Meeting student demands for speed and ease

Meeting student demands for speed and ease

By Dennis K Crowson on Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Students are so tech-savvy now that if you can’t offer mobile options, speed, and convenience, they see it as a negative mark against your institution. They expect things to happen overnight: if they send an application, they want an answer tomorrow. So higher education institutions have to make that happen.

Blinn College has one of the top 10 transfer rates in the nation. We transfer a higher percentage of students to four-year institutions than any other community college in Texas—approximately 43 percent of our students. During peak registration periods, we see something like 1,500 applications a week and we send 4,000 transcripts a month to Sam Houston State University and Texas A&M University—as much as 2,000 a night. Annually, we evaluate 25,000 incoming high school and 25,000 college transcripts and send out 50,000.

So we have to keep our systems up to date to keep pace with the sheer volume of applications and transcript requests. And it’s not as easy as hiring more people or buying more technology. We have budget constraints that force us to handle the numbers without adding new people. And that means we have to make the most of what we’ve already invested in.

We’re modernizing our procedures by automating processes. We want to make sure our students can get in to our system, do what they need to do, and get out. So although most of our efforts are behind the scenes, the students benefit directly. We’ve already automated several processes, including:

  • Bringing in all the applications through the American
    Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers (AACRAO) servers and processing them electronically
  • Receiving, evaluating, and sending high school transcripts
  • Calculating PELL grant and financial aid eligibility and updating student accounts
  • Reviewing graduation applications and running reports to make sure students have met all the requirements

It works. In just ten years, enrollment has grown by almost 5,000 students or 33 percent without significantly increasing employees in the Admissions and Records offices. And it’s still growing, so even though we’re not the most cutting-edge campus around, we’re making huge strides.

Ellucian makes it easy for us to stay current with technology and trends by offering educational options such as Ellucian Live and the Texas Connection Consortium (TCC)—community events that gather peers together to share their experiences and learn from each other. It’s really helpful to see demos of new products and get trained on new processes. Of course, there’s always trial and error. We make improvements and learn, get into a test system, and try it out before we move to a live environment. The point is, we’re able to meet student needs by tweaking our processes with the technology we have.

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About the Author

Dennis Crowson

Dennis K Crowson

Ph.D., Vice President Student Services, Blinn College

Dr. Dennis Crowson brings 24 years of higher education experience to his role as vice president for student services at Blinn College.