Marian’s Opportunity: Kickstarting Student Success with Project Day One
“Project Day One helped Marian University get to a place on the precipice of one-stop service, and that’s really been a goal of mine for a number of years,” said Alice Shelton, Director of Business Services, Marian University.
After 25 years in the business, Shelton can definitely spot an opportunity for service improvement. She was well-suited as a team leader on Project Day One, part of Credo’s Moving the Needle (MTN) – a comprehensive assessment, review, and program development project designed to provide an integrated campus-owned system for supporting student success.
Shelton is proud of her five-member team which includes managers from housing, financial aid, registrar, admissions, and transfer admissions. They even coined a new name with a positive connotation – Knight Quest – versus clearance or bullpen.
“One of the surprises about Project Day One was that we viewed student business as an obstacle, as a block, and what we found when we implemented Knight Quest was that our new students, and particularly parents, viewed it as a service opportunity,” stated Shelton.
The focus of Project Day One is to get students ready to begin classes, and there are a number of administrative tasks that need to be completed. Some of those include enrollment deposits, housing paperwork, and financial aid forms. The goal for Shelton was to impact the bottom line, increase cash flow, and get students paying earlier or on time.
Marian spent significant time shoring up other processes that impact registration, bill payment, and financial aid applications so they were tied into Knight Quest deadlines, and students were seeing it as a big picture. As a result, the student experience, and parent experience, felt more seamless.
“Student success here, student retention here, are very closely tied in my mind. Obviously if a student is not here they’re not going to be successful. I think what students have experienced through this process is a much more fundamental understanding of how to handle their finances. I think they have a clearer sense of what deadlines are and what they mean.” - Alice Shelton
Marian’s Results: Impact Starts Right Away
The results speak volumes. Marian’s average per student accounts receivable balance, versus previous fall new freshman, went down over $1,600. The overall impact to the institution was almost a $600,000 reduction in student accounts receivable for the freshman class alone. In addition, the registrar was not chasing any student for documentation of transcripts, and the housing office felt much more comfortable knowing who had checked in, who was there, and who was in route.
“We were thrilled to have us all available, at the same time, to take care of student business. Then our business activities, once school started, went from 60 to zero. We were all very surprised at the amount available time we had to follow-up with students who didn’t quite handle things perfectly that first time through.” - Alice Shelton
Today, Marian’s service managers have a much higher trust level in one another. They are able to have honest conversations about what is not working, why it’s not working, and offer ideas for improvement and be part of a solution.
“With Credo, we were always encouraged to work together. We were encouraged to challenge the assumptions that were made. We provided the data that was used so in some cases where we argued back on our behalf we got pushed back. For me that was very healthy and very helpful,” observed Shelton.
There have also been several other positive outcomes from Project Day One. Marian is a heavily athlete-enrolled school, and has several robust programs that have identifiable leaders. The Knight Quest process has allowed them to develop very good working relationships with those individuals who influence known groups of students.
Project Day One was also helpful in identifying and cultivating greater bench strength in all service areas. Now, each semester there is staff training on a topic that is pertinent to all service team members, and directors feel very confident in their B team.
Another key discovery was a robust IT tool which serves as an app through Sales Force. Marian is able to match up data from different service areas and identify holes in things that they were not doing, or where they were previously missing students who were falling through the cracks. They now use these tools effectively, so managers can focus more time on students.
“The work of making change, the work of really being about service can be difficult, but Credo’s partnership provided the support I needed to make hard decisions I already knew I needed to make. Our team was open to problem solving and addressing and owning where we were, and it was not a threatening process. It was a very helpful process. We look forward to keeping that partnership going for sure.” - Alice Shelton
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