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Articles: Operational Efficiencies

Admissions/Enrollment Management

Historically, Western Michigan University’s 12 on-staff recruiters could visit as many as 40 or 50 high schools in a week and collect up to 1,000 paper cards filled with prospective students’ contact information. Due to poor handwriting or other errors, not all the information was entered accurately. Then, five weeks could pass before students received any kind of follow-up communication from the university.

As long as there are assignments for college students to research and write, it’s likely there will be copiers and printers to help. Good news for paper and copier companies, for sure, but bad news for institutions such as expansive Houston Community College, at least until recently. HCC’s six colleges and 27 sites allow it to educate more than 70,000 students a semester, but without centralized print and copy management solutions, efficiency lagged severely.

Many of Pepperdine University’s administrative offices are located on a campus that sits on a steep, picturesque hilltop in the Southern California beach town of Malibu. Perhaps because of the hike required to reach the offices, intracampus mail delivery is a challenge. And because the offices rely heavily on intracampus couriers for circulation of university paperwork needing signatures—coupled with the possibility of these documents sitting untouched in an inbox—it is no surprise that gathering signatures could take weeks.

No one disputes that the management of the seven units housed under the Drexel Business Services (DBS) department worked hard. The units generate $68 million in revenue, $38 million in expenses and $5 million in expense recovery annually for the Philadelphia-based institutions. The units’ respective managers were responsible for their own budgets, purchasing, accounts payable, reconciliation, cash handling, forecasting, HR and quarterly reporting.

Until the summer of 2013, the primary sources of technology support services at Fairfield University in Connecticut were the reference librarians and circulation staff at the DiMenna-Nyselius Library—not the technology help desk. Questions about software, using campus printers or accessing the university’s wireless network were most commonly answered by the library professionals who were within earshot.

The number of posted transfer credits for incoming students at Madison College in Wisconsin has risen steadily, from 2,814 in 2010 to 4,119 in 2013—nearly a 50 percent increase in just three years. The college receives approximately 18,000 applications for admission each year. The 24,076 degree-credit students enrolled earned a total of 66,000 transfer credits in 2013. Staff in the admissions and registrar’s offices tried to keep up with posting of transfer credit, but they were at a severe disadvantage.

Four major university systems will share online courses, analytics and learning-management software through a cloud-based digital education platform called Unizin, portions of which launched in July.

Developed by Indiana University, Colorado State University, the University of Florida and the University of Michigan, Unizin will house everything from homework videos to flipped classroom content to distance learning courses—plus all the data that’s generated.

Richard E. Wylie is the president of Endicott College (Mass.).

There have been continuous outcries in recent years for colleges and universities to lower their costs, yet in almost every area those costs continue to rise.

We all know that health care premiums, utility bills and food are among costs that are beyond a college’s control. Institutions also must spend to deliver new or enhanced degree programs, and these costs are often overlooked by the public.

Technology continues to change the way learning and assessment are conducted in higher education. As the methods of learning are digitized, assessment must follow—but, not surprisingly, faculty using new testing methods are experiencing obstacles that don’t exist in the physical classroom.

Thanks to student information systems like Banner and Blackboard, universities collect an ever increasing volume of data about campus life and student performance. But knowing what data to collect and leveraging it for better outcomes is not always easy.

Back in 2010, John Carroll University did not have a content management system (CMS) to centrally update and maintain its web presence. “It was a mess and we needed help,” says Mike Richwalsky, the university’s senior director of creative services and e-marketing. Richwalsky was tasked with finding and implementing a CMS that could be used across campus by faculty and staff of different technical skill-levels. In the end, he chose WordPress, a free and user-friendly open source CMS. “Ease of use was our deciding factor,” says Richwalsky.

Who's buying what?

When it became clear that the scientific equipment in hundreds of labs across the University of Pittsburgh campus was not being maintained effectively, professionals in the university procurement department began looking for a new provider to do the job.

The university had long relied on a purchasing cooperative to secure favorable contracts with vendors for bulk products such as office supplies. When administrators discovered that the cooperative had established an agreement with Specialty Underwriters (SU), a provider of equipment maintenance, their search was over.

Projects recognized by UB's Models of Efficiency program can serve as a springboard for further improvements.

Five years ago, UB began recognizing campus departments for their initiatives to save time, money and resources, while simultaneously improving the quality of service and communication provided to constituents.

John Arpino, Assistant Director of Engineering Research and Development, at George Washington University

It’s no secret to university CIOs: digital is here to stay. But with decades of investment in legacy AV equipment, keeping up with the latest digital technology infrastructure can be a real challenge. Converting and updating an entire campus’ AV system is a sizable, but increasingly necessary, investment requiring both time and resources.

Instrumental in implementing the new online payments system were  (left to right) Allison Foltz, Mike Boolukos and Melody Baker from the  information technology office.

Cash flow is as important to nonprofits as it is to corporate entities. That’s something officials at Salisbury University in Maryland had in mind when they engaged outside help several years ago to provide students with online payment gateways, tuition payment plans and electronic bills.

The steps resulted in increased efficiencies and more timely payment. But with enrollment up a third over the last decade—and no increase in accounts receivable staffing—officials knew it was time to take the next step.