How to use technology to improve the transfer process

The University of Arkansas found a solution to manage its growing transfer student applications

The University of Arkansas had a problem: Admissions staff needed to make quicker decisions about transfer students and needed to reach students in new markets, but a backlog of transfer credits slowed progress.

After a state lottery bill funded academic scholarships in 2009, the university saw enrollment jump. Then, it became easier for students to transfer their associate degree coursework to four-year schools, leading to transfer increases between 5 and 10 percent each year.

Despite these spikes in enrollments and transfer students, the university’s registrar and admissions staff remained the same size, which meant staff had to process more documents and transcripts via legacy technology and manual processes.

Average transcript turnaround time varied between two and six weeks. Sometimes, final transcript evaluations weren’t finalized until a month into a new semester. Data entry took up much of the staff’s time—high school and college transfer transcripts went to the university’s admissions office for review and were manually entered into the university’s PeopleSoft system. Next, transcripts were hand-delivered to the registrar for manual review and posting.

All of these processes meant the university had trouble evaluating transfer credits quickly. This also meant the university had trouble recruiting transfer students.

In 2013, the university decided to replace its legacy document management system, and the registrar’s office helped the university search for a transcript data extraction solution at the same time.

What they needed

The new technology solutions would have to include document management, capture, and workflow to integrate with the university’s PeopleSoft system. The university’s registrar staff first saw optical character recognition (OCR) technology at conferences, and they knew they would need template-free data extraction.

The university selected Perceptive Content, process and content management solution, and the Brainware for Transcripts intelligent capture solution, based on its ability to work without templates, zones, or rules-based techniques. It helped that the solution had a proven integration with PeopleSoft.

Once the registrar and admissions offices implemented the new content management and intelligent capture solutions, transfer student applications and evaluations moved much faster.

A much-improved system

Transfer students send transcripts directly to the registrar office. Those transcripts are scanned into the Brainware system in batches, and the registrar office begin reviewing transcrips at the same time as the transcript is received in PeopleSoft. High school transcripts go to the admissions office and are scanned into Brainware in batches, where they are evaluated. Any high school student’s college work is sent to the registrar for equivalency.

Gone are the days of passing papers between offices, manually entering data, and duplicating efforts. Average transcript turnaround time is 24 hours, and the university’s quicker decision-making has helped it recruit and admit students it might have missed before.

“Instead of two offices having to physically touch and manually evaluate the same transcript, the Admissions office is able to use the work from the Registrar office to admit students much faster,” says Robin Carr, director of academic records at the University of Arkansas. “The data extracted by Brainware and integration with PeopleSoft means we are not duplicating work and we’re less likely to receive duplicate transcripts, too.”

The university also has changed the way it evaluates prospective students. Once the university receives a transcript as an inquiry, before a student applies, it evaluates transfer credits and creates a file for that potential student. The student begins receiving recruitment material.

The new system speaks for itself: The university’s transfer admissions have increased, and the university is more competitive because it can admit students on a faster basis.

Brainware also lets the university create “transfer rules”—when a new course appears on a transcript, it is entered into the system for automatic equivalency and is already there the next time the same course is submitted on another transcript.

“We’re moving into new markets in an effort to make a national impact,” adds Carr. “Doing this much transfer equivalency work for this many new schools would not have been sustainable with a template-based solution.”

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Laura Ascione

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