Models of Efficiency

Foldemort: No More Paper and Folders

Admissions and New Student Programs
University Business, December 2014
Honoree: 
Portland State University
Program Category: 
Applicants with dreams of attending Portland State now learn the outcome of their applications at least two weeks earlier than before.

Maybe the last thing you want to do in environmentally conscious Oregon is implement an efficiency-oriented solution that ends up resulting in greater paper use.

Administrators at Portland State purchased an enterprise content management solution for admissions, registration and records, financial aid and business services that—among other deficiencies—necessitated the printing of a prospective student’s application materials from one system in order to scan them into another.

Under that system, says Christopher Skinner, assistant director of admission evaluation and processing, “we could never be paperless, for a lot of reasons. Primarily because there was nowhere for the actual application to go. The image was static. It just sat in the system.”

It’s not as if prospective students weren’t able to apply electronically. Online application has been a reality at Portland State for years, says Skinner.

But the admissions team still had to print all of the applications and file them in a physical folder with evaluations, paper code sheets and paper committee review sheets. The system wasn’t even capable of storing application documents—transcripts had to be printed and scanned. All of this cost the university money (paper isn’t free) and time (printing and filing don’t happen by themselves).

The university opted for OnBase by Hyland to fully digitize student records and integrate them with the Banner by Ellucian student information system. Bye-bye, paper.

Thanks to OnBase, applications from prospective students and all supplementary materials are captured electronically and automatically routed for processing. This digital record keeping continues as students matriculate. Integration with Banner gives admissions counselors and others the ability to view student records without touching a single piece of paper.

As a result, admit decisions are made far more quickly—at least two weeks more quickly—and 850 hours of student work time has been saved because physical folders and files are no longer used. Eliminating the need to print applications and file them with evaluations and reviews has saved almost 40,000 sheets of paper.

Because OnBase allows for electronic transmission of admission letters to applicants, the university has saved about $50,000 a year in printing and mailig. And, Skinner and other officials have noticed, morale has improved because searching by hand is a thing of the past.

Ultimately, OnBase has enabled Portland State to achieve one of the holy grails of admissions, Skinner says.

“The overwhelmingly positive part of the experience is we were able to do away with admissions application folders,” he says. “This is the first office where I’ve seen that succeed.” And the solution can be used elsewhere on campus, he says: “Anywhere where you can trigger a workflow.”