About a year ago, Mercer County Community College decided to completely revamp the computer software on which the entire college operates. The switch from the Integrow system to the Colleague system began over the summer of 2013 “when the atmosphere around the college was less chaotic,” according to Jim Gardner, Mercer’s Public Relations Manager. The switch is not yet complete.
The fact that the software is not yet fully in place is a problem because it impacts nearly every facet of the way the school functions; from your new and unimproved My Mercer Portal to the way financial aid is processed and disbursed.
About a week before going to press the VOICE received word that some students were having major problems purchasing course materials, so your humble and long-suffering editorial staff decided to look into the matter. We intended to write a feature on the new system and the ways, positive or negative, it was impacting Mercer students.
Here’s the facts: Previously, the college used a kind of “financial aid debit card” that enabled students to use their remaining financial aid (after paying tuition, of course) to purchase books and other course materials at the bookstore. Now, as a result of the incomplete installation of the Colleague system, Mercer is no longer issuing the cards.
Their solution was to revert back to actual paperwork that says something like “this student is allowed to spend X amount of their remaining financial aid on books, pens, etc.” They call it the “voucher system.” Executive Dean for Student and Academic Services, Dr. Diane Campbell said, “my understanding is that we’re going to be doing vouchers until we get all of the parts of the (Colleague) system connected.” No one interviewed was able to give an answer as to when Colleague will be fully connected.
Student interviews conducted by the VOICE over the last week showed that there were students experiencing problems with the voucher system.
Students said they were only allowed one voucher per day and that vouchers were only valid on the day they were issued. This means that if the book you need isn’t in stock, you have to go to the Dean of Students and/or the Bursars office to get a new voucher every time you try and purchase your book.
“ It’s kind of annoying, I don’t like how you have to get a new one each time, and with two forms of ID,” said Michelle Gaveglia, 1st year Liberal Arts major.
Jermaine Harvey, 3rd semester Information System major told us how he “didn’t get the books until 2 weeks into class.”
The overall impression we got from the student interviews was that the system is inefficient, it’s a pain in the ass, and there’s nothing we can do about it but hurry up and wait.
None of the Mercer County Community College employees we contacted could corroborate the information obtained from the student interviews. Most wouldn’t even respond to our interview requests.
The only Mercer employees willing to speak to the VOICE were Dr. Diane Campbell and Jim Gardner. Campbell said “There wasn’t a time that I know about when students could not have gotten vouchers.” In response to a question as to whether or not there was a gap in the availability of vouchers, Campbell said “Not that I know of.”
Rather than answer our questions in the interview, Jim Gardner wrote down all the questions we asked him, saying that he “would contact the appropriate people who would have answers to these questions, and get back to us.” He did, and in his follow up email, Gardner said “After making a few phone calls, it seems that the Dean of Students (Diane Campbell) is the best bet to answer all of your questions.”
The VOICE interviewed Dr. Campbell days before Gardner, so we already knew her answers to “all of our questions.”
Vice President and Chief Business Officer Jacob Eapen could not be reached for comment despite numerous attempts to reach him. Lucia Brown-Joseph, MCCC bursar, told the VOICE that she was not permitted to speak to us without approval from the administration.
During an interview with the VOICE, Jim Gardner read from Mercer’s 2012 Annual Report “Colleague, adopted last year, going live: system will allow more efficient access to college services for students and staff. The system encompasses finance, human resources, student tracking, web services, and college advancement.”
The purpose of the article would have been to illustrate the problems or issues students were having with the new voucher system. The results of our investigation were, unfortunately, inconclusive.