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It’s your first week of college. You’ve been dropped off at your new campus and you have the whole world in front of you (or so it feels). After a whirlwind week of orientation with introductions and activities, you’re suddenly on your own. Your orientation leader says, “It’s time to sign up for courses now. If you have any questions about your course tracks, reach out to your guidance counselor – if you need help with financial aid, talk to the bursar, and…” That’s where the stress of independence hits you. You had a successful high school experience. You nailed the SAT’s. You were ready for college. But who’s even heard of a “bursar?” You start wandering the campus, trying to remember where the orientation leader said the registrar’s office is, but you’re not even sure if that’s the right place you need to be. Are you supposed to talk to your guidance counselor first? – Time to start googling!

Image: Huntington University HUB

This is the experience for too many students on campuses today, and there’s a simple fix. Let’s take a look at how this same student may experience their first day on a campus that has a “one-stop shop:”

It’s time to register for classes. Your orientation leader says if you have any questions at all, can swing into the one-stop shop when you go to the student center for coffee this morning. You walk into the student center and there it is! Financial aid, student accounts, counseling…registrar! You walk into the suite of offices and meeting rooms and are greeted by staff member at one of the pods located out in an open area. From there, they ask you a few questions. After helping you setup your online login at the desk, they realize you have some problems with your scholarship funding, and they escort you into one of the conference rooms where you are quickly joined by someone from financial aid.  It turns out that you weren’t qualifying because you hadn’t registered for a full-time course load. Not a problem. The office of the registrar is also here. They make a speedy call, and a staff member stops in, quickly sees the problem and gets you enrolled in that missing course. Before you leave that small conference room, you are ready for your first day of classes! Maybe this college thing won’t be so hard after all. Now you know exactly where to go if you need anything, because it’s all in one place!

Image: Taylor University Campus Center

Education Student One Stop Shop
Education Student One Stop Shop
Taylor Campus Center Student One Stop Shop ORNL Northshore Student One Stop Shop

This isn’t describing the campus of the future. This is describing many campuses we’re working with today. One-stop shops in student centers and libraries are a great way for students of all backgrounds to comfortably and confidently navigate the first-time challenges that college brings; and with an increasing number of first-generation college students who may not have strong support networks home, it can be the difference between failure or success in their college journey. The benefits of one-stop shops continue beyond the student, and can also have three significant benefits to enhance a college or university’s operations:

    1. Increasing student success and engagement is the number one priority of every client we work with in higher education. Helping students successfully navigate the increasing complexity of college today allows them to focus on their academics and friendships that are forming.
    2. Decreasing operational costs and square footage needed. Centralizing these key departments allows for more shared resources. We want to encourage these departments to share the same break room, print areas, and other resources in order to get them to know each other. This approach has the added benefit of decreasing the number of break rooms and decreasing duplicate equipment to lease and maintain around campus.
    3. Enhancing interdepartmental collaboration is another huge advantage of bringing teams together in the same shared space. Most universities have a common problem – software being used by one department doesn’t interface with the infrastructure serving another department. This can often create friction when trying to roll out interdepartmental initiatives that serve the campus. When teams don’t know each other well, that friction only gets worse. Sometimes it’s the reason that an initiative may not succeed. When teams have pre-existing relationships, they’re more likely to see that it’s the software, not the people, that’s the problem they’re fighting.

Image 1: Taylor University Campus Center

Image 2: ORNL Northshore Headquarters

Taylor Campus Center Student One Stop Shop ORNL Northshore Student One Stop Shop

Every campus is unique, and so are their challenges and opportunities. Space limitations and other institutional hurdles may necessitate a phased approach. Using our proprietary Fingerprint process is a comprehensive way to evaluate these challenges in a way that is specifically tailored to those needs, but the first steps are generally the same – Talk the students. What are challenges they’re facing? What could make them easier to navigate? Think through the policies or initiatives that can address those common challenges, and then take your thinking one step further and consider how the physical spaces of your campus can support those important initiatives. It just might include a one-stop shop.

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