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Articles: Operational Efficiencies

It seemed like a good idea at the time.

Looking to reduce the cost of preparing the massive, paper-filled binders used by its board members at their meetings, Walsh College (Mich.) officials tried a laptop-based package. That cut down on paper, but the hardware was problematic.

Texas A&M Health Science Center is responsible for ensuring the safety and security of its faculty, staff, and students on eight campuses. Educating and informing the community regarding how to best respond to emergency situations—such as chemical spills, man-made emergencies, or natural disasters—was historically done through printed materials and the center’s website.

Automating admissions has made accepts,  defers, declines, and deposits move faster at Royal Roads University.

For over a decade, potential Royal Roads University (British Columbia) students have been able to submit their applications for admission online. But Royal Roads’ response to applicants had remained paper-based until recently.

One of the most sought-after nonsalary compensation items offered by higher education is full or partial tuition benefits for employees and their families. Free and reduced-cost degrees go a long way toward easing the impact of nonprofit salaries.

American Public University System (W.Va.) offers varying levels of such tuition benefits based on employee status. But the institution’s formerly manual registration process was ill-equipped to distinguish between different registration types, creating problems when it came to reporting, scholarship applications, and payment.

When Ellison Hall got flooded, student records could have been destroyed­—but were spared.

Central Oklahoma sits snugly in Tornado Alley, but it was a flood, not a twister, that shocked officials at The University of Oklahoma into the realization that student advising records were one natural disaster away from disappearing forever.

Tracking help requests at Carthage College has resulted in time and money savings­—as well as happier users.

The Library and Information Services (LIS) department at Carthage College (Wis.) has provided support services to the campus community since 2001. Part library information desk, part IT and media help desk, LIS’ 22 staff members answer nearly 10,000 questions a year, ranging from where to find a book to figuring out why a student’s email account suddenly stopped working or helping a faculty member put a course online.

Refunds at American Public U are now processed daily, compared to what used to take 10 to 20 days.

Ask any taxpayer who impatiently begins checking the mailbox within days of filing an income tax return: People may wait until the last minute to pay a bill, but when owed a refund, they want it as quickly as possible.

And so the manual refund process at American Public University System (W.Va.) was problematic. Financial aid refunds at the fully online school took up to 10 days to process; nonfinancial aid refunds could take up to twice that time. And that was with staff members who did nothing but process refunds full time.

Recently, I participated in a meeting of Oregon college presidents that explored ways to streamline educational offerings and create efficiencies based on one another’s strengths. Though together we arrived at similar conclusions, the strength of America’s higher education system is found in its diversity of approaches. To be truly effective, we must also be distinctive, offering a wide set of alternatives to our students.

At Schreiner University (Texas), our team has applied the transformative power of technology to achieve our identifying motto “Learning by Heart”—a personalized, integrated education that prepares our students for meaningful work and purposeful lives in a changing global society.

It doesn’t seem so long ago that colleges and universities were largely run as academic entities, unworried about growth and profit, and doing much of their administrative paperwork by hand or with outdated computer programs. Fast forward to 2013, and we believe the polar opposite to be true. Universities are competing for increased revenues, student enrollment, and top academic prospects more now than ever before, and in order to maintain a competitive edge they must take advantage of the latest technology.

As we launch the fourth year of our Models of Efficiency recognition program, we are seeing lots of familiar names. The University of Wisconsin-Stout, a 2011 honoree, picks up two more awards this round, for separate efforts within the Registration and Records Office. Miami Dade College’s two winning entries are also among the group of nine conversation-stimulating stories we share this month.

Freshman move-in day: It’s hot, you’re hauling boxes into your room, you hope you have a good roommate, you’re worried about your class schedule, you need to get to the bookstore to stock up on required reading, and on and on and on. About the last thing you want to do is stand in line to register your car with public safety.

Miami Dade College is the largest and most diverse higher ed institution in the U.S., serving a community as large as the state of Rhode Island. It has 175,000 students and offers more than 300 academic degree programs. Despite its large student body, MDC could serve even more students, so it spends thousands of dollars each year on marketing via the web, radio, and newspaper to attract new applicants.

Historically, all 26,000 annual applicants to Johnson County Community College (Kan.) received up to three printed communiqués regarding their admissions status. While more information is usually better, the problem with JCCC’s process was that pieces of communication were not sent in chronological order. This created confusion for students.

For newly minted alumni poised to land their first job or continue their studies in grad school, few items are more important than the transcript. Proof that the work was done, the grade earned, and the degree awarded, the transcript serves as the institution’s stamp of approval.