Washington’s Community Colleges Seek To Tweak Online Registration

Washington state community college students have more options as technology advancement ensures that their fears of navigating complicated, poorly-constructed websites to register for classes and secure financial aid are coming to an end. Just over midway through the year, the students will have the comfort of enjoying easier navigation hence reducing the stress of worrying whether they did everything correctly or if they really qualified. Additionally, the new tools are designed to save time as prospective students' credits transfer to University of Washington course equivalencies.

Years of testimony show that an antiquated computer system can make it all maddening and a bureaucratic nightmare for students navigating the state's community college landscape. The navigation include picking the right classes that lead to a degree, registering for courses on time, checking financial aid status and paying tuition and fees, among others.

The computer network is a patchwork, lacking anything remotely resembling one-stop shopping for students wanting to manage their education online although the state's 34 community and technical colleges make up a unified system. Students often must log into different applications or sections of a website to accomplish different tasks where many parts are 30 years old. However, to help ease the headaches, two new tools are in the works.

A new web-based system will start to be rolled out for students in the state's community-college network in August. In addition, 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 UW, is on the way.

ctc Link is the name of the new community and technical college system ("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.

According to Kathrine Long of The Seattle Times, Community Colleges of Spokane and Tacoma Community College, which is the first to get the system, will begin using it in August with the others to follow over a three-year period. A staggering $100 million is what the development of the system is estimated to cost, and is being financed through student tuition.

Meanwhile, at UW, for community college students wanting to transfer, the new version of the university's academic planner is being developed. 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.

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