UNH CIS Signals

Document Imaging? Accepted!

Jessica Michelsen

February, 2009

Document ImagingThe Undergraduate Admissions Office staff at the University of New Hampshire work in a beautiful old house in the middle of campus. Typical of most old houses, space is in short supply. That’s a bit of a problem, because the admissions process at UNH generates a lot of paper.

During the 2006-07 admissions cycle, Admissions processed over 15,000 freshman and transfer applications. Every application had a folder with at least five pieces of paper: the application itself, a transcript, recommendations, test scores, and a page for Admissions Officer notes. Every one of those folders was reviewed by an Admissions Officer. On average, each Admissions Officer reviewed about 1,100 applications during the admissions cycle, a number that just keeps growing.

Managing the movement of application folders became so complex that every day one member of the Admissions Operations staff was assigned to be the “Runner.” A Runner spent the day finding and moving applicant folders around the office. On some days, this was a full-time job, meaning regular responsibilities were often put on hold.

The paper shuffle didn’t end when an admitted student enrolled in the University. Every fall, at the census date, a mass migration of paper files occurred. Wave after wave of file folders crossed the street from the Admissions Office to the Registrar’s Office. Organizing and finding space for all this paper became overwhelming, as was keeping up with the growing numbers and complexity of applications.

How to keep up? For UNH, the answer was technology...specifically, Banner Student, Banner XtenderSolutions, and Workflow.

In fall of 2006, the Undergraduate Admissions Office and the Enterprise Computing Group (ECG) began planning for a paperless admissions process. The goal was to have a process in place for the freshman and transfers whose applications would begin arriving in the fall of 2007. Not only was this going to be a big change for the Admissions Officers who were reviewing the applications, it would also be a fundamental shift in the way applications were processed.

The Admissions Office had several objectives for this project. Its goals were to:

  • Accommodate an increase in applications for undergraduate admissions without increasing the number of permanent staff or significantly increasing the number of seasonal staff
  • Give applicants more up-to-date information about the status of their applications
  • Reclaim floor space taken up with file cabinets, and give Operations staff more room to work
  • Reduce misplaced or misfiled documents and files, and the time associated with resolving these problems
  • Achieve greater efficiency with the movement of files through the processing, review, and decision stages
  • Increase the safety and security of records

After many months of discussing, planning, developing, testing, and training, the Admissions Office was ready to go live with its paperless admissions process. On October 8, 2007, the first admissions documents for the class of 2012 were imaged into a production environment – right on schedule.

Now nearly all applications are received electronically, as are test scores. The rest of an applicant’s paperwork is scanned and indexed as soon as it arrives at the Admissions Office and then is destroyed. Staff are automatically notified when it’s their turn to do something with the file. Once imaged, the electronic file is available to everyone in the office, and all review and processing is done using the electronic file.

In spring 2008, the Admissions Office wrapped up its first admissions cycle using the new process. By all accounts, it was a great success. The office processed more than 16,000 freshman or transfer applications (an increase of 7.4% over last year), representing more than 337,000 imaged and indexed pages; created more than 13,000 workflows to allow Admissions Officers to make decisions online; and responded quickly to countless questions from applicants, their families and their schools – all without paper or additional permanent staff.

Going paperless has improved the performance of the Undergraduate Admissions Office. Costs have gone down. Space has been reclaimed. The number of permanent staff in the office has remained the same, despite record numbers of students applying to the University. Seasonal staff are kept for shorter periods of time. Information is readily available, making it much easier to answer questions from applicants and others. Documents are more secure, because they are electronic and backed up daily.

Other departments around the University are also beginning to recognize those benefits. The decision that the Admissions Office made to go paperless began rippling through the University as the first batch of students arrived in the fall of 2008. The Registrar’s Office has worked with ECG to adapt its business processes to incorporate imaging, as has the Business Services department. Advisors and academic offices are now able to see some of the documents they use to advise students. The Graduate Admissions Office is preparing to begin imaging this fall, which will allow its admissions officers and staff to process applications with less paper.

Similar to renovating an old house, transitioning into a world without paper is challenging, but in the end, there’s nothing like a house cleaning to make life easier.

Please visit cis.unh.edu/dig for more information.