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Education Lab Blog

Education Lab is a yearlong project to spark meaningful conversations about education solutions in the Pacific Northwest.

January 6, 2014 at 5:00 AM

Sleek new online tools on the way for community college system

Mark Weber / Op Art

Mark Weber / Op Art

Picking the right classes that lead to a degree.

Registering for courses on time.

Checking financial aid status and paying tuition and fees.

Navigating the state’s community-college landscape can be a bureaucratic nightmare for students — one made all the more maddening by an antiquated computer system.

Though the state’s 34 community and technical colleges make up a unified system, the computer network is a patchwork, lacking anything remotely resembling one-stop shopping for students wanting to manage their education online.

Many parts are 30 years old and students often must log into different applications or sections of a website to accomplish different tasks. Those challenges are intensified for students who attend more than one community college over the course of their education or start and stop it due to the demands of work or family.

Two new tools are in the works to help ease the headaches.

In August, a new web-based system will start to be rolled out for students in the state’s community-college network. Also on the way: an updated version of the University of Washington’s planning tool, designed for community college students wanting to complete a bachelor’s degree or higher at the UW.

The new community and technical college system is called ctcLink — “ctc” is an acronym for community and technical colleges. It will provide students at all 34 schools with a comprehensive advising center and enable them to more easily check registration dates, enroll for classes, review their academic plan, check on financial aid, pay tuition, request a transcript and contact an advisor.

The first colleges to get the system, Community Colleges of Spokane and Tacoma Community College, will begin using the system in August, with the others to follow over a three-year period. Development of the system is estimated to cost $100 million, and is being financed through student tuition.

MyPlan portal (courtesy UW)

MyPlan portal (courtesy UW)

Meanwhile, at the UW, the new version of the university’s academic planner is being developed for community college students wanting to transfer to the UW. It’s based on the online academic planner called MyPlan that UW students use to map the courses they need in coming quarters to fulfill degree requirements.

The new UW version will be called “CTC2UW.” It will help students get ready to transfer, apply for their chosen major and plan their four-year degrees.

Among other things, perspective students will be able to see how their credits transfer to UW course equivalencies and identify courses they can take prior to transferring that will help them with their UW degrees.

The work is funded by a $1 million grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. It will be developed over the next two years.

Comments | More in News | Topics: Community and Technical Colleges, higher ed, University of Washington

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