Reopening Your School During the Pandemic Will be Hard. Here’s How to Ace Student Services.

Start Transforming Your Bureaucratic Student Services Now by Leveraging Your Change Mandate

“Our duty now is to marshal the resources and expertise to make it possible to reopen our campuses, safely, as soon as possible. Our students, and our local economies, depend on it.”

Christina Paxson, President of Brown University
College Campuses Must Reopen in the Fall. Here’s How We Do It
New York Times, April 26, 2020

Bureaucratic Student Services Won’t Cut It

Schools are facing the unknown as they prepare to reopen in the “new normal.” Every scenario – in-person, online, or hybrid – has its own challenges.

Here’s a List of Colleges’ Plans for Reopening in the Fall (The Chronicle of Higher Education)

While the Chronicle, Inside Higher Ed, and LinkedIn are ablaze with discussions about hybrid teaching, staggered semesters, and new residence models, student services and processes aren’t receiving the same attention. However, critical student-facing services – and the processes that power them – have to be ready so back-to-school can be successful.

Now is the time to transform your student services. You can no longer waste precious student, faculty, staff, and administrator time on manual processes, paper forms, repetitive calls and emails, and outdated rules and policies. Services need to enable student goals and the academic mission – not distract from them.

This means admissions, orientation, registration, financial aid, advising, counselling, accessibility services, career services, and more must be intuitive, seamless, and available when, where, and how students want them. And administrative processes like student billing, classroom scheduling, records management, and others must be efficient, effective, and adaptable.

Leverage Your Current Change Mandate

Maybe time and resources weren’t previously available – or facilitating staff change wasn’t a priority. COVID-19 changed all that, forcing an abrupt move to alternative service models and processes in March. There’s now a burning platform to continue building on that momentum, addressing long-standing issues and creating sustainable, adaptable solutions for the future.

  • No One Needs Convincing. The world is forever different. Change must happen and everything has to be rethought. “I don’t want to change” is no longer an excuse for the status quo.
  • Staff are Willing to Change. Staff have seen the advantages of streamlining services and eliminating legacy processes for stakeholders and the institution – and for themselves. They’re excited about participating in the transformation and benefiting from the outcomes.
  • Transformation is Possible. Organizations are more open to rethinking traditional approaches and creating innovative, next generation solutions for students, faculty, and staff that align with strategic goals and academic priorities.

Fight the Recession Mind-set

Adopt continuous improvement! That’s one of the key messages from Paul Friga, a Clinical Associate Professor of Strategy and Entrepreneurship at the Kenan-Flagler Business School at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He discusses higher ed’s recession tendencies and suggests alternative actions, urging caution about “the generic Recession Mind-Set” in his Chronicle article, How to Steer Your Campus Through a Recession.

In addition to seeking differentiation, cutting in the right places, restructuring personnel, and investing in the core mission, Friga suggests that now is the time to adopt continuous improvement activities.

Follow These Steps to Transform Your Services & Processes

So where do you start? First, recognize that transformation has to be holistic.

  • Services must be intuitive, seamless, and available when, where, and how students want them.
  • Back office processes need to be efficient and cost effective, and leverage technology.
  • Policies should align with institutional strategies and operations.
  • Organizations have to be optimized and working to capacity with the right tools and training.

Next, ensure success by adopting a focused, proactive approach.

  • Engage leaders to sponsor and support transformation – and process owners to drive it.
  • Define your desired future state – aligned with the institution’s strategic and operational goals.
  • Inventory current services and processes.
  • Choose services and processes to transform based on pain points, future goals, and ROI.
  • Use a structured, facilitated, timeboxed methodology to transform and streamline services and processes.
  • Leverage staff capacity and knowledge.
  • Implement solutions – quick wins immediately and more in-depth solutions incrementally.
  • Measure the impacts and continually adjust.

The benefits are clear: reduced costs, improved processes, increased efficiency, less bureaucracy, better service, a high functioning organization, and freed staff and administrator time. You will also be building an agile environment – with staff that embrace change – adaptable to future strategic initiatives and operational goals, and higher ed and technology trends.

Set Up a Free Consultation to Discuss Transforming Your Student Services

Still unsure? JMA can help. Let’s discuss how we can work together during a free one-hour consultation.

With more than 30 years of experience working with colleges and universities in the United States and Canada, our team is ready to partner with you using our proven, higher-ed focused methodologies built to enable your goals on time and on budget. | +1 212.414.3060

Download our free Process Innovation Opportunity Checklist for ideas on finding transformation opportunities in your services and processes.