Claremont University Consortium: Colleges Collaborate on Shared Administrative Services

More than two years ago, the Claremont University Consortium (CUC) in Claremont, California faced the problem of aging technology unable to weather the information and productivity demands of approximately 6,000 Internet-savvy students and more than 3,360 faculty and staff.

The pending end-of-life for administrative software and hardware systems at the Claremont consortium in Southern California has lead to a partnership that is making access to information and sharing resources simpler for students, faculty, and staff.

The institutions in the consortium—Pomona College, Claremont McKenna College, Harvey Mudd College, Pitzer College, Scripps College, Claremont Graduate University, and the newly formed Keck Graduate Institute of Applied Life Sciences—are distinct from each other in many respects, from academic requirements to campus architecture. The effort to upgrade systems centered on the five undergraduate colleges. Most of them were relying on aging servers and administrative databases that were not greatly integrated into college administration functions, and not linked at all with the other consortium colleges. The consortium remedied its problem while lowering new technology costs by collectively purchasing an estimated $5 million integrated software system from Jenzabar Inc. of Cambridge, Mass.

The system included the Jenzabar Series 300 CX enterprise resource planning (ERP) application to manage the high-end processing work of admissions, registration, degree auditing, student billing, financial aid processing, and development, says Sashi Parthasarathi, Jenzabar's vice president of client services. Sitting on top of Jenzabar's Unix-based Series 300 CX is its Campus Portal, which will enable students to use e-mail, keep track of course assignments and campus activities, register for classes, and complete other tasks that interact with back-end administration systems. The portal, is a beta version that "knows" whether the user is a student, educator, administrator, or alumnus and presents the appropriate access and information for each role.

At CUC, Jenzabar's products run on a single Hewlett-Packard N4000 server with four 550MHz processors, 8GB of memory, and more than 300GB of disk space running HP-UX 11.0. The new system replaced old 1032-based, flat-file data manipulation systems running on VAX VMS computers.

According to Parthasarathi, CUC's adoption of Jenzabar marked the first time, since the company's merger in 2000 with four software competitors, that it installed student portals integrated with back-end systems. A key advantage of this integration is that students can electronically "cross-register" for courses. This eliminates the old method of walking paper registration forms from one campus registrar's office to another, and it addresses the problem of ensuring that each students' courses and grades get properly credited, explains Richard Parker, chief information officer of Harvey Mudd College. "Students are much happier with the easier registration system."

Although at some levels all the institutions have cooperated and shared services over the years, they have never undertaken an administrative system overhaul of such enormous size and scope. Not only is it changing the type of information that constituents will have access to, it has altered how employees at the registrar, admissions, financial aid, development/alumni affairs, and information technology departments at the various institutions perform the daily tasks of their jobs.

CUC's Administrative Services Improvement Project is overseen by an executive committee of college presidents and CUC executives, a steering committee of college CIOs, and a number of "Tiger Teams" made up of administrative staff to determine policies and decide how technology integration changes how they and their colleagues do the many tasks of their jobs. Jenzabar's project manager Carl Pohrte and his small team spends 100 percent of their work time on the CUC campuses, and will remain until implementation is completed next summer. "The Tiger Teams have been amazingly successful—building strong relationships of trust and open communication that has made things happen," says Pohrte.

When completed next summer, the integration project will mesh 29 databases with 900 tables and 8 computer systems, providing a horizontal database across the consortium—while maintaining the privacy and separate ownership of each institution's individual student records.

For more information, contact Richard Parker, CIO, Harvey Mudd College at richard_parker@hmc.edu.

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