A Unified System With a Shared Technology Platform

By migrating 10 universities to a common platform, the OneSIS project provides systemwide support and enhanced security.

PASSHE - A Unified System With a Shared Technology Platform

Ellucian solutions granted to 10 institutions


increase in admitted students, PennWest


increase in course offerings, PennWest

Ellucian worked with Paul Allison, CIO, PennWest University and Rosa Lara, System CIO, Pennsylvania's State System of Higher Education to produce this Customer Story.

The annual Ellucian Impact Award recognizes higher education institutions that use technology to mitigate risk, eliminate downtime, withstand disruption, and achieve greater productivity. PennWest University and Commonwealth University are both 2023 Impact Award winners and members of Pennsylvania's State System of Higher Education (PASSHE).

These institutions represent six total campuses and were the pilot schools for PASSHE's ambitious OneSIS project. OneSIS will provide all PASSHE institutions access to 28 Ellucian solutions in the cloud through Ellucian's Shared Technology Platform, ensuring all students, faculty, and staff can benefit from modern toolsets, enhanced security, and expanded course offerings.

The Challenge: 10 Universities, OneSIS

In 2017, PASSHE undertook a strategic review of its operations to identify necessary change and ensure long-term success for its institutions. The ensuing system redesign led to a partnership with Ellucian to unify and modernize across 10 universities. This project—known as OneSIS—provided an adaptable and future-ready Shared Technology Platform (STP) to which all 10 individual Student Information Systems (SIS) could be transitioned while maintaining each institution’s ability to configure their technology to meet their specific needs.

Ellucian's STP laid a foundation to build lifelong learning from the prospective student stage to alumnus and beyond—as cost-effectively as possible for students and institutions alike. OneSIS would also align with PASSHE's goal to move greater workloads to the cloud, enhancing cybersecurity, promoting greater cross-university collaboration, and granting PASSHE students access to courses at any affiliated institution. This expanded course access has the potential to accelerate the student journey, helping students graduate on time with the best-fit educational experiences for their goals.

OneSIS was kicking off while two simultaneous university integrations were in progress. In the western part of the state, Clarion University, Edinboro University, and California University were forming PennWest University; and in the northeast, Lock Haven University, Mansfield University, and Bloomsburg University were merging to become Commonwealth University. The parallel timelines—of integrating six institutions down to two while designing, configuring, and implementing the OneSIS for those same two universities—posed unique challenges.

Complex Modernization Journey

When PennWest was formed in 2021, their combined leadership team began development of an entirely new SIS to better support students, faculty, and staff while optimizing resource-sharing among the three campuses that now composed the new institution. For most SIS implementations, a new system is integrated into an existing ecosystem with most ancillary solutions in place, but PennWest's component institutions had vastly different processes and few solutions in common. They needed to re-implement every solution and integrate them with Banner. And they had to be done before PennWest's composite student population needed those services in place at the start of 2022.

Midway through PennWest's already complex Banner implementation, OneSIS kicked off and all PASSHE institutions began their transition to the STP. PennWest and Ellucian developed a plan to migrate PennWest's newly-created Banner system into OneSIS within the short timeframe. Together, they reconfigured 43 integrations and launched everything simultaneously in the cloud. As an added benefit, because PennWest’s Banner was built from scratch, they not only migrated directly into OneSIS, but also created the blueprint for other PASSHE student information systems.

Commonwealth University's journey to the Ellucian Cloud was equally challenging but vastly different from PennWest. Each of the three institutions that made up Commonwealth were using separate on-premises student information systems – two of which were end-of-life prior to the start of the OneSIS project. Being net new to Ellucian, while simultaneously merging three institutions, provided a unique set of complex challenges which Commonwealth University had to overcome. It was recognized early in the project that having all data on one platform was critical to meeting student needs and achieving the goals of this new institution.

The Solutions: A Common Platform for Student Success

While both institutions faced a complicated path to modernization, their leaders report that the ensuing transformation was worth the journey. For PennWest, each of their three universities began with radically different approaches to the student experience. One had an older Ellucian portal, another had partnered with a third-party vendor, and the third institution had no student portal at all. On Ellucian's STP and now equipped with Ellucian Experience, PennWest has unified the student experience while delivering tailored, timely, and meaningful content to their users. For Commonwealth, each of their three universities started their Ellucian journey from scratch – bringing student data together in the cloud. With a connected view of enrollment and registration data through to transcript generation, Commonwealth is now better equipped to meet student needs.

The successful launch of OneSIS at PennWest and Commonwealth has provided a standardized but adaptable template for change at other institutions. In addition to providing modern, up-to-date toolsets, PASSHE's multimodal course delivery gives students a wide arrange of class options to achieve their unique educational needs. Increased course availability helps students meet requirements on time and ultimately reduces the cost of their degree, alleviating financial stress that may otherwise delay or derail the student journey.

Cutting Costs Through New Efficiencies

Standardization has also led to a significant boost to operational efficiency in hardware, maintenance, and overall cost savings. PASSHE institutions will have a greater awareness of third-party integrations, equipping institutional leaders with the information they need to simplify and streamline where appropriate. Additionally, institutions are no longer on the hook for on-premises SIS maintenance, shifting the responsibility for infrastructure upgrades and support to Ellucian.

Above all, the State System will enjoy considerable risk mitigation thanks to the cloud. All PASSHE institutions will be able to rely on always-up-to-date software with standardized backup and recovery procedures. Plus, leaders can rest easy knowing institutional data is secured by best-in-class cybersecurity that adapts to protect against evolving threats.

Looking Ahead

PASSHE's OneSIS project resulted in significant technology gains for its member institutions. In addition to a more modern user experience, students now have the ability to access a much broader range of courses from across the system, making it convenient and simple to meet their goals. PASSHE institutions are also benefitting from standardized and streamlined processes without having to worry about the constant maintenance and cybersecurity risks associated with on-premises systems.

OneSIS has enabled significant cost savings through new efficiencies, freeing up resources for innovation. And as PASSHE institutions evolve, they now have a technology partner that can grow with them. As OneSIS transforms each university in the system, PASSHE will continue to collaborate with Ellucian, influencing the product roadmap and working together toward future successes.

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