Central Oklahoma sits snugly in Tornado Alley, but it was a flood, not a twister, that shocked officials at The University of Oklahoma into the realization that student advising records were one natural disaster away from disappearing forever.
Until 2009, students at Asheville-Buncombe Technical Community College (N.C.) could wait as long as two hours to be seen by a counselor in student services, which includes the offices of admissions, advising, financial aid, and the registrar. After signing in on a sheet of paper in one of the four offices, students waited to be seen. Sometimes they were then referred to another office, where they got in the back of the line. The process was not only time-consuming, but frustrating.
For newly minted alumni poised to land their first job or continue their studies in grad school, few items are more important than the transcript. Proof that the work was done, the grade earned, and the degree awarded, the transcript serves as the institution’s stamp of approval.
After doubling its number of graduates, Polk needed to automate its graduation applications process. A customized Access database was created with built-in reporting capabilities. An automated download capability was added to link graduate information with the reporting database. The result: Advising hours have been reduced by 1,600 per year and the additional clerical help is no longer needed.
The idea of students substituting courses in a degree plan is not unheard of, but such requests must be carefully managed. Before the fall of 2011, Texas A&M University was dealing with the challenging and costly issue of processing undergraduate course adjustments within the Degree Audit office in the Office of the Registrar using a paper-based process. Requests were initiated by an advisor, then sent to the department head and dean before arriving at Degree Audit.
As students “swirl” through higher education, taking classes at multiple institutions either consecutively or simultaneously, the need for institutions to quickly receive and process transcripts becomes more important. To comply with accreditation standards, Houston Community College was supposed to have all transcripts evaluated by the end of a student’s first semester, a goal their paper-based process was not allowing them to meet in 2008.
At some point during the year, nearly every one of the 4,400 students at Ogeechee Technical College (Ga.) will have a reason to visit the college’s Student Affairs Center (SAC). This central administrative unit houses Admissions, Financial Aid, the Registrar, and Career Services. In 2011, 24,869 student appointments were made with as many as 320 students a day visiting during peak times; during quieter periods, between 80 and 100 students are seen.
Creating a one-stop student services center in 2005 at Wilkes University (Pa.) seemed like a good idea at the time. These popular organizational structures have typically been a cost-cutting measure introduced to allow educational institutions to do more with less. At Wilkes, a one-stop shop was created by co-locating the services of the Registrar, Financial Aid, Admissions Processing, and Cashier.
Sometimes increasing efficiency requires cross-functional teams, complex software solutions, and weeks of training and implementation. And sometimes it’s as simple as replacing a clipboard and sign-in sheet with a commonly used program, such as Microsoft Excel.