When a backlog of transfer credit evaluations kept the University of Arkansas from responding to and winning potential students quickly, they turned to Intelligent Capture technology from Lexmark, integrated with their PeopleSoft system, to speed transcript processing, accelerate transfer credit evaluations and get high school coursework data they didn’t have before.
Located in Fayetteville, the University of Arkansas (U of A) is consistently ranked among the nation’s top public research universities and best values. Students from all 50 U.S. states and more than 120 countries attend U of A’s 10 colleges and schools offering more than 210 academic programs.
Data Capture & Extraction, Document Management
On a picturesque campus in Northwest Arkansas, the University of Arkansas (U of A) is ranked the 7th fastest-growing public university in the country by The Chronicle of Higher Education. In 2015, U of A had an enrollment of 26,754 students from the U.S. and around the world.
Thanks to a state lottery bill that funded academic scholarships in 2009, the University has experienced an enrollment increase of more than 10,000 students over the last decade. An additional initiative passed a few years later, made it easier to transfer associate degree coursework to four-year institutions—as a result, U of A has seen transfers increase between 5 and 10% each year. While they continued to see a growth in student population, their staff numbers stayed the same, putting stress on the Registrar and Admissions offices and forcing staff to process more documents and transcripts with legacy technology and manual processes.
Incoming high school and college transfer transcripts were delivered to the admissions office for admittance review, manual calculations and entry into the University’s PeopleSoft system. Transcripts were then hand-delivered to the Registrar for manual review and posting of academic credits. The University’s typical turnaround time for a transcript was between two and six weeks, and sometimes final transcript evaluations were not delivered until one-month into the first semester. Staff was overwhelmed with time-consuming data entry. Delays in Admissions caused delays for the Registrar. U of A was losing potential students because they couldn’t deliver admissions decisions fast enough.
“We couldn’t deliver timely transfer credit evaluations, and that had a strong effect on admissions of our transfer population,” said Cliff Murphy, Sr. Associate Director of Operations and Information for Office of Admissions. “It made it difficult to even recruit a transfer student.”
Robin Carr Director of Academic RecordsInstead of two offices having to physically touch and manually evaluate the same transcript, the Admissions office is able to use the work from the Registrar office to admit students much faster.
If the University of Arkansas was going to make faster admissions decisions, move into new markets, and actually start recruiting transfer students, Registrar staff knew it was time for a change. In 2013, when the Admissions office began looking to replace their legacy document management system, it was the perfect time for the Registrar office to join the project and expand the scope to include a transcript data extraction solution.
The team at U of A knew they needed document management, capture and workflow that would integrate with their PeopleSoft system. Having seen optical character recognition (OCR) technology at various conferences, Registrar staff also knew they needed template-free data extraction. With U of A’s large number of feeder schools, building and maintaining templates would be too difficult and time-consuming.
The University selected Perceptive Content, process and content management solution, and Perceptive Intelligent Capture for Transcripts from Lexmark. Lexmark’s Intelligent Capture solution works without templates, zones or rules-based techniques. Lexmark’s more than 20 years of higher education expertise and proven integration with PeopleSoft were also deciding factors for U of A.
After an accelerated and successful four-month implementation, the Registrar and Admissions went live on Perceptive Content and Intelligent Capture for Transcripts.
Today, transfer students send transcripts directly to the Registrar office first and equivalency work can begin immediately. All transfer transcripts are batch-scanned into Intelligent Capture, and while the Registrar office begins their work, the admissions file is automatically updated as received in PeopleSoft. Even if staff in Admissions hasn’t seen the transcript yet, it is marked as received by the system and counts toward file completion.
“Instead of two offices having to physically touch and manually evaluate the same transcript, the Admissions office is able to use the work from the Registrar office to admit students much faster,” said Robin Carr, Director of Academic Records. “The data extracted by Intelligent Capture and integration with PeopleSoft means we are not duplicating work and we’re less likely to receive duplicate transcripts, too.”
High school transcripts are still received at the Admissions office, but now they are batch-scanned into Intelligent Capture for evaluation and any college work is sent to the Registrar immediately for equivalency.
University staff no longer pass paper between offices, manually enter data or duplicate efforts. Their new transcript turnaround time is an average of 24 hours and final transcript evaluations can now be provided before the semester begins. Delivering decisions much faster is helping the University capture students they might have missed before.
Cliff Murphy Sr Associate Director of Operations and Information for Office of AdmissionsEven with a 22% application increase this year, we won’t need staff to work overtime. Lexmark’s solution gives us visibility to see where bottlenecks are and move resources before we experience any delays.
Transfer credit evaluations are going so smoothly that the University is taking advantage of evaluating transcripts received as inquiries—before the students even apply. Once U of A receives a transcript and evaluates the transfer credits, a file is created for that potential student awaiting their application. The prospective student is entered into the Admissions communications plan and begins receiving recruitment material. The ability to provide a transfer credit report to an inquiry has become a powerful competitive advantage for the University.
“Our admissions are up this year, specifically in our transfer population,” said Murphy. “If you can admit students quicker than your competitor, you win the students. “
Lexmark solutions also allow the University to build transfer rules upon the receipt of a new transcript so the next time the same course is submitted the rule is already in the articulation system for automatic equivalency. To date, U of A has built 300,000 courses from 20,000 institutions, including foreign institutions. Their robust articulation system has resulted in faster turnaround for students.
“We’re moving into new markets in an effort to make a national impact,” said Carr. “Doing this much transfer equivalency work for this many new schools would not have been sustainable with a template-based solution.”
In addition to speeding transfer equivalency work, Intelligent Capture for Transcripts unlocks high school coursework data that wasn’t available before. U of A is currently extracting GPA and other student information that helps complete student profiles much faster.
As part of Lexmark’s design partner program, the University worked with Lexmark to help design and test the functionality, and they continue to contribute to the development of the solution.
“Everyone calculates high school coursework differently and all institutions do it by hand,” says Murphy. “Having software that can do that work for us is huge. That’s why we’re working with Lexmark to extract high school transcript data in a useable format so we can turn around high school admittance as quickly as we’re turning around transfer admittance.”
The University is still short-staffed, but the Admissions and Registrar offices are more efficient and their staff is much happier. Lexmark technology has helped eliminate the overtime employees used to need each year to process transcripts during peak enrollment season. The University is also able to repurpose staff to do additional equivalency work and help out in other areas to prevent backlogs.
“For the first time, we will leave for the holidays without a backlog of transcripts to process,” said Murphy. “Even with a 22% application increase this year, we won’t need staff to work overtime. Lexmark’s solution gives us visibility to see where bottlenecks are and move resources before we experience any delays.”