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Information Technology

There’s a reason someone coined the term “too many cooks in the kitchen.” Northern Arizona University’s Extended Campuses division—with 36 locations plus numerous online offerings—has enjoyed rapid growth in enrollment, pressuring the division’s software development team to keep up with rising demand for student services, course management, prospect tracking, and staff support.

Justin Gatewood remembers the annoying hurdles he had to jump over to attend an orientation session when he enrolled at Victor Valley College (Calif.). “I had to take time off work and drive over to the campus and sit in a classroom and listen to a counselor for an hour or so and then drive back,” he says. “It had to be all coordinated. It was an ordeal.”

Community college students are more likely to have extra demands on their time and attention, from jobs to family commitments. Anything colleges can do to relieve administrative burdens means more time that students can concentrate on their studies. At Houston Community College, the Information Technology office teamed with the Office of Student Financial Services and the Finance and Accounting office to move to paperless cashiering.

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.

Students appreciate that they can register at their convenience and now visit the offices in person only when necessary.

The classic registration scenario of bouncing students from their advisor to select classes, to the Business Office to check for holds, and finally to the Registrar’s Office to stand in line is so 20th century—but hard to escape. Everyone at Catawba College (N.C.) agreed it was time to modernize, but faculty advisors did not want their role in the process diminished or to lose a touch point with students. “Advising is an important part of Catawba’s mission to give every student the personal attention needed to be successful,” shares Joanna Jasper, chief information officer.

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.

Standardization and combined purchasing of desktop computers,  laptops, and printers has brought significant savings.

Buying computers for a college campus is no small feat. In addition to requisitioning and specing them before the purchase, there is the configuration and instillation after the purchase to worry about.

Avoiding third-party software to make the ERP system work for departments such as athletics saves a bundle and makes for a better, more seamless solution. Score!

Like many institutions over the last several years, Salisbury University (Md.) paid handsomely for an enterprise resource planning system. Also like many institutions, Salisbury discovered that while its ERP solution handled larger functions just fine, there were gaps in the system—in areas such as housing, medical and athletic records, course evaluation, and human resources search management—that required the purchase and implementation of third-party products to fill.

Although the University of Virginia has approximately 200,000 living alumni, until recently, the university was only communicating electronically with a fraction of them; 43,000 had email addresses on record. Because the university consists of so many campus organizations—11 schools and 30 foundations—creating and managing a central alumni database for online communications proved difficult. Each school and foundation managed its own list of email recipients. The information “was very siloed,” explains Deke Shrum, assistant director of interactive media at U.Va.

Students have enough on their plates without having to worry about properly receiving their work-study hours from their financial aid packages. But, paper time cards and siloed systems were making life difficult for students and staff alike at Catawba College (N.C.).