3 minute read

Episode 603: Unifying Student Services into a One-Stop Shop with Portland Community College

5/30/2023 7:00 PM

During this week’s episode of FOCUS, Fredderick Simmons discusses how Portland Community College (PCC) is bringing together siloed services to create a powerful one-stop shop for student success. Simmons is the Student Account Services Manager, overseeing PCC’s relationships with Ellucian Banner and TouchNet. Since PCC’s recent administrative reorganization, the school has put bettering student services at the top of their priorities with the “One Together, Together One” model. Simmons shares insights on the model and what steps PCC has taken towards greater student success.

Unified for better student services

Portland Community College serves students across four campuses in the Portland area. Until recently, each campus operated under its own president and budget, reporting to the district president. To create a unified student experience, PCC restructured to bring the four campuses under the leadership of one president, currently Dr. Adrien Bennings.

PCC has since adopted a “One Together, Together One” model to re-engage and reshape their community. The initiative takes an all-hands-on-deck approach to support student success, extending to all departments, including student accounts services, financial aid, enrollment, and more.

“You want to make sure that students are prepared in the classroom, and it's our job and our responsibility to make sure that they are financially settled outside of the classroom,” says Simmons.

On-site flex schedule

Part of PCC’s new ideology extends to staffing. The institution wanted to find a way to serve students the best they could, while allowing staff to have a hybrid work environment when possible. The answer came in the form of on-site flex scheduling, which uses account service data to identify three peak weeks each semester where students need increased on-campus staff presence. The data showed the days and weeks that saw the most in-person student visits and made it possible for PCC to confidently maintain in-person office hours Monday-Thursday, while being remote-only on Fridays. Students are able to have their questions answered in person when they need it most, while staff can enjoy a hybrid workplace outside of those three weeks.

Zoom rooms

Staying true to PCC’s new model, the way the institution communicated with students in need of help also needed an all-hands-on-deck update. As Simmons puts it, students want instant service. With Zoom Rooms, students can reach out to chat during business hours for immediate aid. Account service providers can then get on a Zoom call with students or transfer them to another department without having to start over with the chat’s archive function.

A resource beyond payments

Another way the student accounts team at PCC is by serving students beyond taking payments. Simmons shared that their vision is to be more involved during student orientation to provide educational resources on financial management skills and coaching students on budgeting and financial responsibility. Additionally, he hopes to better serve their ESOL students by considering the makeup of the student population while staffing the department.

Looking forward

As PCC continues to evolve their one-stop shop, Simmons is also excited about implementing TouchNet’s newest solution, Student Account Advisor. This tool will further advance the one-stop shop mentality in the Answer Center by retrieving student account data regardless of which department it’s stored in, so staff can have all the information they need to advise students successfully. Simmons believes the tool will break down barriers that both students and staff experience, creating a better process.

Simmons also shared what’s next for the institution. Currently, the enrollment and orientation processes are being re-imagined to be more hands-on so that students have more access to staff. Overall, Simmons says the school wants to be more mindful of the population they serve and strategize how to break down certain barriers in enrollment so more students can have the experience of “One Together, Together One.”