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As far back as 1995, Sacred Heart University (Conn.) was requiring all full-time undergraduates to purchase a laptop; as early as 2002, Sacred Heart students, faculty, and staff enjoyed campuswide Wi-Fi.

Yet this self-described "pioneer in mobile computing" spent years outsourcing technical support to an off-campus call center.

Limited hours of operation, unpredictable wait times, and lackluster customer service frustrated university officials; the expense and lack of reliability and accountability were drags on the institution's bottom line.

paper chase

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.

good walk

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.


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.

paper cuts

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.

Efficiency fix

In one fell, $300 million swoop, California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo, nearly doubled its housing capacity in the fall of 2008. The nine-building Poly Canyon Village houses 2,600 students in apartment-style living and includes a retail core. What was good for campus life, though, raised considerable challenges for those charged with operating and maintaining it.

Ramapo College of New Jersey

Think back to your first week on the job. Amidst the endless paperwork and the time you spent figuring out your new voicemail system, you probably sat in a conference room for an hour or two and participated in an employee benefits orientation session … with maybe one or two other new hires, if that.


Of all the voluminous paperwork generated by institutions of higher education, perhaps none drowns administrators quite so much as the waves of financial aid forms that surge through offices. With lending institutions and government funding agencies maintaining a keen interest in where their money is going, students and staff alike must take care to cross every “T” and dot every “I,” and such attention to bureaucratic detail requires lots of paper—and lots of human capital to process it all.


The need to find a better way of doing things was evident to Troy Behrens from the day he arrived as the new assistant vice president for student affairs at Southern Methodist University (Texas) and walked into SMU’s Hegi Family Career Development Center. “The red flag that I noticed right away was stacks and stacks of job postings,” he recalls. “They went back three or four years. There were binders upon binders piled up. It was nearly impossible for students to find what they were seeking, and it was impossible to guarantee to employers that what they were sending us was being seen.