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Students register, pay fees by phone.

Student registration is only one of many services that can be automated by colleges through telephone access.

The voice processing systems that make phone registration possible can also be used to let students adjust schedules, pay for courses, get grade reports, remove registration encumbrances, schedule orientation sessions, and obtain information ranging from financial aid to snow closings.

Colleges and universities considering development of a phone registration system should be sure the system they select can support multiple applications--and the large vocabulary required by these applications--in order to maximize the cost-effectiveness of the technology investment.

At Metropolitan State College, an urban college whose 18,000-member student body is primarily comprised of working individuals, we have been able to further offset costs associated with our voice processing system by adding a nominal charge to the overall student fee.

This charge was added only after a survey indicated a large percentage of students would pay as much as $10 for the telephone registration service. This amount, five times our current $2 per semester fee, was far less than expenses associated with lost work time and driving to the campus when manually registering.

At present, all class registration and adjustments at the College--and for those at affiliated colleges and universities--must be made via phone. The process begins when the College sends to each student a registration package containing a class schedule and instructions for using the voice processing system, a VPS 7500 from Periphonics Corp., Bohemia, N.Y. The packet also specifies a timeslot for the student to call. Students can not register before the assigned time, but can register after.

A registration worksheet is also included in the mailing. We recommend students complete it so all class numbers and other data required is available for swift entry in response to system prompts.

Any encumberances which might prevent students from registering (such as unavailability of transcript or non-completion of an advising process required for students under 20) are detailed in the packet. The encumberance can be removed by the appropriate advisor via telephone.

After dialing the phone registration number, students press the letter "R" to begin the process. The system then prompts them to enter their Social Security number and a four-digit security code. The default for this code is their birth month and data, but this can be changed by students wanting to restrict access.

If any encumbrances still exist, they will be spoken by the system at this point and registration will not be allowed.

Next, a payment code must be entered. If paying by check, for example, students enter 05; to pay by credit card, they enter 07, followed by card number and expiration date. Accepted credit card for direct billing include Visa, MasterCard, and Discover.

Each night, or host computer generates a tape listing of all credit card payments which we forward to an authorizing bank. If any credit card number is bad, or does not have an adequate balance, we send the student a letter informing them of this fact. Students can then dial the registration system and either change the credit card number or select another payment option.

Students next press the letter A, a unique four-digit number for each class they want to add, and the pound sign. If the class is available, they are prompted to enter their next class number. If a class is closed, the system indicates this and directs the student to enter a W/pound to be put on a waiting list.

If a student does not want to be on the list, they can press S/pound to direct the system to search for a similar available class that does not conflict with previous selections.

When all classes have been added, the student presses T to terminate the session. At this point the system speaks, in a digitized voice, the names and numbers of all classes to which the student has registered, their position on wait lists, and outstanding registration fees. If fees are not paid by the tenth day before school begins, registration is canceled.

After classes begin, students use the same system to complete registration changes. At the conclusion of the semester, they can call the system and enter G to obtain their grades. This feature is particularly important for graduating students who can not participate in graduation unless all grades are reported before the date of the ceremony.

In addition to these registration-related services, we also use the system to support an information bulletin board. This uses spoken menu trees to direct callers to specific information such as snow closings, graduation dates, and the like.

Voice processing systems support a range of services which not only make students' lives easier and protect their rights to privacy, but which expedite timely delivery of information.

In addition, the systems reduce overhead costs associated with having college staff respond to repetitive inquiries, and eliminate labor costs associated with rectifying the data entry errors common to manual registration systems.
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Copyright 1993 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:Metropolitan State College
Author:Curtis, Ken
Publication:Communications News
Date:May 1, 1993
Words:827
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