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Student Billing System To Roll Out in November

By Meg P. Bernhard, Crimson Staff Writer

Following nearly three years of discussions and efforts to centralize Harvard’s existing student systems for bill payment, course enrollment, and registration, a new platform for students to pay bills and receive paychecks will launch in November.

Only select University administrators will be able to access the system this fall, and students are expected to gain access to the tool next summer. The full system—which will feature a number of applications, ranging from a revamped course catalog to electronic study cards—is slated to launch for faculty and students in Faculty of Arts and Sciences in the fall of 2015.

The creation of this student system is one of the first steps of a larger effort to centralize existing web systems and bring together students from across Harvard’s schools to make it easier to pay bills, submit study cards, and register online.

Once completed, the centralized student information system system will decrease the total number of student portals from 12 to three. The Business School and the Law School will continue to use their current platforms as well as the new, centralized student information system.

“I think that the current systems that we have are very labor-intensive,” said Managing Director for Harvard Student Information Systems Jason Shaffner ’99, noting that students have to visit different websites to look for courses, register online, and pay their bills.

As an example, the University currently runs a central billing system that is disconnected from the individual student systems, according to FAS Registrar Michael P. Burke. In the new student information system, the billing system will be integrated into the same network as other course- and registration-related features and better integrate student employment and payroll.

The project has called on hundreds of University administrators to work on technical platforms, migrate 35 years of data, and seek feedback from students. The team—which includes representatives from Harvard University Information Technology and the Office of the Registrar—has been recruiting designers and constructing the system since May 2013, and they face a hard deadline to roll out the whole system.

“Time is the biggest challenge,” Burke said of the fall 2015 deadline for the FAS portion of the system. “We have a pretty aggressive timeline, though it may seem as though we’ve been working on this for a long time.”

In addition to the back-end launch of the billing system in November, the University plans to launch a back-end version of the course catalog in the winter so that faculty and administrators can begin adding information about their courses.

Burke added that though designing and implementing the student information system is expensive, Harvard’s project will be less expensive than similar projects at other comparable institutions.

“Compared to other universities of our size, we seem to do this for less money,” Burke said.

—Staff writer Meg P. Bernhard can be reached at meg.bernhard@thecrimson.com. Follow her on Twitter @Meg_Bernhard.

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