Copiah-Lincoln Community College: Improving Campuswide Communications

One of Mississippi's oldest community colleges, Copiah-Lincoln, had been using homegrown software applications to collect data on students, grades, and financial aid since the 1970s and were now obsolete. For many years, Copiah-Lincoln had an eye on improving the manner in which each member of the campus community would be able to access need-appropriate information while communicating with one another across constituent-defined lines.

Established in 1928, Copiah-Lincoln has continued to grow in size and prestige. The college now occupies a prominent position in the state's educational system with a district enrollment of more than 3,000 and a physical plant valued at more than $35 million. Copiah-Lincoln faced the daunting challenge of moving the college deeper into the 21st century. The school needed to find a way to dramatically upgrade the on-campus computer network in order to show students, faculty and administrators that it was committed to improving cross-campus efficiencies—this was its No. 1 goal. The college student of today is well versed in modern technology and most, if not all, own cell phones, palm pilots, laptop computers, and MP3 players.

The technologically savvy student of today made it essential that Copiah-Lincoln choose a software solution that was sophisticated enough to appeal to that group, yet intuitive enough so that faculty and administrators would not be intimidated by the new software.

Seamless Integration
"In searching for the software solution that would benefit each member of the campus community, Copiah-Lincoln chose the Jenzabar Internet Campus [JIC] product suite for its intelligent business solution package that can seamlessly link all aspects of the college campus, be that of a student, faculty member, an administrator, or a senior executive," explains Dr. Howell Garner, president of Copiah-Lincoln Community College. "Jenzabar provided Copiah Lincoln with a total campus solution of both front- and back-end products, eliminating the need to use multiple products from numerous providers who specialize in one or the other."

JIC is a Web-based software suite that seamlessly integrates each end of a college campus, from students to administrators to faculty, delivering role-based access to administrative and academic information. The JIC suite treats each constituency as an entity with different needs, and by way of Jenzabar's many customer relationship management (CRM) portlets, applies role-appropriate customized information. For example, using CRM Student, a student can easily view grade records, class Web sites, housing information, and financial statements. Admissions officers can compile and manage numerous applications from potential students with the Admissions portlet. In addition, a student advisor's portlet provides the necessary tools to assist students, such as student profile information and degree auditing. Each portlet provides information and tools appropriate to the user's role on campus, yet allows sharing of information between various departments.

"In addition to improving campuswide communications at Copiah-Lincoln, the single largest benefit of working with Jenzabar is that its products have given students, faculty, and administrators both easier and timelier access to information," says Dan Dykes, director of information technology at Copiah-Lincoln. "In essence, Jenzabar's software allows us to bring the various databases of information directly to the user, which dramatically cuts down on the time it would take the IT department to respond to them if our homegrown software applications were still in use today."

Financial Aid
There is no department on a college campus with more data flowing in and out on a daily basis than the financial aid office. Aside from maintaining accurate information on students receiving financial aid, this office needs to meet the demands of the federal government and their numerous rules on reporting. Federal regulations regarding electronic filing dictated the need for a comprehensive software package that allows the office director and staff to compile, manage and report on hundreds of eligible students. Using Jenzabar's Financial Aid module, Copiah-Lincoln has simplified the process of extracting value-based data from application systems for trend analysis, with consolidated reporting across multiple subject areas of the campus. The director and staff can now access and compile information on student's grade status, work study enrollment and payment schedules on a regular basis, providing them with up-to-the-minute reports of a student's eligibility and aid status.

At the outset of its relationship with Jenzabar, Copiah-Lincoln was most concerned with its return on investment. After all, the software license, installation, and recurring maintenance costs can run anywhere from a few hundred thousand dollars at a small college to millions of dollars at a large college or university. Proving that Jenzabar's products are cost-effective, Copiah-Lincoln looked at the remarkable savings seen across all departments, especially the registrar's office where grades are compiled. Administrators were faced with the daunting task each semester of printing pricey, individualized scanable forms, manually filling in countless grade bubbles, uploading the grades into the database, and correcting the foreseeable errors. Since taking its grading process onto the Web, Copiah-Lincoln has nearly eliminated the paper trail of grades, thus saving thousands of dollars in printing costs and reducing the number of human errors that occur when thousands of grades are being scanned by hand onto paper. Faculty have found the software easy to use and the most technically challenged professors are up and running in 30 minutes or less after a short training session.

"You would think that at least a few professors would have difficulty learning the new process but to its credit, Jenzabar has built a module that is powerful yet easy to use. It's not often that you find that," explains to Dykes.

"As Copiah-Lincoln continues to evolve and shape the young minds of its students, these future leaders will know that Copiah-Lincoln made a substantial investment in their future by providing them with the most powerful higher education tools available today," according to Dr. Garner. "Using Jenzabar's Internet Campus Solution has enabled Copiah-Lincoln Community College to move to the information age where the delay in sharing information between students and faculty is no longer hours or days but only minutes."

Howell Garner, Ph.D. (howell.garner@ colin.edu), is president of Copiah-Lincoln Community College.

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