University Web sites will see changes

By Joel Lanceta

Checking grades and updating financial aid information will soon be a little less painful.

The College Aid Office and the Office of the Registrar are currently planning major reconstructions of their Web services. The College Aid Office is in the developmental stage of creating its own Web site, which would be connected to the University home page, while the Office of the Registrar plans to create an expanded and more comprehensive version of its current Web page with more services connected to other offices.

According to Alicia Reyes, director of the College Aid Office, one of the purposes of the new College Aid Office Web site will be to make cost, policy, and application deadline information more easily accessible to students.

The College Aid Office does not currently have its own Web site.

“We currently receive all data from the College Board [the Profile form data] and the Department of Education [the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) data] electronically and load the information directly into our data base,” Reyes said. “The items that we do not receive electronically are the student and parent tax returns as well as the University of Chicago aid application. Those are documents we enter manually and track in our database.”

Presently, the College Aid Office shares a Web page with the College Admissions Office, which is directed only for prospective students. The new Web site will include deadline and policy information for both prospective and current students, as well as links to the Department of Education Web site for obtaining personal identification numbers (PINs), links to the online FAFSA form, and links to the College Board for completing the Profile form and scholarship search information.

The Office of the Registrar’s new Web site, an undertaking called the cMore Project, aims to be a more comprehensive Web site, combining links and services involving many of the College’s offices, such as that of the Bursar, the Dean of Students, and the Student Health Care Center together on one page.

“cMore is a suite of services that college students have or have been using to tap into interactive administrative services that are currently available,” said Andrew Hannah, senior associate University registrar. “What cMore will do is it will bypass having to go to all the offices and just be able to go on this one Web page for all the University’s services.”

“Rather than thinking of these services as only Registrar services or those services as Bursar services, this will be just University services that students can check at cMore,” Hannah said. “Students can access their schedules, check grades, change their address, check their medical insurance, change their NSIT password, and get information on ordering transcripts.”

Additionally, the new site will have special pages for each school, Hannah said, explaining that when students log in to the site they will be immediately directed to the page specific to their program.

Thomas C. Black, the University registrar, promoted the concept of cMore. Black was inspired by professor Andrew Abbot’s “Aims of Education” speech given to the Class of 2006 this fall, where Abbot referred to U of C students being able to “see more” than other people.

Since then, Black has been working with NSIT and other campus offices to redevelop the current Registrar Web site, which is six years old, into a broader one that better fulfills student’s online needs.

Student Government (SG) also played a fundamental role in the creation of the cMore Project, conducting focus groups to pinpoint what would be most useful to the student body.

“Students were extremely receptive to the concept of having one access point for information that would typically require interaction with lots of different offices,” said Enrique Gomez, SG president, of the initial feedback. “They also made some practical recommendations. For instance, we hope that cMore will give students the ability to order transcripts online and to add Flex Dollars to one’s meal plan.”

Jesse Ehrenfeld, a student in the Pritzker School of Medicine and the student liaison to the Board of Trustees, presented the board with an information report on the project on April 9 and 10 at their quarterly meeting. At the meeting, the topic of student service problems with college offices was a hotly debated issue, making cMore all the more relevant, according to Ehrenfeld.

Ehrenfeld sees cMore as a powerful tool for students, giving them online access to a range of tools for their everyday needs. He said the goal of cMore is not only to aggregate more information, but also to help facilitate more student interaction with the data.

“That way, they can check on stuff they don’t have access to online, like checking their meal points, seeing their housing selections, and displaying their copy charges,” Ehrenfeld said. “cMore could let them order transcripts online without having to go to the registrar’s office or let them check their Flex Dollars without having to go to Harper.”

The Office of the Registrar said that the cMore Web site will be constantly updated as more services and technology become available. The Web site is predicted to be online by mid-May.