Center for attention

Express Enrollment Center Director Tim Ross and center receptionist Stacey McGiffin greet business administration major Quteiba Al-Timeemy at the check-in area in the Student Life Center on North Campus.

New Express Enrollment Center to improve student services experience

As students pursue a familiar series of back-to-school responsibilities at Ivy Tech Community College Northeast each semester, there’s an unfortunate circumstance, at times, that many of them never look forward to: the wait factor.

“I dread the wait at financial aid, where it once took me 45 minutes to get my questions answered,” says Catherine Roach, a general studies major. “A long wait in line at the bookstore is something I expect, but not for student services.”

While Roach says her interactions with student affairs staff are overwhelmingly positive, “nine times out of ten,” she feels there are opportunities for improvement within the service model.

She is not alone.

Experiences like Roach’s have been echoed by many of her Ivy Tech peers across Indiana. These voices have been heard, and now they serve as the motivation behind a well-researched plan by the statewide community college system as it aims to enhance student retention rates, course remediation goals, on-time graduation performance, and customer service delivery.

One ambitious approach to achieve these objectives has arrived in the form of the Express Enrollment Center, which opened this January in Ivy Tech Northeast’s Student Life Center following nearly four months of building renovations and staff training.

The goal of the center is to provide a single place where students and prospects can get their questions answered, as opposed to being directed from office to office. The center will be a one-stop shop for academic advising, admissions, class registration, financial aid, student orientation, and veterans affairs.

Employees there, called student services professionals, will be cross-trained to help students in the various areas. A Bursar’s Office staff member will be on site as well to accept payment for tuition and fees.

These service improvements will focus on the concept of “single,” says Chris Cathcart, vice chancellor of student affairs.

“A single phone call, a single visit to campus, a single representative or team of representatives who will work in partnership to handle students’ needs,” Cathcart says.

This one-stop service concept has gained favorable attention across the country where it has been implemented successfully, with impressive results, at various levels of post-secondary education, he adds. By this fall, the enrollment center will be in operation at all 31 degree-granting Ivy Tech locations.  

At Ivy Tech Northeast, six existing student affairs employees have been promoted as student services professionals. A receptionist will greet current and prospective students at a welcoming area visible from the Student Life Center’s main entrance and direct them to student services professionals, whose comprehensive knowledge of college operations is expected to help them address student inquiries more quickly and efficiently than the existing office-to-office visits made by students. If the student services professionals need additional support, they can direct a student to a specialist in the appropriate student affairs office.

Student questions related to Academic Advising, Career Services, and Disability Support Services will continue to be addressed by staff in those respective offices.

“There will be multiple computers around for students to learn how to use their Ivy Tech accounts, with student services professionals right there to help them every step of the way,” says Alisa Perry, a student services professional who once worked exclusively in the Registrar’s Office.

Cathcart says there are additional service-related goals with the Express Enrollment Center, which include allowing staff to focus on top priorities, educating students about various department functions and how they interact, and enrolling and transitioning students into the Ivy Tech community.

“We want to ensure that the promise we make to our students is upheld in a way that allows them to enroll, persist, and ultimately complete their program of choice in the most efficient way possible,” Cathcart says. “It does no one any good to enroll record numbers of students if they all walk right back out the door after one or a few semesters.”

Express Enrollment Center Director Tim Ross says metrics are already in place to track the type of information students seek, wait-time averages, student satisfaction, and the level of customer service.

“I believe in the one-stop concept,” Ross says. “I feel the transition to the Express Enrollment Center will benefit students and allow more of them to achieve their dreams. There is no greater satisfaction than seeing a student graduate.”

Student Services Professional Mara Wolff demonstrates the student information portal, Banner, to automotive technology major Robert Mayo.

Student Services Professional Kari Overmyer assists human services major Kyanne Bryant to understand her financial aid options on Jan. 9, the Express Enrollment  Center’s first day of operation at Ivy Tech Northeast.