In the olden days—prior to April 2011—reconciling financial information at Hofstra University’s Continuing Education division was labor-intensive and time-consuming.
Today, the system is streamlined and general ledger reconciliation is seamless, thanks to Higher Reach by Jenzabar, a leading continuing education software platform.
“This is one of the most useful features of Higher Reach,” said Colleen Slattery, Senior Associate Dean of Continuing Education at Hofstra. “The daily job scheduler lets us output a file of the entire day’s financial activity, fully customized for the university’s main financial system. We don’t need to adjust anything, and it can be uploaded to the main system.”
Before that, data was transcribed from reports into an Excel spreadsheet on the continuing education side, then manually entered into the main system on the university side. “The new automated process is not only far easier to complete, but it is much easier to reconcile since every transaction is being tracked,” Slattery said.
Higher Reach does more than just finances, though. It has streamlined everything from registration for the Long Island, N.Y., school’s 10,000 continuing education students to marketing of the 300 programs, certificates, seminars, camps and more offered in the surrounding community.
“We had very specific needs, so it was no easy task, but Jenzabar was up to the challenge,” Slattery said. “We needed to condense all of our data into one system. We needed one solution for the entire division.”
Higher Reach was that solution. It allows people to browse an online catalog of offerings and register online with ease using an e-commerce-like shopping-cart; it provides real-time data so students know immediately whether a course they want is still open; students can access grades or schedules, check their position on waiting lists and more.
Staff can identify popular courses to determine whether more sections should be added. Students who’ve shown interest in a particular area can be invited to try a course that’s just been added. Someone who has stopped a certificate program two classes shy of completion can be contacted and encouraged to get to finish. Inquiries flow directly into the Higher Reach database, providing easy access to suggestions, complaints or recommendations that can improve classes or procedures.
“We research trends and watch wait lists and use that information to satisfy more customers,” Slattery said. “Customers have so many choices and so many places they could go. If we call them or send them a personal email, that goes a long way in showing we value them.”
Another way this value is demonstrated is making the front-end of processes user-friendly, intuitive and logical. “Students can register online and not be scared away,” she said. “We don’t follow a typical college semester schedule. I could run a one-day seminar or a 9-month certificate program, and people register the same way. If it’s too complicated, we could lose people.”
Perhaps the most important feature for Hofstra’s continuing ed program is Higher Reach’s ability to fit its needs. “We customize reports very often,” Slattery said. “We look at data in numerous ways. I can pull a report to see how many spots are still open in a summer camp or who still owes us money. Comparison of revenue numbers is huge for us. Where was I last year in comparison to this year?
“We do a lot of mailings,” Slattery added. “We can do a customized mail merge in one step. We had looked at some applications that were 16 steps. Running payroll through Higher Reach has been more efficient. We populate all the information, and it’s just cleaner.”