College considers automated, online admissions system

Andrew D. Brosig/Lingle Guide Students are hard at work in a biology lab class at Eastern Wyoming College in Torrington. The college is studying implementation of a completely online application process which would make it easier for students as well as hopefully streamline the process and allow the college to enroll students who slip through the cracks of the current, paper application system.

TORRINGTON – To bring its admissions processes in line with the state’s other community colleges, the Eastern Wyoming College Board of Trustees is considering purchasing software that would streamline the process online.

Roger Humphrey, vice president for student services, told the board Tuesday EWC is currently the only community college in Wyoming where students can’t process an admissions request online. Prospective students can fill out an application on the college’s website, but the completed application must then be downloaded and mailed in, where it is then processed by admissions personnel by hand.

That puts EWC at a great disadvantage in enrollment compared to the state’s other community colleges and the University of Wyoming, Humphrey said.

“We know students are not just applying here, they’re applying everywhere,” Humphrey said. “Our competitors are able, in a timely way, to get back to those students. But the time we get back to them, they may have already decided to go somewhere else.”

Humphrey told the board of an experiment he did, where he went to the admissions website of another Wyoming community college and filled out an application. Within 24 hours, he said, he had received an email reply and would have been able to go online and complete the remainder of the application process.

By contrast, with the current system at EWC, it can take a week or more to reply to prospective students, Humphrey said. He shared the worst-case story of a student’s application paperwork that slid off a pile of applications and was lost behind the desk they were sitting on.

The college currently collects several sets of documents as part of the application process, Humphrey said: Financial aid information, emergency contact information and the application itself, which includes transcripts of previous educational experience and other personal information. What slows the process down now, he said, is all of that information is entered manually into the college’s student database.

“Each application can take 30 to 45 minutes” to process, Humphrey said. “Then, it’s a one- to two-day process to generate an email to the students, once the information is in the system. They may not get a response email … for a week or 10 days.”

The proposed package, called a Constituent Relationship Management system, would streamline that process and cut response time down to be comparable to the other Wyoming community colleges, Humphrey said. 

The system the college is looking at is called Radius. It does more than just streamline the admissions process, giving school officials access to a host of demographic data that could allow them to better focus their recruitment efforts, Humphrey said.

“It allows us to look at our data and say, ‘Where do we need to put our efforts in?’” he said. “We’ll be able to look at some of the things we do and analyze where we are with the numbers of students who come in.”

The Radius system is part of a software package provided by Campus Management Corp. of Boca Raton, Fla. Once installed, the admissions system would integrate with the college’s current student data base. And, in addition to training, the company would offer some customization to the online documents students would fill out, to meet EWC specific needs.

Cost to the college would be almost $125,000 for a three-year contract, based on an annual subscription rate. The first year would cost $54,175, with years two and three costing $35,275 each.

“It’s really about the management of student relationships,” EWC President Dr. Lesley Travers said. “Those are critically important things.”

Board member Marilyn Fisher noted the annual cost of the system is comparable to one, full-time staff, asking where the money would come from. Travers told the board she has some ideas on where to get funding.

“If we gain 50 students in enrollment, it pays for itself,” Humphrey told the board. “What it would generate in tuition and fees would generate about the annual cost” of the system.

Additionally, it would free up time for staff in the admissions and student services department, giving them more time to work on student retention and following up with applicants.

And it has the added advantage of putting the application process in the place where most young people prefer – their smart devices.

“With my own kids, everything is driven by that phone – the information you can receive and how fast you can receive it,” he said. “We have a lot of those lapses, so that’s potential enrollment we lose.

“We’re behind the times,” Humphrey said. “Everybody else has some type of (digital) onboarding piece, except us.”

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