Admissions process evolves with Banner
The implementation of Purdue’s new student systems in 2008 has had a significant impact on the Office of Admissions.
Many more applications for admission are being submitted online; a student can check his or her application status and get a decision online; and, as part of Purdue’s move toward a more paperless workplace, physical documents are being scanned and digitally stored, a process known as “imaging.”
Banner makes the application process easier for prospective students and their parents. A student can now go online to find out if their application is complete and, if not, what it’s missing. Once complete, he or she can know when it is being evaluated by the Admissions Committee. Finally, when a decision has been made, the student will be able see that, too.
“As a whole, Banner will streamline our processes,” said Jo Ann Brown, senior associate director of admissions. “For example, staff members who used to walk across the building to find a student’s paper file now can access student information online. So when students call, whoever speaks with them can answer questions more efficiently.
“Nevertheless, the front-end work — what it takes to process an application so it’s ready for evaluation — takes more time than in the legacy system. There is also sometimes a misperception that the processing of applications is fully automated, and that’s just not true.
“We knew from the beginning that this was going to be a challenging year, and it has been,” Brown added. “And even though we are moving toward a much more streamlined system, the processing of applications during this transition has been somewhat slower than we would have liked.”
One reason is that imaging — using Xtender, an optional Banner application now called Banner Document Management Suite — was implemented about two months after the admissions Web application went live. This created a backlog of documents to scan.
“In Banner, a student will not see that their online application is complete until any required documents, such as a high school transcript, are imaged and indexed with the student’s application,” Brown said. “In addition, in early November, Admissions experienced a record-breaking week during which more than 7,000 applications were submitted.
“The scanning backlog, coupled with the volume of incoming material, caused delays. We are almost caught up with imaging now, however, and are already discussing what changes will be needed to avoid these challenges next year.”
(Because of the importance of processing applications, Admissions was the first department at West Lafayette to use the new imaging tool. The Division of Financial Aid began using it in February, and other core student offices may do so in the future.)
Moving toward paperless office
Purdue has received more than 25,000 undergraduate applications since last August, and though 98 percent of them were submitted online (up from 80 percent the previous year), applicants still send in numerous documents on paper. And though Admissions receives many high school transcripts electronically, they are only images, not the actual data. Therefore, grades and SAT or ACT test scores (if they are provided on the transcript) must be entered manually.
For the 2010 enrollment, Purdue will require that all SAT and ACT scores be sent from the testing agencies electronically. These will automatically be loaded into students’ application records, thus will further streamline application processing.
Purdue’s application for admission also now includes additional questions and requires a personal statement.
“The additions make the application somewhat more complex, both for students and Purdue,” Brown said. “This additional information, however, allows us to know more about an applicant, which can help when admission is competitive.
“For example, a student may meet the academic requirements for a program, but if there are more academically qualified applicants than there is space, we can’t admit all of them. A student’s personal statement can provide insight into the individual’s ambitions, goals or challenges, which can help us make tough decisions.”
Continuing to learn
“This admission cycle has been challenging because we’ve implemented new things and had to learn new processes,” Brown said, “but Banner is a much more functional system than we had in the past, and will help us become more efficient and enhance our customer service.
“This year allowed us to learn quite a bit about what the new system can and can’t do, as well as the staffing requirements at different processing stages. When the 2010 application goes live Aug. 1, we’ll be well prepared for the next admissions cycle.