It wasn't an idea mentioned at a conference or a snippet noted in a magazine or a suggestion from a listserv that sparked Jamie Belinne's brainstorm. It was the time she spent waiting in her doctor's office during an illness six years ago.
There were any number of reasons why The George Washington University needed to automate the way it paid stipends to the thousands of students who work there as tutors, teachers, researchers, or facilitators.
It wasn't as if the admissions office at Boston University did nothing to keep from drowning in paper, working 12-hour days and weekends, and falling behind on customer service.
Administrators engaged in annual streamlining, but with BU's applicant pool increasing by more than 10,000 over the past five years, it was difficult to keep up. More than 200,000 supporting credentials had to be processed and filed, and 38,000 applications needed to be ready for admissions staff to read by April 1. The entire process was time-consuming and cumbersome.
Even in these digital times, undergraduate admissions remains a paper-laden discipline. Viewbooks, search pieces, postcards, catalogs, applications, and more need to be printed, enveloped, and mailed, a process not only costly but also inefficient. Most inquirers to any one school, after all, end up attending elsewhere.
Until recently, applicants to the University of North Carolina, Wilmington’s Graduate School mailed in their applications, which were then walked—as in, physically carried—across campus to the school’s 46 different programs for review. Graduate coordinators often discovered necessary documents were missing, necessitating either another cross-campus trip to deliver the retrieved information or a resubmission by the applicant, which triggered the process anew.
Doors have locks, of course—both traditional and electronic locks. For years, at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, creating the keys and access cards to allow staff to get into offices, laboratories, classrooms, and residence halls was a completely manual and time-consuming task: Users printed a hard copy of a request form, filled it out, passed it along for an approval signature, and sent it via campus mail to facilities management.
Like many institutions, the University of St. Francis rolled out an online portal a few years ago in order to offer round-the-clock support and information to the entire campus community. Given its varied academic profile—a main campus in Joliet, Ill.; a satellite campus in Albuquerque, N.M.; and a thriving distance-learning program—officials hoped the integration of technology into business processes would lead to greater efficiencies and cost savings.
While the rest of the working world uses summer as a time to decamp to waterfront locales, college and university officials take advantage of quieter campuses to catch up on projects and prepare for the return of students. At Wentworth Institute of Technology in Boston, summer activities include training student leaders.
With a web-based interface allowing for staffers across the institution to input information, officials at Central Methodist University, located in Fayette, Mo., figured that awarding scholarships would be a breeze. After all, admission counselors, coaches, and others could easily enter academic and extracurricular credentials for accepted students, allowing for the appropriate officials to approve scholarships and notify the recipients.
The paperless society that technological advances were to have fostered never happened; we are more awash in paper than ever before. At University of the Arts, in Philadelphia, the problem has been compounded by a 16.5 percent increase in enrollment and a nearly 50 percent spike in applications over the last decade.