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Pinpointing the origin of gridlock in university admissions

by ​Ben Ruch
 

Admissions departments are seeing more applications — and more information — than ever before.

For many students, “10 applications is now commonplace; 20 is taking on a familiar ring; even 30 is not beyond imagining,” according to the New York Times1. Along with the increasing amount of applications, colleges and universities are also seeing the number of students seeking higher education at record highs. These two factors combine to create information gridlock in your university admissions departments.

Admissions information comes to colleges and universities in a number of ways, from online forms, to email, to fax, to mailed-in envelopes. Getting information from these disparate sources into one, streamlined workflow challenges admissions departments across the country. At the same time, digitization — and slow, manual processes for it — raise questions about how you're protecting the personal data prospective students send you. 
 
Chart about security measures on documents
In a recent Harris Poll survey conducted on behalf of Ricoh, nearly two-thirds (65 percent) of Americans surveyed do not believe that schools have the proper security measures in place to secure students’ confidential information. Meanwhile, 53 percent have heard of admissions information getting misplaced.2

To change that perception, you need to improve admissions workflows in regards to capturing, managing and transforming and securing student information.
At many universities I visit, I see admissions departments receive giant stacks of paper forms. This is one of the symptoms that should trigger evaluation of the root causes. Shortening the processing time frame — and decreasing the burden — of taking information a student sends and putting it into the admissions workflow is the ultimate goal.

Through careful observation, staff interviews, and documentation of current processes, you’ll most likely find that manual, time-consuming processes are your biggest hurdle. It’s not uncommon for there to be four to six unnecessary manual touchpoints between receiving an admissions document in a mail room and entering it into the appropriate admissions workflow system. 
 

10 applications is now commonplace; 20 is taking on a familiar ring; even 30 is not beyond imagining.

Girl filling out paper at student admissions

Digitizing your workflow

A strategy that’s gaining traction in admissions departments is using tablets and smartphones to capture incoming documents and enter them into admissions workflows. It’s a widely underutilized — but extremely effective — tool for quickly and easily bringing together information from a variety of sources. Mobile capture, unlike traditional document capture tactics, doesn’t require your employees to wait around scanners during busy times, such as admissions deadlines. 
That said, in a recent IDC study commissioned by Ricoh, 80 percent of respondents said they need to enable document capture on mobile devices, but fewer than 20 percent had it fully enabled. That gap between intention and execution can make a huge difference in how efficiently you process admissions applications. In fact, that same IDC study indicated organizations that use tablets and smartphones saw productivity gains of 13 percent.

These are just a few ways your admissions department can improve turnaround times and cut costs through improved information capture. 

Trend report

How to streamline information flow to improve efficiency, reduce costs and help increase security within the admissions process.
 
Ben Ruch
Ben Ruch, Senior Region Manager, Higher Education for Ricoh USA, Inc., works with colleges and universities to provide Professional Services, Managed Services and Business Process Outsourcing Solutions that simplify processes, automate paper workflows and improve speed of information. Ruch has over 23 years of experience in the industry and expertise in production printing systems solutions and professional services solution. 
 
 
1 Source: Ariel Kaminer."Applications by the Dozen, as Anxious Seniors Hedge College Bets." The New York Times, November 15, 2014. https://www.nytimes.com/2014/11/16/nyregion/applications-by-the-dozen-as-anxious-students-hedge-college-bets.html?_r=0
2 Source: Ricoh-Harris Poll 2015.