Planning for Student Services: Best Practices for the 21st Century

Planning for Student Services: Best Practices for the 21st Century

Miller, Thomas E

Planning for Student Services: Best Practices for the 21st Century

Martha Beede and Darlene Burnett, Eds. Ann Arbor, MI: Society for College and University Planning, 1999, 150 pages Reviewed by Thomas E. Miller, Eckerd College

In 1996, the IBM Best Practice Partner Group was formed. The IBM Education Consulting Team had received numerous requests for support in redesigning student services for institutions of higher education. They surveyed practitioners and professional associations and identified a selection of institutions that had succeeded in improving student services by improving technology, changing business processes, or making organizational changes.

There were 15 projects that met the “best practices” criteria, and representatives were called together for discussions and dialogue to determine their common characteristics and lessons learned. This text is a product of activities following those early discussions with institutional projects described by those responsible at 14 of the member institutions of the Best Practice Partner Group, which includes Babson College, Ball State University, Boston College, Brigham Young University, Carnegie Mellon University, Colorado Electronic Community College, Indiana University, Johnson County Community College, Northern Territory University, Oregon State University, University of Delaware, University of Minnesota, Southern Alberta Institute of Technology, and Seton Hall University.

Individual chapters describe the experiences and progress at the 14 institutions in the efforts to improve the efficiency of service to students. The service issues detailed relate to registration, student billing, financial aid, and other institutional activities that normally rely on technology. The two major categories of driving forces for change are the improved use of technology and the redesign of services. The descriptions from the campuses are divided into those two groupings.

The common experiences of participants led to the identification of a set of principles and trends that were shared-to one extent or another-by the involved institutions. They include: a student-centered vision, redesigned services, a one-stop service center, cross– functional teams, self-service objectives, Web– enabled services, systemic change, and replacement of student information systems. The reporting institutions were measured against their application of those principles.

Projects described include combining enrollment management services, coordinating student services so multiple transactions are possible in one step, simplifying information to students about billing, offering students Web– based access to their records and academic advising, and team-based reorganizations to increase efficiency. Campus project circumstances described are of varying levels of maturity and sophistication, and the range of institutional types is quite substantial. As a result, there is something in this work for readers with many different interests and perspectives.

The intent of this text is to tell the stories of successful efforts at the use of technology or reengineering and improving services to students. It is an effective compilation of those stories. Many of the authors made the effort to explain what were their problems and pitfalls in their efforts, giving balance and perspective to their experiences. Several described the limits presented by institutional characteristics, which may seem familiar to the reader.

In the past decade higher education has experienced a considerable degree of movement toward streamlining student service efforts and using technology to enhance the quality of service. This text aptly gives voice to efforts that have been successful. Not much has been written on these subjects that has been targeted to student affairs professionals, and there is considerable potential interest by student affairs staff in this text. Much of the literature in this arena has been directed to information technology professionals or those working in student records and financial aid fields. A work directed to student affairs professionals has the potential to make an impact on the profession.

The quality of the descriptive stories in this text is somewhat uneven, as is the quality of campus experiences described in the various chapters. However, the net effect is positive for those engaged in student affairs work. A compilation of the experiences of a wide range of institutions with an even wider range of service upgrade efforts has the potential to be instructive for a great number of readers. This work will appeal to those student affairs professionals with responsibility for registration and student records management, financial aid, admissions, enrollment management, student billing, and other areas of student service dependent upon technology. Readers will learn about broadly applied institutional efforts to improve services and deliver them more efficiently to students.

Copyright American School Counselor Association Jan/Feb 2001

Provided by ProQuest Information and Learning Company. All rights Reserved.