Campus Trend Watch: The One-Stop Approach to Student Services
Not so long ago, freshman orientation was a daunting experience. A college acceptance letter kicked off a lengthy administrative process: packets of forms to be filled out and submitted in hard copy, followed by long lines for student IDs, parking passes, tuition payments, and financial aid questions. Even registering for classes was an in-person, on-paper chore. Getting set up for your first semester on a new campus could take several days of navigating from building to building, waiting for your turn to submit a form or ask a question. Your first days on campus felt like a prolonged trip to the DMV.
Technology has undeniably made many of those tasks easier, but in many cases campus administration buildings are still physically configured for old-school processes. Outmoded physical space impedes progress towards new work flows and systems, adding unnecessary complexity for students and reinforcing departmental silos for staff. Recognizing that the digital age has disrupted old models for delivering student-facing services, many colleges and universities are embracing new “one-stop” centers to create a more seamless student experience.
Whether in new facilities or renovated buildings, these campus one-stops are improving efficiency by consolidating functions such as registration, financial aid, billing, career services, advising, and other departments into a central multi-functional space. One-stops are more than a collection of departments co-located under one roof; a carefully designed program not only improves the experience for new and prospective students, but also better integrates staff, reduces departmental isolation, and streamlines processes.
The one-stop approach requires a holistic approach to design and implementation, starting with a visioning and programming process to analyze required adjacencies, work flows, circulation, information sharing, and service models. In tandem with technology that allows virtual, 24/7 access for students to self-navigate routine administrative tasks, the one-stop facility can turn campus chores into an opportunity for an enjoyable point of contact between campus administrators, students, and their families.
Gone is the old model of entering the building and navigating to each department. The one-stop model depends upon an integrated administrative system, starting with cross-trained generalists who serve as front-line staff and are empowered to handle a wide range of issues. Instead of winding through a maze of hallways, campus map in hand, students arrive at a welcoming, friendly, comfortable lobby which doubles as a “triage” space. A team member greets each student, answers questions, and either solves the problem on the spot or directs the student to a waiting lounge while contacting back-of-house support. Tablet technology makes conversations portable and brings administrators into the student space; in many cases, the specialist meets the student in the lobby in “huddle areas” and eliminates unnecessary student travel.
In order to make the one-stop design as effective as possible, the design team and campus administration must carefully consider issues such as accommodating functions which require more privacy, like student advising or confidential financial discussions; planning for peak times at the beginning of the semester; providing adequate parking or easy pedestrian/transit access in a central campus location; and integrating technology for self-service where possible. Interdepartmental collaboration is also key to success, as is empowering front-line team members to handle complex situations to create a “frictionless” administrative experience.
When fully implemented, one-stop facilities are proving to be a model worth replicating. For students, one-stops provide a less stressful administrative experience from registration through graduation. For staff, this new model improves work flows, builds collaboration, and boosts morale. For the college or university, a one-stop can not only lower administrative costs, but also serve as an engaging first point of contact to welcome students to campus – and provide a perfect opportunity to showcase school spirit.