Information Policy Dissemination at Higher Education Institutions
Written by Kimberly Mason
Working at a higher education institution I can see how information polices affect employees and students in their everyday life. You would think that locating information policies in a higher education organization would be an easy task. However, inequities exist in the availability of information policies to various stakeholder groups. For example, students can find information policies in various locations on the organization’s website. Unfortunately that is not the case when it comes to administrator policies for processing paperwork.
Some departments have written policies and procedures on their website for public viewing. These polices instruct administrators on how to process documents related to expenditures and payment processing. Unfortunately these departments are also well known for modifying the policies without putting the changes in writing. These changes cause frustration among administrators and vendors due to delays payment processing. The delays may result from requests for additional information or incorrect payment processing (using a requisition when the person is seeking a reimbursement which goes on a payment authorization form). Having informal polices is ineffective when dealing with a staff of over 500 employees. Informal polices can change daily depending on who you are talk to that day. It is understood by many that it can be a daunting task to update the policy and procedures at regular intervals. However not doing so affects all parties involved, i.e. administrators, staff and vendors. If information policies cannot be updated on a regular basis, the institution should provide addendums so changes are reflected on the website.
Higher education institutions are more effective when it comes to making information available for students. Some student service administrators have noticed that students have issues dropping classes, registering for classes, and applying for graduation during the allotted time frames. The main excuse provided by many students was that ‘no one notified them of the deadlines’ for tasks such as applying for graduation or dropping a class. Students are typically notified of these deadline dates on the department and institution website, course syllabi, emails, and via letters through the postal service. Even with these mechanisms in place, students were still delinquent in meeting the deadlines. The institution has now gone one step further with their goal of information dissemination. When students register for classes they must read various policy statements including information about the drop process, tuition agreement and other important information. Once the statements have been read the student must agree to the terms before they are allowed to register. The statements provide the dates students are allowed to drop a class along with the disclaimer that if the course is not dropped by this date, the student will assume the full tuition fee. Forcing students to read these policies will hopefully reduce the number of students who are delinquent in dropping classes. If students still do not drop a class in a timely manner they cannot say they were not aware of the policy since they had to agree to the terms. Having this policy in writing will safeguard the institution from many complaints when students have to pay for the class.
Information policies at higher education institutions are just as important as policies at private companies. Information policies play a major role in all aspects of conducting business, whether it is getting a vendor paid or an employee reimbursed. Policies need to be updated as changes occur frequently and administrators need to be aware of the changes to accurately do their job. Proper dissemination of polices are crucial to the endeavors of college students. They need to be aware of due dates for paperwork, such as graduation applications, or even paper deadlines. Providing the policies in various locations may seem redundant, but students who can’t locate class drop dates on departmental websites may locate the information on the academic calendar (with drop dates) on the Office of the Registrars website. Multiple information access points helps ensure students are able to drop classes in time to receive a full reimbursement. It is a great idea to require student agreements to policy statements. This way the institution is safeguarded from potential law suits or negative publicity from students who think the institution is unfair. At higher education institutions information policies are handled in different ways, as noted above. Yet the ultimate goal is to inform students and administrators of information policies. This can be difficult to accomplish when some policies are only updated every couple years. Organizations should produce, at a minimum, frequent addendums to information policies. In addition, administrators should strive to either follow existing formal policies or amend the policies to better reflect organizational changes.
1) Do you think that your higher education institution provides adequate locations for finding information polices?
2) Are there policies that you have searched for and have not been able to locate?