NMU Partners with ConnectEdu
Northern recently entered into a partnership with ConnectEdu, enabling high schools to electronically forward transcripts and letters of recommendation on behalf of their student applicants. The “educational solutions” company offers a suite of Web-based services designed to make the admissions and financial aid application process as simple as possible for high school counselors, students and parents. Gerri Daniels (Admissions) said there is no charge for high schools to participate. But colleges and universities pay for the seamless, secure connection to student documents and data.
“There are a number of companies on the leading edge of simplifying admissions as more of the process moves online,” Daniels said. “The idea of electronic transcripts isn’t new, but it’s always been a chicken-and-egg dilemma. It’s a matter of determining not only which company best meets our needs as a university, but which one is attracting that critical mass of participating high schools required to make it a worthwhile investment on our part.”
ConnectEdu distinguished itself from other companies when it offered a pricing deal of $5,000 per year to the 15 public universities in Michigan if they signed up by Sept. 1. Daniels said it became an easier sell once the University of Michigan and Michigan State were on board because an endorsement by the “big two” would most likely convince a majority of state high schools to use ConnectEdu.
“It’s a three-year trial and we’re going to use that time to see how many high schools actually sign on and what the ‘competition’ is doing,” Daniels said. “The company doesn’t have a lot of experience working with Banner institutions, but 10 of the Michigan publics use it, so we have a higher level of confidence that we’ll be able to extract information into Banner. We’ll have to rely on the good staff in AdIT to see how far we can go with data integration. The ability to do that effectively would make this partnership especially worthwhile.”
Beyond electronic transcripts, Daniels said high schools benefit from the following programs on the Connect! platform: student progress monitoring, which allows counselors to ensure that each student is completing all admissions-related tasks on time; application workflow management, which tracks admission dates and deadlines for more than 3,700 colleges and provides an audit trail of transcripts and letters of recommendation submitted to participating colleges/universities; tools for counselors to manage key communications with students and parents from one location; and student performance reporting, which creates end-of-the-year, college-specific reports that can be exported into Word or Excel.
“It’s a valuable option for high school counselors who have large caseloads that prevent them from meeting very often or very long with students,” Daniels said. “They can manage the tasks for each student within the system. The financial aid function is set up almost like Turbo Tax. It asks questions and populates an electronic FAFSA for students to submit. What’s nice for us is that we can provide immediate notification that documents were received. It’s also possible for our admissions counselors to see which students from their regions have expressed an interest in the university. There’s even a potential for high school grades entered into the system to be recalculated to fit our standards and criteria.”
Despite the contract with ConnectEdu, Northern continues to accept electronic transcripts through Docufide as part of the e-transcript initiative through the Midwestern Higher Education Compact.