August 21, 2002
Mary Ann Travis
Think about the amount of information Tulane manages for each student who is recruited, applies for admission, receives financial aid, enrolls in courses, pays tuition, earns grades and graduates. If you can't comprehend the sheer wealth of data, don't worry, Project Advance team members are doing it for us all.
As they track every possible bit of information the university uses in the student life cycle--from prospective student to graduate--the 16 members of the Project Advance team are also doing it for the Oracle software company.
The Tulane-Oracle partnership will result in a new, integrated, automated, Web-based student information system that eventually will have applications for all of Tulane's schools and colleges and will be a model that Oracle will market to other colleges and universities. In the bargain, Tulane is licensing the Oracle Student System at virtually no cost.
Tucked away in a corner of Tulane's Uptown Square offices and led by project director Cliff Autin, Project Advance has been under way for more than two years. Team members include functional analysts Laurie Lagonegro, Anita Dinwiddie, Frank Resignola, and Gayle Hicks, who are on loan from the offices most extensively involved in the processing of student information--undergraduate admission, financial aid, the registrar and accounts receivable. Staff members from Technology Infrastructure Services also have temporarily left their posts at TIS to join the Project Advance team.
Tulane also has hired personnel with other expertise, including Oracle software development and implementation. Three other American schools --Skidmore College, Santa Barbara City College and Binghamton University--plus three British schools have joined Tulane as partners with Oracle in developing the new software system. These partners are gaining a competitive advantage, Autin says.
"We have specified our requirements, we are confirming the system design, and we will be the first schools to implement the product." The new software will be closely aligned with Tulane's business processes, says Autin. "The product promises to deliver the most modern administrative functions for higher education as envisioned and articulated by our people."
This July, the analysis and scrutiny began to pay off when Oracle delivered to Tulane the first product--software for the admission function. Team members are now testing the system for possible bugs. They'll have time to iron out any problems before the admission software goes live next June. In January, Oracle will complete the software required by Tulane for academic records, financial aid and accounts receivable.
Testing on-site by the Project Advance team for these administrative functions will immediately follow. The target date for the entire system to be implemented on campus is November 2003.
Autin says, "November is a good time for cutting over to a new system for financial aid, enrollment and receivables. Not everyone realizes how tightly coupled these business functions are."
Faculty, staff and students will have access to class enrollments, grades and financial information in the new system, which will have appropriate security safeguards in place. Hands-on user training is being planned for May and October of next year. Before students enroll, of course, recruitment happens. The new system will manage a database of the more than 13,000 applications for undergraduate admission that Tulane receives each year.
Students will be able to check the status of their admission and financial aid applications online. The Oracle system also will add automated customer relationship management features to give Tulane the ability to effectively market online, creating recruitment campaigns using e-mail and the Web.
The new system also will offer the capacity to track recruitment budgets and measure the success of recruitment activities. Admission counselors, who travel the country meeting pro-spective students, are always looking for innovative and easy ways to send communications, Lagonegro says. In 1999, when Tulane first met with Oracle representatives, Lagonegro says, the university had approximately 3,000 requirement statements for what the entire student system had to do--and more than 550 requirements for admission.
The capacity to measure and the ability to communicate are essential to the admission effort, especially at a university such as Tulane where the undergraduate admission office has contact with 100,000 aggressively recruited high school students every year. "We want to personalize contact with our prospective students," says Lagonegro. "We also want to use our recruitment dollars effectively to convince the most talented and qualified students to apply to Tulane. The new system should help us do that."
Mary Ann Travis may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Tulane University, New Orleans, LA 70118 504-865-5000 email@example.com