Project Orion Paying Off With Simpler Student Bills

April 21, 2008

Reading a bill can be a vexing experience, particularly for college students and their parents. Tuition and fee breakdowns with multiple line items and institutional language can be especially maddening.

Enter Cheryl Friesenhahn, of UT Dallas’ Bursar’s Office. She’s part of Project Orion’s student financials functional team. A conference she and about 15 others from the team attended recently introduced her to a more efficient, cost-effective way to deal with frustrating billing disparities.

The billing utility she learned about at the Higher Education User Group conference could help her office group student fees into one lump sum, making them easier for students and their parents to understand. Without this solution, bills might be long, cumbersome and misleading.

“In creating the bill-paying tables in Orion, we discovered this gap, which will need to be corrected before the system goes live,” she explained.

“At the conference, a similar issue was addressed, and we discovered that the problem — which originally could have been a substantial amount of money for us to repair — can be corrected by purchasing a simple software program at a significant cost savings — and a major benefit to our students,” Friesenhahn added.

“That knowledge alone made the trip worth it for me,” she said.

According to Friesenhahn, the meeting helped the entire team tap into new technological tools and offered tips and insights that will help them mold the Orion system into a more comprehensive, easy-to-use student records database.

Put on annually, the conference is for higher education, government and public sector users of Oracle products. PeopleSoft, an Oracle application, is the backbone on which Orion is being built.

Vickie Flores, program director on the project, was equally pleased about the things she learned.

“I learned how multiple institutions with similar goals can work together on business processes,” she said. “The information was helpful, especially in light of the fact that we’re teaming with UT Arlington and UT Tyler on this effort to transfer our records to PeopleSoft.”

The collaborative approach between the three schools is key because they each have commonality in data sets and report the same information to the state. The schools also use the Texas common application, which allows students to apply to any public university in the state, plus some private and two-year schools.

“The team approach allows us to focus our work so that we’re not duplicating efforts. We can also share things like codes, expertise and assistance,” Flores said.

The conference attracted about 4,500 people from all over the world, including the groups at UT Arlington and UT Tyler.

The Orion team is currently working on expanding functions within admissions and student records tracks. They are on goal for the project to be fully operational in time for fall 2009.

About Project Orion
Orion is a Web-based information portal that will one day manage virtually every aspect of a student’s academic career, from registering for classes to paying parking fines, to applying for graduation. Orion operates on the PeopleSoft Campus Solutions platform, a comprehensive suite of software that gives users real-time information. When completed, Orion will serve nearly every consumer of University data, including students, faculty and staff. For more information about Orion, please visit the project Web site at www.utdallas.edu/orion.


Media contacts: Jenni Huffenberger, UT Dallas, (972) 883-4431, jennib@utdallas.edu
Vickie Flores, UT Dallas, (972) 883-4543, vickie@utdallas.edu or orion@utdallas.edu

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More information about Project Orion is available at www.utdallas.edu/orion.

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