Wednesday, April 25, 2007

ConnectEdu and Michigan- Only Case Study Presentation at Annual PESC Conference that Highlighted PESC XML Capability

April 25, 2007- I wanted to take a few minutes to congratulate both the ConnectEdu and University of Michigan development teams on their recent case study presentation at the Annual PESC Conference. From what I understand, the team did a fantastic job of walking everyone through the process by which Connect! is delivering EDI transcripts directly into Michigan’s Student Information System. With Connect!, we support both PESC XML, currently being utilized with Michigan State University, and EDI. The CDU/Michigan teams also explained the process by which ConnectEdu and the University of Michigan are automating the recalculation of applicant grade point averages and the matching of applicant data. This partnership is saving the University of Michigan nearly $20 per applicant in processing and data entry costs that simply do not exist anymore – POWERFUL!

Friday, April 20, 2007

Community Colleges Make Financial Sense

April 20, 2007- In a few days, I will be meeting with members of the Council of North Central Two Year Schools in Chicago to celebrate our recent partnership. I’ll also have the opportunity to explain how Connect! can help their community college as it’s done for our community college partners in Missouri. Paperless admissions, automated degree audits, online academic advising, career planning – there are countless features I was planning to highlight. Then I came across the following article and I knew exactly what I wanted to tell these potential partners.

Echoed by the article, for a growing number of college-bound high school students, community colleges are the first choice on a path to earning a bachelor’s degree. It’s not because they need to improve their academic performance or because there’s a situation that requires them to stay close to home. The reason so many students are choosing this route is because it makes good financial sense. Students can save tens of thousands of dollars by completing their first two years at a community college. Undeniably, the 2+2 option will only continue to grow as tuition escalates.

Community colleges are a pipeline to a four year institution with limitless possibilities. Unfortunately, of the 6 million students starting at community colleges each year, only 750,000 (12.5%) actually move on to a four year college/university despite their original intentions. While transfer advisors are doing their best to meet and advise thousands of students, provide accurate transfer information, and process the application paperwork – hundreds of thousands of students are not taking the next step on their college path. They are simply falling through the cracks. In addition to helping students navigate the transfer process with confidence, Connect! is designed to give transfer advisors all the tools they need to help more students transfer to four-year schools. With a solution that simplifies the process, community colleges can start to fill the gap.

We’ve always made sure that Connect! provides the tools that allows students to map their education at an earlier age, especially with the option of a two-year school. With online articulation agreements, Connect! takes the guessing game out of academic advising so that transfer students can stay on track and make the right decisions that will lead them to a 4-year school. Automated degree audits show students how their courses will transfer at the colleges of their choice. There is now a transparency into the process that has traditionally been clouded by a lack of reliable information.

Community colleges are now able to provide automated online tools, not only to show students how much they’ll be saving in tuition, but exactly what they need to do to make it happen.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Families Didn’t Need Two Harvard Scholars To Tell Them FASFA was Difficult

April 18, 2007- During a cross-country flight this week I was catching up on my reading and came across article after article about the disarray of financial aid…on all sorts of levels. If you’ve been following the news, you know I was kept pretty busy for the entire flight!

One article that truly caught my attention was about “two Harvard scholars” who have suddenly determined that applying for financial is difficult. I laughed out loud when I read it. I am glad that these two individuals have voiced their opinion, but I am even more pleased with the hundreds of thousands of families that figured this out a while ago and actually did something about it by joining Connect!

Years ago, I figured it out when I was put to the task of filing a FASFA. That’s one of the reasons why I founded ConnectEdu. About eight years ago the federal government also figured it out and claimed they would do something, too. Like the hundreds of thousands of folks who are required to navigate the FAFSA, I’m still waiting.

Until the federal government simplifies the federal application for student aid, there’s Connect! We developed our own “Turbotax” for the financial aid process. By making the experience more consumer friendly: doing all of the math, determining what supplemental forms need to be completed, running an auditor to insure that mistakes haven’t been made, and filing forms for families in a seamless fashion, Connect! has won huge favor with our families.

Already this year, thousands of Connect! families connected with the FAFSA filing process, at last, and many of them did it in fraction of the time with far less confusion, aggravation and mistakes. Plus, now everything they need to renew their forms for next year is stored securely for next year’s refiling. It’s that easy.
Take a look...

Friday, April 6, 2007

Students Come First

April 6, 2007- This past month I was meeting with a group of college-bound students like I often do to discuss the evolution of the “going to college” process. The subject turned to “recruiting”. These students wanted to know how so many colleges and universities got access to their personal information to clog their email accounts and stuff their mailboxes. A junior named Corey was amazed that a small liberal arts college in California was trying to recruit her when she clearly knew, and had indicated to her counselor, that she wanted to attend one of the dozens of business schools in Boston. She was glad to find a viewbook from Bentley and Babson, which her counselor requested, but she said the number of brochures she tossed was a shame. I asked the group to think back to when they registered to take the SAT. I reminded them of all the personal information they gave the College Board at that time.

During the same focus group, Rick was a senior who used a web portal at one point during his application process- unfortunately, it wasn’t Connect! Now with his calculator, he’s evaluating his options and like several hundred thousand students like him, he is struggling with the cost gap between the tuition and his financial aid awards. Rick agreed with Corey about the viewbooks piling up in his trash can, but he warned her about what was coming next – the lenders. In addition to the “preferred lenders”, Rick said he was being bombarded by loan offers from people who he had never met. He wanted to know how they knew he needed money. I asked him to think back to when he registered for the retail web portal. I reminded him of all the personal information he provided to get online.

One of the many reason that I meet with young people in the “going to college” process is to figure out how we can make Connect! better for students. I’m learning our commitment to privacy and security (click here to view our Privacy Policy) is helping us become one of the most preferred web portals available, but it appears that privacy isn’t a priority for everyone. This week, Attorney General Cuomo announced that several colleges/universities had agreed to sign his Code of Conduct that focused on removing any deceptive practices relative to student lender/college practices. At the same time, a jury awarded a settlement of $4.5M to CollegeNet as a result of Xap’s violations of the Lanham Act. Ironically the Xap settlement was focused on this retail web portal’s deceptive practices relative to selling personal student information to student loan companies. (Click here for a summary of the judgement.)

As several State Departments and State Student Loan Authorities endorse many of the XAP Powered Mentor sites, there seems to be a disconnect between helping students transition into college and actually doing what’s best for students. Fortunately, at ConnectEdu we’ve made that connection from the start. I’m excited about the possibility of introducing Connect! to more colleges as these governments that implemented mentor sites start looking for a more viable, student-friendly solution. As we continue to expand Connect! across states like Maryland and Virginia, our most recent additions, we’ll continue to help students in the “going to college” process with best practices that put students first.

It Was Great to Be Back Home

April 6, 2007- My recent trip to Missouri and my hometown of Maryville provided me with a chance to enjoy some time with family (albeit brief). While in my home state, I had the opportunity to talk to folks in St. Joseph, both at KQ2-TV and at the St. Joseph News-Press, about the great things that are happening as more high schools in Northwest Missouri join the Connect! Network each week. In fact, Missouri high schools this spring have connected at an average of 10 schools per week. We now have nearly 100 high schools and expect to close the school year with over 200 high schools participating throughout the state.

For the first time, high school students in the state are connected to institutions of higher education across Missouri via a secure, online network to communicate, exchange data and simplify the entire “going to college” process. The momentum at high schools in Missouri that we’ve achieved in less than a year far surpasses the utilization of the state-mandated solutions in North Carolina and Indiana, for example, that have been implemented for much longer periods. Kudos to our ConnectEdu team in Missouri!

Click here to read the article from the St. Joseph News-Press.

Thursday, April 5, 2007

Old Dominion and Towson Join the Connect! Network

April 5, 2007- It’s been a great start to the month as we announced our partnerships with Old Dominion University, our first university in Virginia, and Towson University, our first university in Maryland. With their leadership and forward-thinking approach, we’re thrilled about building a regional “going to college” network free to all high schools in Virginia and Maryland, as well as welcoming these universities and high schools into our national network. Click here to read the releases.

As Old Dominion and Towson create a paperless admissions office by choosing Connect!, we’re looking forward to introducing Connect! to their feeder high schools. ConnectEdu’s current models are demonstrating that over 30% of their feeder high schools will adopt Connect! within 12 months and that within 34 months over 85% of their feeder high schools will be participating. In partnership with engaged colleges and universities, ConnectEdu has demonstrated an ability to bring high schools into the Connect! network at an unprecedented rate.

Perhaps of greatest value is that these high schools and colleges have been given the option to choose to participate in the Connect! network on their own timeline. This approach also avoids state-wide mandates which have demonstrated that they do not work and struggle to drive high school adoption.

Our philosophy at ConnectEdu is that a quality solution, great customer service and engaged college partners will cause high schools to adopt a college planning solution much quicker than state-wide mandates and restrictive solution contracts.