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Oct 29 / Joanna Sturgeon

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?


  1. Kim Wiljanen / Nov 11 2013

    I think the forum depends on the type of information that needs to be conveyed. Policies should be easily for those who need to access it. With as many new students that enter colleges and universities each year, the policies need to be explicit and available in many places. Departmental policies involving students should also be readily available. Some policies only need to be available to those who use with them.

    You are right, work unit policies tend to be outdated. One reason is that most policy changes seem to be incremental in nature. Small changes are easily assimilated into the work flow, but changing the written policy is more involved and left to do at a more convenient time that never arrives. It becomes lost in the flow of more immediate priorities. Soon, we forget that a change had occurred.

    Another consideration is that web page changes were more difficult in the past and recent technological advances in wikis and web-paging have made them easier to edit if the institution has the capability. It is now fairly simple to update policies as the changes occur. There just needs to be a person designated to do it. It is much easier to make changes in Drupal than it ever was in Dream Weaver. One university just changed to Drupal for their web-site and forced the departments to update their policies before they were moved. It was astonishing to see how outdated they actually were.

  2. Kerry Roman / Nov 10 2013

    It is essential to have policies in place. The bigger the organization, the more important it is. In your example of the unwritten policies literally changing on a daily basis it would be impossible for a 500 member organization to keep up.

    I believe Wayne State University does a good job informing students of policies such as drop dates, graduation application dates and class registration. I always receive an email when drop deadlines are looming, reminding me that to drop a class after a specific date means I still have to pay full tuition or that my grade will be affected. Drop dates are also clearly outlined during the registration process, something which I believe has just been added in the past year or so. Term registration dates and graduation requirements are also communicated via email. I also believe these policies are easy to find on University web sites, specifically the SLIS site, which directly affects my student experience.

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