Challenge: CSU System
In response to California’s fiscal pressures stemming from 1978’s Proposition
13 and the severe economic downturn of the early ’90s, California high schools
have had severe reductions in the number of counselors available to help students
learn about postsecondary educational opportunities. “This has contributed to
the worst state ratio nationwide, currently 951 students to one counselor, based
on a US D'E report,” says Allison Jones, assistant vice chancellor of Academic
Affairs for the California State University
system. An alternative
had to be developed that could effectively provide the necessary information to
help students and their families learn about post-high school educational opportunities.
Technology Choice/ Project Design
) is a Web-based portal system, also designed by Xap Corp. (www.xap.com
The portal was created in close collaboration with CSU campus administration and
staff, with the vision of a student-centered (rather than a school-based) information
system, available 24/7, and free-of-charge to students, families, counselors,
and campuses. Xap’s founding CEO,Allen Firstenberg, saw both the frustrations
of existing systems and the power of the Internet to bring people together from
all across the state, despite the growth and diversity of the California population.
California freshman and transfer students are the key recipients of
CSUMentor, as it provides them with information about CSU campuses, admission
requirements, the ability to track coursework to meet admission requirements,
information about financial aid opportunities, the capability to transfer application
data into the D'E’s FAFSA via the Web, and the ability to apply online to any
CSU campus.“Designing the project was a systemwide effort using CSU campus and
system representatives, high-level campus administration, campus staff who work
regularly with potential students, and central IT support to help guide Xap,”
Jones says the response to CSUMentor and its usage and growth
has far exceeded expectations, with nearly two million online applications processed
since its inception. For the college year 2003-04, nearly 95 percent of total
applications received came through CSUMentor. “This percentage far surpassed CSU’s
goal,” he says. Furthermore, CSU campuses have benefited from the receipt of electronic
applications, allowing campuses to be able to build more effective and responsive
enrollment management policies. CSUMentor has served as a guiding light for numerous
other states that have subsequently developed similar Xap Mentor systems to respond
to their educational community needs.
CSU administrators continue to
be surprised at the growing number of students who choose to apply electronically.
As new systems are implemented, however, there is a learning curve.What’s more,
although administrators assumed the campuses would immediately see the value of
the online application (and some staffers did understand it immediately), other
campuses took a couple of years to “get” the value proposition.
continues to evolve to meet the changing needs of the CSU campuses and their diverse
student populations. A tutorial for the entire site has been implemented, and
audio tutorial “walk-throughs” for students and counselors are provided to help
students complete their applications.
CSUMentor is a model for portals
because of its comprehensive approach to college admissions. To succeed faster,
says Jones: Engage campus staff early on and involve the staff who directly affect
the success of the project; during the design phase, discover the needs of the
educational community; articulate goals and objectives—and be willing to accept
change; and always be willing to revise the site to meet new needs.