An innovative staff idea to improve efficiency at William & Mary has garnered a national award and is also being lauded for it sustainability benefits.
William & Mary has been recognized as a fall 2010 Models of Efficiency honoree in the latest issue of University Business magazine. This new, national program honors colleges and universities that find innovative ways to deliver superior service to students in less time and at lower costs.
The collaborative idea between Undergraduate Admission, University Registrar and Information Technology (IT) now automates roughly 60 percent of the domicile (in-state/out-of-state) application reviews for degree-seeking undergraduate applicants. To create this new and efficient process, a series of carefully-crafted questions were added to the Supplement of the Common Application, replacing a separate paper form that students had to download, fill out by hand and then mail back to the College.
“This project is a great example of the cooperation of departments at William & Mary,” said Berni Kenney, deputy chief information officer. “As we move forward, we will certainly use this as an example to look at what we’ve accomplished together to create efficiencies for everyone.”
According to Betsy Quinzio, senior assistant dean of undergraduate admission, William & Mary received more than 12,500 undergraduate applications last year. One third, or roughly 5,000 students applied from in-state.
“As a state school, 65 percent of the student population has to be from Virginia, so it’s essential to know whether a student is in-state or out-of-state,” said Quinzio. “Having timely domicile decisions are critical for several reasons: They affect processing for admissions decisions, issuing student bills for tuition, awarding financial aid packages and producing institutional reports.”
The idea came to Quinzio and Kimberly Momballou, associate university registrar, when the two colleagues were testing a software upgrade. “It was one of those times where the words came out and we both said, ‘why can’t we do this?’”
Momballou said her office used to receive thousands of sheets of paper from the old undergraduate admission process, estimating around 10,000 in total. They’ve now seen a 98% reduction in paper, an environmental perk that supports William & Mary’s “Do One Thing” (DOT) sustainability campaign.
“We were finding third, fourth and sometimes fifth copies of the paper application that students had submitted,” said Momballou. “So, 10,000 might be a conservative estimate,” she noted.
The vast improvements in efficiency also gave the Registrar an opportunity to examine their internal processes. In the past, one person in the Registrar’s Office was devoted to sifting through thousands of applications to determine residency.
“We are now able to better utilize our staff resources and focus on the tougher applications where it's not clear cut and more information is needed from the student,” said Momballou.
And it’s not just the College that’s reaping the rewards of the efficiency. Undergraduate students who are applying for admission enjoy a quicker application process and a singular place to submit the required materials.
“We used to have to hound students for the paper application form, but now we don’t have to,” said Quinzio. “It’s made it much easier on the students.”
Reporting & Business Analyst Danny Banks, who serves as the admission office IT liaison, worked on the backend of the project to develop the matrix for the automated decision making. He also created the mapping system for the data.
“The decision to modify this business process and make it more efficient and productive for William & Mary staff by using technology was a no-brainer,” said Banks. “Our success in the undergraduate admission office opens the door for expansion College-wide.”
Although the College has made huge leaps, Quinzio and Momballou are already thinking about innovative ways to tweak and improve the system.
“What we’re faced with now is 2.0 – which is, what is the best way to take this implemented idea and apply it to all other William & Mary applicants,” said Momballou.
“It’s phase 2.5,” quipped Quinzio, “And actually the wheels are turning already.”