Organization: Liberty University

Liberty University is the largest private, nonprofit university in the nation, the largest university in Virginia, and the largest Christian university in the world. Nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains on more than 7,000 beautiful acres in Lynchburg, VA, Liberty offers over 300 programs from the certificate to the doctoral level, and is home to more than 100,000 residential and online students. Liberty currently has 12,600 residential and more than 90,000 online students, a growth of 1,044% since 2003 and 76.6% since 2010. It offers 206 residential and 166 online programs of study. About 26% of the residential and 65% of the online programs are post-graduate. The university is a member of the Big South Conference and holder of 18 conference titles in the last two years. With net assets of $1 billion Liberty is in position to grow significantly more.

Business Challenge

In order to support and enable the past and future growth in both on-campus and online student populations, Liberty executive leadership decided to invest in business process automation. The objective was to move from paperless – scanning incoming documents to route through electronic means – to full workflow automation in the context of everyday student and staff interactions. The result has enabled Liberty to cut per record processing in specific and better utilize staffing already in place. In 2013, Liberty University had more than 100,000 residential and online students, up from 64,610 in 2011. This phenomenal growth has been enabled through a $400M investment in its physical facilities and online curriculum as well as a great reputation for teaching and instilling Christian values. Growth will continue as the mission of the university is to significantly increase the number of residential students and expand online education to a truly global student body with both English and Spanish instruction. Since the inception of Liberty University, executive leadership understood that the best way to achieve such growth was to complement a dynamic university experience with highly efficient and effective business operations and customer services. Staff has looked for every opportunity to be more efficient and effective in the way they engage with students and parents. By 2010, Liberty had already invested in going “paperless.” For example, paper forms received via mail and other channels for student aid were scanned to create electronic files that could be routed for review and approval. However, internal teams realized that electronic paper was not enough to produce efficiencies needed to support dynamic growth. It was a good first step but fell short of real automation. Users still had to spend time reviewing, entering, and fixing data in the submitted forms. Teams also found that students often submitted the wrong forms resulting in rework and frustration.

BizFlow BPM Solution

Prior to BPM, users would look at scanned images and compare them with known data in Banner. Using a paper check list placed next to their computer, they would note discrepancies. Then they would manually collate and scan the checklists into EDMS and route to QC for review. Since moving to BPM, the vast majority of items are combined into a single screen. Team members see data submitted by students side by side with data from Banner. As a result, Liberty reduced verification record processing dramatically Cutting turnaround time enabled Liberty’s same Verification Processors to support a larger subsequent processing volume Liberty can promise to return verifications within 2 business days while other universities often have timeframes of 4-6 weeks. As noted above, Liberty is a very large school. Its business is related to volume processing. It has to be efficient for self-sustainment and growth. The university wants to turn around work faster and cleaner. Through process transformation, the school has faster turn around and visibility as differentiators. Some older processes routed work to staff regardless of whether they had a specific role in the review and approval of that work or not. That activity caused waste as staff would open items that didn’t pertain to them. Using BPM, Liberty now only delivers work to required participants. Through intelligent routing waste was eliminated and common mistakes identified to process greater volumes of work automatically.

Primary Benefits

Liberty has processed 58,000 Verifications since going live (24 months). In 2012-2013, students at Liberty received an estimated $1 billion in paid financial aid from all sources. Process automation was essential to handle the volume of this activity. Value created includes:

  • Reduced Verification record processing dramatically resulting in quicker turn-around time and less need to hire additional staffing to accommodate student headcount growth
  • Removed 2 FTEs from imaging group that were assigned to the Verification process
  • Reduced corrections (i.e., typos, blank fields) from 10% of forms submitted to <1% of forms processed forms resulting in faster turnaround time and minimal rework by students
  • Automated routing of Quality Control review, reduced turnaround time by 50%
  • Liberty is doing more for more people. And they are handling much deeper and broader areas of business operations. For example, more students mean more facilities, dorms, parking places, food dispensaries, computers purchased, athletic games played, etc. Investment in IT and process automation contributes to both sustainability and growth.

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