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Articles: Operational Efficiencies

Each year during the NACUBO conference in July, Models of Efficiency honorees are recognized at an awards ceremony hosted by Higher One, the program’s sponsor. This year, six of the most recent award recipients were honored at Mo’s Steakhouse in Indianapolis.

Casey McGuane, chief operations officer at Higher One, and JD Solomon, editorial director of University Business, introduced the award recipients and summarized the projects for which they were honored.

Ivy Tech Community College (Ind.) had a classic good news-bad news problem. The good news was that interest in the 31-campus, statewide institution was burgeoning. The bad news was that budget belt-tightening was limiting the ability of staff to tend to the growing attention needed by prospective students while also responding to the needs of current students.

Until recently, LDS Business College in Salt Lake City focused its career preparation resources on the typical strategies. Career Services’ two counselors prepared 2,200 students for post-college job searches. They helped students craft résumés, write cover letters, and practice interviews through career prep courses and in-person appointments.

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.

Like many other agencies, city police departments are contending with shortages of time, money, and personnel, while the lives of their citizens (and of their officers) depend upon the ability to get the job done right. This balancing act is a challenge university and college police departments can relate to. ECM is helping some city police departments optimize their resources so they focus on what they do best—saving lives.

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.

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