Five local colleges work together to create financial efficiencies

Friday, December 24, 2010

Five-Star Consortium representatives discuss priorities at a meeting Dec. 16, 2010, at Shoreline Community College. Photo courtesy SCC.

Presidents, vice presidents and trustees from Shoreline, Cascadia, Edmonds and Everett Community Colleges and Lake Washington Technical College all gathered Thursday, December 16 at Shoreline to hear recommendations on how the five colleges can work together.

Known as the Five-Star Consortium, the group was formed in 2009 with the “goal of maximizing efficiencies and promoting institutional coordination and collaboration.” Over the past year, vice presidents and other college staff have been working to see just how that goal might be achieved.

They are focusing their efforts in four categories: instruction, administration, student services and human resources.

Topping the list for the Instruction group is the HP 3000, the state’s aging mainframe computer that is the foundation of all key student records for all colleges. “The HP is the key,” said Sandra Fowler-Hill, VP for Instruction at Everett. “It is the biggest single barrier we face.

It would also a huge expense for the State to replace, with hardware and software counted in millions of dollars. Other priorities, however, are well within grasp.

Common placement test
Four of the five schools use Compass tests while one uses Accuplacer. Besides picking one test, the colleges would also agree on common scoring for class placements. There have been talks with local high schools on how to better assess student transcripts that would perhaps allow skipping placement tests that are costly to both students and colleges.

Residency requirements
Not where students live, but the requirements for where they complete degrees are the issue. Currently, students who hop from college to college may be forced to take credits beyond the degree requirement to satisfy residency rules.

Also on Instruction’s list are:
  • Align start-stop dates for academic quarters,
  • publish a combined annual class schedule,
  • joint purchasing for textbooks
  • combined professional development efforts for all employees.
Cascadia President Eric Murray, Shoreline Vice President for Academic Affairs John Backes and Shoreline Trustee Gidget Terpstra attended the meeting. Photo courtesy SCC.

The Administration group chose one goal they feel has significant, long-term potential: implementation of a virtual desktop interface.

The idea would use centralized servers hosting content and programs for access by any Web-enabled device, from a desktop computer to a smart phone. The group’s report shows potential savings to the consortium ranging from $412,000 to $773,000 a year over five years, primarily through reduced hardware replacement and software costs.

Other items considered by the Administration group were a central warehouse for equipment purchasing, print shop and graphic design efficiencies and shared capital project management.

Student Services also discussed their frustrations with the limitations and problems with the HP 3000, but identified two top objectives which can be implemented:
  • common student identification numbers
  • shared access to student records.

Removing HP 3000 firewalls between college records would allow records to be shared, meaning that students who move between colleges would have their records move with them in a seamless manner. For ID numbers, students now get a new number each time they enroll at a different college. A common number would allow easy tracking and access for students and colleges.

The Human Resources group looked at recruiting, personnel investigations, training, mandatory direct deposit and sharing expertise in specific subjects.

--Information included from Jim Hill's SCC blog 


Ron Seybold December 25, 2010 at 5:00 AM  

Are these 5 colleges part of the State Board of Community & Technical Colleges? Because if they are, they're already getting a replacement for the HP 3000.

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