The University of California received over 135,000 applications from prospective students for the Fall 2010 term – 100,000 freshmen applicants and 35,000 transfer applicants. On average, each freshman applies to 3.5 UC campuses, and each transfer applies to 2.9 UC campuses.
All nine undergraduate UC campuses follow common admissions policies, and in 1985 a centralized, common admissions application process was adopted. Student Affairs at the UC Office of the President is responsible for admissions policy and operations while the individual campus Undergraduate Admissions Offices evaluate applications and determine admission.
The current admissions system is operating in an antiquated systems environment which was designed in the early 1980s when students completed paper applications and mailed them to a central processor. Educational Testing Service (ETS) was awarded a contract to build and run a custom system for UC – the California Undergraduate Application Processing Service (UCAP) and today handles all functions associated with centralized admissions.
In 1996, an online application was introduced as an option. Today all students apply online, however the underlying systems and processes have never been updated. The current systems environment is fragmented, with some sub-systems operated by Information Resources and Communications (IR&C) at the UC Office of the President (UCOP) and others by ETS. It is inefficient, inadequate, and expensive to operate and maintain.
The applyUC project was initiated in late 2008 with the goal of modernizing, streamlining, and reducing the cost of an integrated centralized undergraduate admissions process.
By building an integrated undergraduate admissions application processing system and automating many of the central processor functions, UC can:
• End the long-term contract with ETS that is out of compliance with current UC purchasing policies;
• Significantly reduce costs;
• Eliminate processing bottlenecks in campus admissions offices; and,
• Set the stage for adoption of new cross-campus processes.
The applyUC project is being managed jointly by Student Affairs and IR&C at the UC Office of the President. The project team is working in close collaboration with campus Admissions Office staff.
Over the last four years, due to the inflexibility of the legacy system environment, several automated tools were developed by individual campuses for the benefit of one or more other campuses. applyUC is designed to accommodate this distributed-systems model, and it has proved to be an effective approach
In the first year (2009), the applyUC team set the technology foundation and began developing system components. In the second year (2010), the team installed a new hardware and software platform to ensure that the peak processing period runs smoothly. A completely redesigned, modern, and user-friendly admissions application was built, implemented, and deployed on October 1, 2010. The project team has met project milestones on time and within budget.
As anticipated, managing scope and user expectations has been the most significant challenge. Campus Admissions Officers had pent-up demand for new system features because the legacy systems had been difficult to modify. Keeping a complicated project on schedule has also been challenging.
Initial system development began in December 2008 and is expected to run through December 2012. The project is expected to cost $3.4 million, far less than an outsourced systems project. Funding has been provided through application fee revenue, a litigation settlement, and anticipated contract reductions.
It is estimated that UC Office of the President will save at least $1.7 million per year when the system is fully implemented. At that time the current contract with ETS will be decommissioned. Savings may be amplified if Student Affairs is able to successfully fold in other current vendor-supported work into a new admissions vendor contract for ancillary services.
The updated admissions system is expected to be fully operational in Fall 2012. Work is also underway on an RFP for core ancillary services, such as an applicant help desk, that will continue to be performed by an outside vendor.
In addition to realizing much needed cost savings in the near term, the implementation of a modern, robust system platform will allow Student Affairs and Campus Admissions Offices to collaborate on implementation of additional efficiencies and cost reductions in future years.