Campus payroll errors can translate to big bucks … but automation can help

USD reportedly saved more than $700,000 in overtime payments.

Collecting and entering employee payroll information is a famously complex task in higher education. College payroll calculations are even more complicated—and fraught with error—when they’re done by hand.

And as colleges have faced lean budgets in recent years, officials have been focused on avoiding employee overpayment while campus departments are asked to cut back.

The University of San Diego (USD), a private campus with about 3,800 employees, reportedly saved about $1.5 million last year after campus administrators moved from a manual payroll system to an automated approach that removed human error from the process.

Automating payroll gave the university a more accurate reading of how much overtime employees were working, according to an independent analysis described in a report published by Kronos, a Massachusetts-based workforce management solutions company hired by USD.

USD saw its payroll error rates drop by 93 percent after automating the process, saving more than $700,000 in annual overtime payouts. USD employees, according to the Kronos report, “often overestimated the amount of overtime they worked.”

“I would say that the recession has done a lot to heighten sensitivity about this issue,” said Christine Carmichael, Kronos’s industry marketing director for the public sector.

Wasting money on payroll errors—especially when those mistakes are discovered by local newspapers—could cause PR damage for campuses during tough economic times. Colleges and universities “become hyper-press-sensitive” about overpayments to employees during down economies, Carmichael said.

Leaving payroll management to campus employees also could result in lawsuits if mistakes are made, Carmichael said. Campus workers who aren’t compensated for their overtime work could take the matter to court—another potential PR blow to colleges.

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New technologies help make IP telephony easier, cheaper, more secure

IP telephony vendors showcased their latest products at the annual ACUTA conference.

As more schools and colleges look to rout their phone calls and other communications over their IP network, a number of products and services are emerging that aim to make IP telephony easier to implement … and more secure.

Some of these new products and services were on display during the 40th annual conference of the Association for Information Communications Technology Professionals in Higher Education (ACUTA), held in Orlando April 3-6.

The Ontario-based company Phybridge, for instance, showcased what it called the world’s first network switch that lets you run IP telephony, unified communications, and Power over Ethernet service over a traditional telephone network—thereby saving bandwidth on your IP network, while leveraging your school’s investment in its original telecommunications infrastructure.

For years, Phybridge says, the telecommunications industry has believed that voice traffic was simply another application on an IP network—and that huge cost savings could be realized by having a single network handle both voice and data. But that undersells the challenges of handling the real-time requirements of voice traffic over an IP network, which can be significant.

“We believe that voice on data is the old way [of deploying IP telephony],” said Richard Kasslack, director of partner experience for Phybridge, “and that voice with data is the wave of the future.”

Phybridge’s UniPhyer switch reportedly provides digital signaling, as well as power, over a single-pair copper telephone line, with a range of up to 1,200 feet. It also allows for full duplex service, meaning that both parties on the call can speak at the same time—just as they can in a traditional phone call.

Among the colleges and universities reportedly using the product are Ohio State, Georgia Tech, Western State College, and Vermont Law School (VLS).

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Fueled by protests, angry Wisconsin voters show up to fight

Union supporters and Democrats unleashed their fury over Scott Walker, the Republican governor, and his efforts to diminish collective bargaining rights at the ballot box on Tuesday, reports the New York Times. Angry voters managed a task some had said was impossible: they locked a veteran State Supreme Court justice, who is considered conservative, in a razor-thin race with an opponent who is much less well known. (The opponent declared victory on Wednesday.)

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Weathering education cuts

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett proposed cuts last month that would slash the state’s higher-education budget to $567 million from $1.2 billion, affecting more than a dozen state-run and state-supported universities, reports the Wall Street Journal. For the University of Pittsburgh’s Katz Graduate School of Business and College of Business Administration, tuition would have to be increased by 40% to break even, although the school doesn’t plan to implement such a dramatic increase. John Delaney, who has been the school’s dean since August 2006, spoke with the Wall Street Journal about the budget cuts and how far the school is prepared to go to keep itself afloat. “I think we’ll have to really change the way we do things,” Mr. Delaney says…

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Can Facebook posts lead to college rejections?

‘Tis the season. Colleges have sent out their admissions decisions, with prospective students eagerly sorting through acceptances and rejections, says U.S. News & World Report. This week’s question from Derrick L. in New York, N.Y. tackles the question of whether an applicant’s social media activity has an effect on college admissions…

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Google ‘to reorganize YouTube channels’

U.S. internet giant Google is preparing a major overhaul of video sharing website YouTube by creating “channels” to compete with broadcast and cable TV, the Wall Street Journal reported on Thursday. Under a plan costing as much as $100 million, the YouTube homepage will highlight different channels focused on topics like arts and sports, the Journal said, citing people familiar with the matter…

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How to lead change successfully in uncertain times

Author and motivational speaker Simon T. Bailey advised campus leaders how to thrive in times of change.

Author and motivational speaker Simon T. Bailey has some advice for how campus leaders can thrive in an era marked by rapid change and disruptive technologies: Focus on people, process, and problems.

Bailey was the opening keynote speaker at the 40th annual conference of the Association for Information Communications Technology Professionals in Higher Education (ACUTA), held in Orlando April 3-6. The conference brought together nearly 300 campus technology specialists from across North America to learn about the latest trends and new developments in delivering voice, video, and data services to higher-education stakeholders.

The theme for this year’s conference, “Succeeding in the New Reality,” was a nod to the many challenges facing colleges and universities today, including cuts in federal and state education funding that make it harder to invest in campus IT infrastructure—as well as the accelerating pace of change in education and technology. And it was this latter challenge that Bailey’s keynote sought to address.

Too often in times of rapid change, an organization’s leaders tend to focus on the technologies that are causing the disruption, Bailey said—when they should be paying attention to their employees first and foremost.

“We can’t forget people in the midst of a shift,” he said. “Organizations don’t have ideas—people do.”

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More pupils are learning online, fueling debate on quality

Jack London was the subject in Daterrius Hamilton’s online English 3 course. In a high school classroom packed with computers, he read a brief biography of London with single-paragraph excerpts from the author’s works, reports the New York Times. But the curriculum did not require him, as it had generations of English students, to wade through a tattered copy of “Call of the Wild” or “To Build a Fire.” Mr. Hamilton, who had failed English 3 in a conventional classroom and was hoping to earn credit online to graduate, was asked a question about the meaning of social Darwinism. He pasted the question into Google and read a summary of a Wikipedia entry. He copied the language, spell-checked it and e-mailed it to his teacher…

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8 illegal immigrants detained at Georgia protest

Eight young illegal immigrants were arrested Tuesday for sitting in the middle of a busy street in front of the Georgia Capitol, protesting their lack of access to higher education in a scene reminiscent of civil rights demonstrations decades ago, the Associated Press reports. The group, made up of mostly students, believe their plight is similar to movement the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. led, and they met with former activists from the 1960s to hash out their civil disobedience plan. As the foreign-born youngsters sat in the road, at times holding hands, hundreds of supporters lined the street and cheered in support as the illegal immigrants were led away in handcuffs…

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F-Bombs and ‘Jorts’: Craziest college rejection reasons

In the toughest college admission season on record, acceptance rates plummeted at many schools, including the Ivy League. Kristina Dell explores some of the arbitrary and whimsical reasons that applicants were rejected, reports the Daily Beast. For high-school seniors, the stress level of the past two weeks hit an all-time high last Wednesday when Ivy League decisions came out. You’ve probably heard by now that for many schools, this year was the toughest college admission season on record. Take a look at the grisly acceptance rates: Harvard, 6.2 percent; Columbia, 6.9; Yale, 7.4; Princeton, 8.4; Brown, 8.7; Dartmouth 9.7; University of Pennsylvania, 12.3; and Cornell, 18. Even a school like San Diego State—best known for its beer and basketball-loving student body–saw its acceptance rate plummet to a jaw-dropping 10 percent…

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