The number of posted transfer credits for incoming students at Madison College in Wisconsin has risen steadily, from 2,814 in 2010 to 4,119 in 2013—nearly a 50 percent increase in just three years.
The college receives approximately 18,000 applications for admission each year. The 24,076 degree-credit students enrolled earned a total of 66,000 transfer credits in 2013. Staff in the admissions and registrar’s offices tried to keep up with posting of transfer credit, but they were at a severe disadvantage.
The problem: Paper transcripts needed to be matched with an incoming or transfer student’s records—a process that, when completed manually, took an inordinate amount of time, says Stephanie Dean, registrar.
This lag was problematic for students as well. They could not confirm which courses they needed to take to graduate and which were fulfilled by transfer credits. And with prospective students bringing an average of five transcripts to be reviewed, a bottleneck was occurring. In some cases, this made the difference in enrolling at Madison or a college that granted transfer credits more quickly.
So in November 2012, the college implemented the OnBase Transcript Capture and Transfer Course Evaluation system to automate parts of the process. OnBase captures transcript data with an optical character recognition reader (or OCR), searches for course equivalencies in PeopleSoft and then automatically awards credits.
“Using optical character recognition readers, transfer courses can be credited within days, not months,” says Dean.
Transfer credit decisions used to take six to eight weeks; now they take less than 72 hours—and most students are notified when they are admitted. That’s a 90 percent reduction in processing time for core feeder colleges.
When OnBase does not find a match, the program automatically routes the course description to faculty who have been designated to review exceptions. These course equivalency decisions are automatically added to PeopleSoft, resulting in the creation of more than 6,000 rules that have sped up the request process and improved the accuracy rate to 95 percent.
Moving from manual to digital has also changed the roles of college advisors, says Dean. “We’re now more proactive. We can reach out to students to follow up and to focus more on advising rather than reviewing credits.”
This has trickled down to improving the course selection process. When fully informed about transfer credits, students can register for the right classes the first time. The number of changes made during add/drop season has been reduced, easing a burden on faculty members, says Dean, adding that the process has “positively impacted customer satisfaction.”