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Efficiency

For many years, Mississippi ranked near the bottom in higher learning aspiration, academic attainment, and state support—but times have changed. Today, the state's economic and workforce development organizations are teaming up to launch a new collaboration between southern business, industry, and the Mississippi public system of higher education—a dynamic plan aptly named Blueprint Mississippi 2011. And who better to serve as Blueprint's Chair and chief spokesperson than Hank Bounds, commissioner of higher education.

home

A funny thing happened to the College of William & Mary (Va.) on its way to a more efficient way to determine each of its undergraduate students' home address.

Dreading the implementation of the solution agreed upon, college officials instead found efficiencies in the process of working together to solve the problem.

trickle

College campuses are typically beautiful places. Tree-lined walkways, verdant quads, and stately buildings make for a pleasant place to take a walk.

But for staff at the University of St. Francis (Ill.), too many campus strolls took up time that could be better spent on other tasks—such as tending to prospective students. And the paper files they were delivering from office to office belied the university's commitment to environmentalism.

factory

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.

mail

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.

portal

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.

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