Monday, March 26, 2007

Some Really Passionate Folks...and "yes" it's FREE

March 26, 2007- I initially debated a few different titles for this entry- "It's All About the Relationships," and "Kudos for Katie" both of which seemed very appropriate. Ultimately, I settled on "Some Really Passionate Folks... and 'yes' it's FREE", but more on this after you've had the opportunity to read the email below that was forwarded to me by Chad Schaedler, our Senior Regional Director for New England.


From: Regan, Barbara
Sent: Friday, March 23, 2007 2:24 PM
To: Chad Schaedler
Subject:

Hello Mr. Schaedler: I wanted to take the opportunity to compliment one of your employees. I received an email from Katie Jordan about ConnectEdu, and through emails and phone conversations I determined that I wanted to find out more about this program. Katie answered every question I had and was very patient with my comments of "Are you sure this is free?" about every minute. She came to our school to do a presentation about the program, and we were very impressed with her. She did an informative presentation and was again very patient with our questions and comments. I have to say that she truly was the determining factor in our decision to join the ConnectEdu family!

Bet Regan/Guidance Counselor/Hull High School


Katie’s commitment to Barbara and the ConnectEdu mission are symbolic of the type of organization that we are focused on building at ConnectEdu. Our team is committed to developing deep, supportive relationships with our partner high schools, community colleges and colleges. In addition, we are passionate about reaching as many counselors as we can to deploy our solution so that in turn they can spend more time practicing the art of counseling.

On some occasions our emails and phone calls may be interpreted as “pestering” or “pushy.” But please remember, our folks are so darn persistent because they care about helping counselors assist more students with the "going-to-college process".

Congratulations Katie! And welcome Barbara and Hull High School to the Connect! Network™ and ConnectEdu family.

Friday, March 23, 2007

More Good News out of Missouri

March 23, 2007- As I make my travel arrangements for a trip home to Missouri, I'm reminded of how my home state has quickly become a model for the Connect! network. While we're building amazing partnerships in dozens of other states, the synergy in Missouri between high schools, community colleges and universities is phenomenal. I am not the only one proud of what's happening in the Show-Me State; the media is taking note as well. The most recent article is a celebration of Connect!, printed in a college partner's newspaper. Northwest Missouri State University is currently welcoming dozens of high schools in their region to the Connect! platform and is eagerly anticipating the paperless admissions office they'll create during their upcoming admissions cycle.

Click here to read the full article.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Over 3000 High Schools Now Have the Ability to Connect!

March 19, 2007- This morning we announced our latest data integration project with Rediker Software, Inc., one of the nation’s leading providers of high school student information systems with 3,200 schools across the country using their software. Besides the added simplicity of data export for ConnectEdu high schools who use Rediker, the real story lies in the genesis of our relationship with Rediker.

During one of our ConnectEdu account management meetings, it became evident that many of our high schools were using Rediker products. On top of that, the level of technological experience at each school varied dramatically. Some counselors had no problems exporting data, some needed a quick tutorial each time, and some just weren’t familiar with the process at all. But they all had one thing in common: they were using the same SIS platform.

Some of our progressive high school partners, like Nancy Stella from Middletown High School in CT and John Bennett from Harwich High School in MA, had a great idea. Wouldn’t it be great if there was a standardized export from Rediker? They consulted with the ConnectEdu account managers about making it happen.

Jeff Alderson, our Director of Strategic Partnerships, and our team quickly took to task on the project and the rest is history. Now any high school that uses Rediker as their SIS provider will be able to export data into Connect! right from their SIS.

This is just a small example of how ConnectEdu values our relationships with high schools and values their feedback. As partners in the “going-to-college” process, we actively look to solve the obstacles that get in the way for counselors and students. Furthermore, since our business model is dependent upon students successfully moving from high school to college, these obstacles are our problem, too.

We’re excited to be partnered with such a quality organization as Rediker and look forward to expanding SIS partnerships. These partnerships enhance our ability to make a difference for students and counselors engaged in the “going-to-college” process.

Let us know about your SIS provider and how we can make the process easier for you. Email us at: info@connectedu.net

Reflections From a Week in the Midwest

March 19, 2007 - I was fortunate to spend time a few weeks back traveling through my favorite part of the United States- yes, the Midwest (perhaps I am biased having grown up there). And while snowstorms and the resulting flight schedules out of O'Hare were less than ideal, I enjoyed meeting with various colleges, community colleges, high schools, and state agencies regarding the issues that face them and the "going-to-college" pipeline.

During the week, many of my discussions focused on the usual questions- "Is it true that you can deliver True Electronic Transcripts™ directly into our SIS?" ..."Is Connect! really free to us and you'll provide training?" We spent time answering these and other questions regarding the "going-to-college" process and did I mention I love this stuff? Honestly, these conversations were a lot of fun. But perhaps the best discussion I had all week was with two young men while I was in Topeka, Kansas.

After a very long day driving from Iowa City to Topeka in an awful snow storm, I was looking forward to dinner with my colleague, Jonathan Fernands. What I hadn't anticipated was the conversation that would transpire with two of the young men working at the restaurant in Topeka.

As my colleague and I engaged our waiters in conversation, we learned that both of them were products of the Kansas Public High School system. One of them, (I'll call him John) had graduated from high school, went onto Kansas State University and was currently enrolled in law school at Washburn University. John was a hoot!

The other young man (I'll call him Dave), had attended college for one year and then had dropped out. Both John and Dave were very engaging and intelligent. We chatted about Kansas basketball, Kansas politics, methamphetamine problems in the Midwest, the Washburn University mascot- the Ichabods, Midwest wrestling (John had wrestled in high school and passed on an opportunity to wrestle in college), and we discussed education. Specifically, the life paths that each of them had followed and the critical decisions points along the way. It's worth noting that John and Dave had a lot in common. Both were from relatively successful households, both had been married early on in life, both had kids, and both valued education. Most importantly, both felt that the educational process had not worked for them. They felt they had wasted time and money pursuing degrees that were not for them. They had completed career placement surveys that weren't helpful and served more to confuse them than to assist them, and they both struggled with what they would do in the coming years. Ironically, John was the most fervent in his frustration with the process. He in particular, was not sure that law school was for him. Both felt that their high school counselors and college advisors were overwhelmed- interesting.

My discussion with John and Dave served as a validation of the issues that I have come to routinely hear about from students that are engaged in the "going-to-college" process. We know that counselors are overwhelmed, forced to spend too much time on administrative tasks as opposed to spending time building relationships and guiding students. We know that there are more young people, similar to John and Dave, experiencing the same obstacles throughout the country.

As I woke up the next morning to prepare for my presentation on our electronic transcript solution to the Kansas Board of Regents, one thing became really clear to me. Exchanging transcripts electronically is only part of the solution that John, Dave, and other students, parents, counselors, community colleges, and colleges/universities require - a small part! We must pursue the movement of electronic documents with an eye for the "big picture". Our counselors need solutions that free them from administrative tasks so that they are able to spend more time engaging their students. We need a solution that helps to demystify the topic that students and families often dread the most - financial aid. And we must avoid limiting, single-point solutions that do not account for the multiple elements involved with the "going-to-college" process. We need a comprehensive solution, not another temporary band-aid.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Connect! Launched at Springfield Area High Schools

March 14, 2007- In addition to the national going-to-college network that ConnectEdu is building, the regional connection between high schools, community colleges and colleges is shining in the spotlight. On March 13, ConnectEdu joined our College Partners Missouri State University and Ozarks Technical Community College to welcome Springfield area high schools into the Connect! network at no charge. KOLR, the CBS affiliate captured the activity on the evening news as Connect! was presented to dozens of high school guidance counselors.
This network in Springfield is quickly becoming the model for regions across the country as Connect! becomes the preferred web solution for college planning in Michigan, Connecticut and New Jersey to name a few.


Click here to view video

Monday, March 12, 2007

Extra Extra, Read All About It!

March 12, 2007 - Check out the latest issue of the Greentree Gazette. This nationally distributed higher education magazine featured us in their technology section this month. Highlighting the partnerships we've established with colleges and high schools throughout Michigan, the article recommends Connect! to help build a paperless admissions office. We're thrilled that our work in the state of Michigan is being recognized nationally and look forward to garnering more media attention as we help colleges and universities simplify the "going to college" process.

Click here to read the article.

Thursday, March 8, 2007

Sometimes They Just Say It Better – “A Story From The Road”

Mary O’Malley (ConnectEdu Account Manager, Missouri)

March 9, 2007- There’s nothing better than coming into the office in the morning, popping on my computer and reading about our folks, in concert with an engaged college counselor making a difference. These “stories from the road” not only warm my heart, but they also serve as reminders as to why single-point solutions are limited and simply do not work in the education marketplace.

E-mail Transcript (3.8.07 – 9:38AM) from Mary O’Malley – Account Manager, Missouri – to CDU team members:

Hi all,

Yesterday, I was able to see Connect! up front, live and making a difference in the life of a junior at Adair R II High School in Brashear, MO. It was absolutely amazing. I had a wonderful, wonderful workshop with the junior class. Since students may not have internet at home, we spent some time letting them do the interview during training. One student, who has had his heart set on UMKC, immediately pulled up the profile from his matches after the interview and was stunned. He had never thought that there were requirements for admission and quickly realized his foreign language wasn’t up to snuff (1.5 years instead of 2 or 3) for admission to UMKC. He was able to pull his counselor over to his computer, have a quick talk about it, and, by the time we were done training, he was mapping out a plan so he could take a language class to prepare for admission to UMKC.

It was wonderful. Thanks for letting me be a part of this.

Mary


Aside from the emotional high this email brings, Mary’s story also stresses the need for a "big picture" college planning solution - not a limited, one-sided offering found in transcript delivery tools or isolated college search engines.

In this situation, the student would definitely have benefited from having Connect! much earlier in his college planning. Despite the detour, because of Connect! he still has time to make the necessary changes to reach his goal of attending UMKC.

It's amazing to me that although he set his goal years ago, he had no path to follow to get him there. There was no comprehensive college planning solution available to him...until Connect! Now, with plentiful resources and concise information, his counselor was able to point him in the right direction and will now help empower the next generation of college-bound students.

But what if his introduction to Connect! never happened?

I'm sure he would have searched for UMKC's deadlines and online application on one of the many website out there. I'm sure his transcript would have been delivered securely like so many solutions say they do. But I'm also sure he would have received a denial letter. I'm sure his dreams would have been shattered. I'm sure he would have fallen through the cracks. That's why my team built Connect! - to make sure no one falls through the cracks...ever. We hope you'll join us if you feel the same way.

Mary, nice work… keep it up…and, thank you for caring and sharing!

Wednesday, March 7, 2007

A Powerful Statement About A Problem That Can No Longer Be Ignored




March 8, 2007 - The ConnectEdu Team did a fantastic job of illustrating the paper processing issues that face college admissions officers, high school guidance counselors and students this past week at the AACRAO conference, held here in Boston. By stacking 123,000 pieces of paper in the ConnectEdu booth, admissions officers couldn’t help but take notice. And it’s not surprising that Tom De Santes and Mike O’Connor (the CDU team members responsible for the booth design) came up with such a dramatic representation of the problem. Prior to joining ConnectEdu, De Santes worked as a Vice President of Enrollment Management and O’Connor as a Director of Admissions. Their only regret was that they were only able to stack 123,000 pieces of paper, which pales in comparsion to the actual paper they received at their institutions. In fact, many of ConnectEdu’s college partners receive closer to 600,000 pieces of paper each admissions cycle that must then be processed … and often times copies are made of this inbound paper which further exacerbates the problem.

The 123,000 pieces of paper that ConnectEdu stacked into the exhibit hall served as a small, but very visible reminder of the problems that face all involved with the college admissions process.

Here are just a few:

1) The laborious processing task and costs involved with college admissions
2) The data re-entry errors that are prevalent in most college admissions offices as GPAs are retyped and recalculated manually
3) The lost data error rates (see below from AACRAO booth - illustrated at a 1% error rate with the color paper on the desk … most of CDU’s studies point to a
10 – 13% error rate in many college admission offices)



4) The data security risk of student records that are processed in a paper environment and stored in non-SAS Level III certified environments
5) The lengthy time it takes (up to 90 days) to process a college application – in this day and age, million dollar home loans are processed in hours
6) The barrier that the paper creates in the relationship between students and their admissions officers. There needs to be more time and money invested in developing relationships and less time processing paper
7) The burden that our college admission process puts on our environment – literally, the trees that are victim to this paper process

It is time for college admissions to come out of the dark ages and move into a truly electronic (not a PDF, paper) process. ConnectEdu stands ready to make this happen for more college partners just as we have for the University of Michigan, Michigan State University, University of Connecticut and several other leaders within the enrollment management industry.

It’s Electric – A Great Article on Electronic Transcripts … And the Differences Between ConnectEdu and Xap Are Significant

March 7, 2007 -Ann McClure of University Business published a timely article on the 5th outlining the electronic transcript movement that is sweeping throughout high schools, community colleges and colleges. If you had a chance to walk the exhibit floor at AACRAO, I’m sure you noticed the electronic transcript theme. Click here to read the article and you’ll see that McClure nicely summarizes an overview of the electronic transcript movement and the two leading solution providers – Xap and ConnectEdu.

McClure also clearly defines the differences between scanning and scraping technology versus actual receipt of electronic documents, something that distinguishes us from the rest. It’s worth noting that ConnectEdu integrates with both imaging systems as well as dropping data directly into Student Information Systems. In fact, through our partnership with the University of Michigan we are actually delivering transcripts into both their ImageNow platform as well as their PeopleSoft platform. Not only are we “capable” of doing it like you hear from competitors, we are doing it today...with great results. Ted Spencer, Associate Vice Provost & Executive Director of Undergraduate Admissions at the University of Michigan, during a University Business Virtual Roundtable this past January said,

"We're particularly excited about a new partnership with ConnectEdu that will allow us to receive electronic transcripts and letters of recommendation that will go directly into our student information system not PDFs that go into our imaging system. We think this is the direction admissions will go in the future as we transition from a paper-based process to an image and data process, to strictly a data process over the next five to 10 years. There is so much you can do to manage your admissions process better and to analyze retention when you have data in your student information system."


With the data captured in electronic format, we can translate the information into multiple formats (.PDF, XML, EDI, etc.). It’s electric!

As the electronic transcript debate heats up, you’ll be reading about the differences between Xap and ConnectEdu. Just ask our national flagship universities why they partner with us, even after they’ve invested in Xap mentor systems. If you’re interested in helping students make the best choices without limits, we welcome the opportunity to demonstrate our solution and show you the results.

What Happens In Vegas Stays in Vegas... I Hope Not!

March 7, 2007- A few weeks back I had the opportunity to participate in the National Association of Secondary School Principals Conference out at the Las Vegas Convention Center. With over 2,500 high school principals from all parts of the country gathered to discuss the prevalent issues facing them, I hope that their challenges and strategies for addressing those challenges do not as they say “stay in Vegas”.

Several things came to light at the NASSP Conference including:

College planning and matriculation are becoming a community concern in many school districts.

Principals are increasingly focused on the need to track and measure student retention and success.

It is clear that the technology available to high schools is not matched with the training and support tools needed for our teachers.


First off, the lack of support in the “going to college” process is not a Midwest, an East Coast, or a Mid-Atlantic concern – it is a national concern. As we continually heard at the NASSP Conference, our high school principals are looking for a solution that offers both user-friendly technology and, more importantly, the personal guidance necessary to work with students, parents and counselors as they navigate the college admissions process - a process that presents too many barriers, detours and roadblocks. At ConnectEdu, we understand that the technology behind our web solution is only part of the answer to the issues these principals face. Our dedicated team, many former counselors and education administrators themselves are working with high schools on a daily basis to help tackle the issues discussed in Las Vegas. As each principal we met took the next step to implement Connect! at their high school, it was obvious why they embraced our solution. They want to simplify the process for everyone involved, reduce the administrative burden, and help their guidance counselors return to the art of counseling.

Tuesday, March 6, 2007

Come Join Us! We're Hiring!

March 6, 2007 - These are exciting times at ConnectEdu. If you haven't noticed our ads on a variety of job boards including Chronicle, allow me to break the secret - WE'RE HIRING! We are looking for mission-driven folks that are passionate about the "going-to-college" process and like to work in a fast paced environment. We routinely look to hire experts from the software and technology industries, client services industries as well as folks that have spent time as Admissions Directors, VP's of Enrollment Management, or College Counselors. We have available positions located in our corporate office in Boston and across the nation.

Click here to view the available positions.

We look forward to meeting you!