The University of Chicago processed more than 25,000 applications this year, an increase of 4,000 over last year. Even campuses that didn’t record application increases from 2011 to 2012 – like The George Washington University and Boston College – still had to evaluate 34,000 and 21,000 applications, respectively.

Williams said that the campus’s old protocol, which included mailing student admissions packets back and forth, has been ditched for scanning and storing student data that can be accessed by anyone with database permission. Updates to a student file can be seen instantly across NIU’s campus.

Colleges and universities also can eliminate redundancy in students’ financial aid paperwork. No longer do admissions employees at NIU have to fill out every part of every application form, thanks to an OnBase automation feature.

“We’re eliminating fat finger data mistakes,” said Tom von Gunden, higher education industry manager for Hyland Software, which specializes in enterprise content management for colleges and universities, as well as industry. von Gunden was referring to inevitable clerical errors in the financial aid application process that could cost campuses tens of thousands of dollars at the height of application season.

Updating a school’s Student Information System (SIS), von Gunden said, isn’t just an ongoing concern for admissions offices. Evaluating which course credits will and won’t transfer from one school to another is a process that can be bogged down by systemic inefficiency, he said.

“One thing that causes errors is when people are in a hurry, just plowing through stuff,” von Gunden said. “And colleges know now that shaving off as much time as possible is the only way to compete for students in this market.”

Automatically populating parts of students’ applications and updating applicants’ status in real time, he said, has reduced time spent on each application from 90 minutes to 10 minutes on some campuses.

Cutting down on application processing has helped colleges send admissions decisions a month ahead of schedule.

“That is huge in the competitive environment,” von Gunden said.

Finding funding for data storage

Penn State’s Center for Enterprise Architecture (CEA) was running out of data storage space – a major problem for a program that prides itself on its technology-focused research agenda and educational programs for students learning the ins and outs of massive data storage.

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