Table 4 shows examples which provide evidence that the University engages in research planning and evaluation as part of its efforts to guide decision making toward fulfilling its mission.

2009Trustees approved $8.5 million to build new athletic complex. During its quarterly meeting on November 6, the board unanimously approved an $8.5 million bond issue to build the complex on the west side of the campus [30].
2010FMU’s Center for the Child announces it will open the nature trail [31].
2011Celebrated the grand opening of its Performing Arts Center in downtown Florence [32].
2014New industrial engineering program kicked off with 15 students enrolled in its opening semester [33].
2014Announced plans for a health science complex on the southwest corner of Irby and W. Evans streets in downtown Florence. The three-story, 52,000 square foot building will provide classroom and office space for FMU’s Nurse Practitioner Program, FMU’s proposed Physician Assistant Program, and for the University of South Carolina’s third-and fourth-year medical students and instructors assigned to Florence for their clinical rotations [34].
2014Introduced its innovative, new Master of Business Administration degree program, one that aligned the MBA curriculum with the changing needs of students, employers and the community [35].
2015Introduced its new Management Information Systems program [36].
2016The School of Health Sciences was approved by the FMU Board of Trustees in 2015 and began operations on July 1, 2016 [37].
2016Board of Trustees voted unanimously to approve a new Doctorate of Nursing Practice (DNP) degree at its quarterly meeting on Thursday, Nov. 17 [38].

Table 4. Change and Improvement from the IE Process

While these actions represent the culmination of a long and deliberative process, the University recognizes that strategic planning is an ongoing concern. Consequently, strategic planning and institutional effectiveness efforts for all organizational units are kept up to date through periodic reviews.


  1. Catalog 2016-2017, Purpose – Mission Statement, p. 9
  2. Faculty Meeting Minutes April 10, 2012, p. 1
  3. Board of Trustees Meeting Minutes June 15, 2012, p. 2
  4. General Education Assessment
  5. Attachment to General Faculty Agenda April 11, 2006, p. 2
  6. Letter from President Carter July 31, 2007
  7. Board of Trustees Minutes June 18, 2010, p. 2
  8. Board of Trustees Minutes November 9, 2012, p. 2
  9. FMU Trustees Approve Doctorate of Nursing Practice Degree
  10. Institutional Effectiveness Committee Roster
  11. Graduating Senior Survey, p. 3-10
  12. Institutional Effectiveness Report Psychology 2015-2016
  13. Campus Technology Applications
  14. FMU Laundry Survey
  15. Organizational Chart
  16. FMU Strategic Plan-scroll down to last page
  17. Institutional Effectiveness Reports
  18. Institutional Effectiveness Summary Reports for CHE
  19. Institutional Effectiveness Committee Summary IE Report
  20. Office of Institutional Research, IE Reports
  21. FMU Strategic Plan-scroll down to last page
  22. FMU Strategic Plan-scroll down to last page
  23. Transparency Reports
  24. Budget and Accountability Reports
  25. Annual Senior Graduation Survey
  26. Student Library Survey
  27. Faculty Library Survey
  28. National Survey of Student Engagement
  29. Voluntary System of Accountability
  30. FMU Trustees Approve $8.5 Million to Build New Athletic Complex
  31. FMU’s Center for the Child to Open Nature Trail
  32. Francis Marion University’s Performing Arts Center Announces Inaugural Season
  33. FMU’s New Industrial Engineering Program in Full Swing
  34. FMU Rolls Out Plan for Health Sciences Complex
  35. School of Business Launches New MBA Program
  36. Management Information Systems
  37. School of Health Sciences
  38. FMU Trustees Approve Doctorate of Nursing Practice Degree