Oakland Community College: Measuring & Meeting Community Need

Published on May 4, 2017

Updated on Nov 3, 2022

Written by Emsi Burning Glass

Oakland Community College: Measuring & Meeting Community Need


Under the direction of Dr. Timothy Meyer, Chancellor, Michigan’s

Oakland Community College (OCC) has created and tested a method to measure and meet needs in their community. Using this method—outlined in a recently published article in the Community College Journal of Research and Practice—OCC has a reliable framework and formula for program planning decisions. The structure relies heavily on Emsi’s labor market data and methodology to identify community need.

Key Takeaways:

  • In a recent article published in a peer-reviewed journal, titled “Community College Program Planning: A Method to Measure and Meet Community Need,” members of OCC’s institutional effectiveness team lay out their methodology for aligning programs with regional demand.

  • OCC employs Emsi’s methodology to identify gaps in regional supply and demand. The college also uses Analyst to instantly get the data needed for their program planning efforts.

  • Through their data-driven program planning efforts, OCC has gone from 58 zero-graduate programs in 2006 to just 8 in 2016.

A Passion for Outcomes-Oriented Programs

Kelly Perez-Vergara, Associate Executive Director of Institutional Effectiveness at OCC

For Kelly Perez-Vergara, Associate Executive Director of Institutional Effectiveness at OCC, program planning is a passion that stems from personal experience.

“I majored in psychology and by the time I learned that I needed to complete grad school to find a quality job, it was too late to change my path. That experience, plus a six-figure student loan debt, plays a big role in my work now. Students shouldn’t have to guess whether their degree will lead to a strong career,” said Perez-Vergara.

Now, Perez-Vergara plays a key role at OCC in aligning programs with regional economic need. In a recent publication in the Community College Journal of Research and Practice, Perez-Vergara and two colleagues outlined the college’s methodology for measuring and meeting community need.

“The whole point of the article was to share the method and encourage others to use a similar data-informed process. We’ve seen some of our peer colleges get really excited about what we’re doing and we want to help others get excited about it too,” said Perez-Vergara.

Identifying Community Need

OCC’s approach centers around a community need profile, which focuses largely on analyzing employer demand in the local community in relation to the supply of graduates. To calculate the gaps in supply and demand, OCC turned to Emsi’s methodology used in our Program Demand Gap Analysis. The college adapted the methodology to focus on specific programs and uses the results to assign each program a score associated with a level of community need.

“The article wouldn’t have been possible without Emsi. I didn’t create that gap analysis methodology, you all did. You taught us how to interpret the data and equipped us to use those methods moving forward,” said Perez-Vergara.

Along with using Emsi’s methodology, Perez-Vergara and her team rely on Analyst to employ this strategy on an ongoing basis.

“Analyst gives us the data we need, in the format we need it. It saves us time and allows us to focus on so much more than just gathering the data,” said Perez-Vergara.

Effectiveness of Community Need Review Process

There’s no doubt that Perez-Vergara and her team put serious effort into this work—from creating the review process to getting buy-in from stakeholders across the college.

That work is paying off.

In 2016, 47% of programs met their completion benchmark—a noticeable increase from 42% the year prior.

As of August 2016, academic deans had worked with OCC faculty to create 148 actions for existing and proposed programs—65 of which had already been completed at the time the article was written.

And while OCC didn’t put this particular method into place until 2014, the college has used labor market information to thoroughly refine their program offerings over the last decade.

In 2006, OCC had 58 programs with zero graduates. Now? That number is down to eight.

“There were programs that we felt needed to go away, but citing Emsi in our community needs profile gives the evidence needed for the evaluation team to move forward with a decision. The data really speak for themselves and helps administration decide whether our institution should continue to offer that program.”


OCC is a shining example of how a mindset shift can substantially impact an entire institution. By allowing data to be the objective mediator, administration and faculty can work together efficiently to make program decisions that benefit everyone—including students.

For more information on OCC’s approach to program planning and meeting community need, you can access the recent journal article here.

To learn more about taking a data-driven approach to program planning at your institution, contact us today.