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Articles: Registrar/Advising

Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Florida

For years, new student orientation at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Florida required the creation of information packets that were labeled with stickers and contained as many as 10 sheets of paper. The packets, which were prepared by Records and Registration staff with help from other departments, directed students to where they needed to go during orientation.

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.

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.

The piece of paper. That’s what students are shooting for—a diploma, the tangible proof that they’ve met all requirements, completed the courses they had to complete, and graduated.

Who wants to wait for that?

University of Wisconsin-Stout graduates didn’t have any choice.

Until 2009, students at Asheville-Buncombe Technical Community College (N.C.) could wait as long as two hours to be seen by a counselor in student services, which includes the offices of admissions, advising, financial aid, and the registrar. After signing in on a sheet of paper in one of the four offices, students waited to be seen. Sometimes they were then referred to another office, where they got in the back of the line. The process was not only time-consuming, but  frustrating.

Simpler for graduating students, the new process is also a moneysaver.

After doubling its number of graduates, Polk needed to automate its graduation applications process. A customized Access database was created with built-in reporting capabilities. An automated download capability was added to link graduate information with the reporting database. The result: Advising hours have been reduced by 1,600 per year and the additional clerical help is no longer needed.

The idea of students substituting courses in a degree plan is not unheard of, but such requests must be carefully managed. Before the fall of 2011, Texas A&M University was dealing with the challenging and costly issue of processing undergraduate course adjustments within the Degree Audit office in the Office of the Registrar using a paper-based process. Requests were initiated by an advisor, then sent to the department head and dean before arriving at Degree Audit.

As students “swirl” through higher education, taking classes at multiple institutions either consecutively or simultaneously, the need for institutions to quickly receive and process transcripts becomes more important. To comply with accreditation standards, Houston Community College was supposed to have all transcripts evaluated by the end of a student’s first semester, a goal their paper-based process was not allowing them to meet in 2008.

Upfront estimate: When a student signs in, he or she receives a ticket with the likely wait time.

At some point during the year, nearly every one of the 4,400 students at Ogeechee Technical College (Ga.) will have a reason to visit the college’s Student Affairs Center (SAC). This central administrative unit houses Admissions, Financial Aid, the Registrar, and Career Services. In 2011, 24,869 student appointments were made with as many as 320 students a day visiting during peak times; during quieter periods, between 80 and 100 students are seen.

With most students choosing easy online registration these days, Student Services Center wait times now average just two minutes.

Creating a one-stop student services center in 2005 at Wilkes University (Pa.) seemed like a good idea at the time. These popular organizational structures have typically been a cost-cutting measure introduced to allow educational institutions to do more with less. At Wilkes, a one-stop shop was created by co-locating the services of the Registrar, Financial Aid, Admissions Processing, and Cashier.

Sometimes increasing efficiency requires cross-functional teams, complex software solutions, and weeks of training and implementation. And sometimes it’s as simple as replacing a clipboard and sign-in sheet with a commonly used program, such as Microsoft Excel.

College can be tough enough for traditional students. For those enrolled at community colleges, who often have less academic preparation and face added pressures from having to work to pay for school, the pathway to success can be even more daunting.

“In the community college system, we have open access, which means that any student who desires to come to us can,” says Patty Erjavec, president of Pueblo Community College (Colo.). “But keeping those students is a challenge, and graduating those students is a challenge.”

As if new student orientation wasn’t busy enough, the University of Oregon registrar’s staff was faced with processing thousands of pieces of paper containing Advanced Placement test scores that had arrived not long before the arrival of eager freshmen.

Because Oregon operates on the quarter system, orientation sessions are held throughout July, after AP scores are mailed to the school. That tied up personnel who had to manually enter the scores into Banner and pull files so that each session’s students could be properly advised on which courses to register for.

The academic calendar maintains its own particular cycle and pivots on its own particular axis. Critical dates, such as deadlines for the submission and changing of grades, must be honored. After all, should the calendar lose its adherence, the effects can be negative.

In these days of instantaneous communication, having to wait for an answer feels anachronistic. If our e-mail isn’t returned within five minutes, we call our colleague to make sure she got it. Technology, it seems, has sped communication as well as slowed it down, as multiple means of messaging?telephones, online channels, face-to-face conversation?crowd one another for attention.