Sunday, November 13, 2011

Improving Student Services -- New President Interview -- Part 9 *

Q> In the November 2001 issue of Campus Technology, Michelle Fredette [fn 1] writes about customer service improvements that would help the technically literate student have a better customer service oriented experience. I am talking about the interactions the students have outside of the classroom such as registration, housekeeping, and transportation. What is the college doing to improve these services?
A> Students when registering are customers; in the classroom they are not. Let me address my remarks strictly to the non-classroom experience. In today’s information rich and connected society customers expect to know the store’s inventory. The College has an obligation to supply students with the information they need to enhance their student experience. That information is our inventory.

1. Transportation is always a challenge. The campus is served by three bus routes. One connects to the rapid transit system. Students can get downtown in about 45 minutes via public transportation. The College participates in the regional program that offers a student transit pass for use the entire semester. For $200 the student can ride without further payment. Our College makes the purchase process easy at registration time.

For students driving to campus, we have adequate parking. We collect no parking fees and there is no problem with enforcement. Last summer the parking lots were sealed, remarked, and routine maintenance was performed. The only problem times are in the late morning when the highest number of students are on campus.

2. Textbooks are a big expense. I read an article about American Public University’s policy of not charging for textbooks. [fn 2] Their professors are writing e-books for class use. This policy is controversial as stated in Paul Fain’s article from Inside Higher Ed.[fn 3] We recognize that for some of our students the textbook costs more than they pay in tuition. Some universities rent textbooks to students. Eastern Illinois University has been renting textbooks for students since 1899. Their system required IT work to modify scripts to match inventory and student’s needs. Since student may choose to purchase books, inventory needs to be sufficient for everyone taking the class. See for their policy. They collect a set fee each semester for textbooks. Once the student knows what course s/he is taking they go to the textbook building to select their books. The books have an RFID (radio frequency identification tag) to enable a modified library circulation system to check out and track every book. At the end of the semester they return the books. The list of textbooks needed by each student is prepared by matching their schedules from Banner. Students spend an average of 10 minutes from the time they enter the textbook building to the time they leave with their books.

There are several challenges with textbook rental programs. The textbook publishers frequently include CDs or web based materials that can only be used for one semester. Publishers create frequent new editions that both update the text and discourage the used book market. I have set up a task force to investigate whether we can set up a rental program. The challenges include logistical, technological, and intellectual property. The task force includes people from the building and physical plant, IT staff, library faculty, and faculty from several disciplines. They will need to investigate student needs and wants as well as the faculty needs. With a rental program faculty will have less freedom to choose texts for their classes.

3. ID cards are not obtained by all of our students. For some strange reason many skip the final step in their registration. Since students don’t need IDs to enter the buildings or most campus events they just don’t get one. This causes problems for the security of our campus because we don’t know who is authorized to be here. The ID is also their library card. This is not a new concept. Colleges have been issuing IDs that are used for library cards for more than 80 years. The librarians at the College report that students think their state issued ID is their “regular ID.”
Q> Are there any changes in the housekeeping activities at the College?
A> Housekeeping staff was complaining that food left in the library and classrooms were problems with odors and vermin. We are now limiting food to approved areas.
Q> Thank you very much.

*Part nine of an imaginary interview with the recently appointed president of the College. Note this is just for your information and amusement. Any connection to a real college president is strictly coincidental.


1. “7 ways to streamline student services,” by Michelle Fredette in Campus Technology, Nov. 2011 p. 33-40. (On line version:

2. See for their undergraduate book grant policy.

3. “E-Book, In-House,” November 7, 2011 Inside Higher Ed,

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