In response to state and campus budget cuts, the financial aid department and the registrar at Binghamton University have merged to form the financial aid and student records department, resulting in staff reorganization and signaling a transition toward self-service systems.

The office was created last year after officials in the two offices recognized an opportunity to benefit.

The new department will use Student Wing room 119 as its public service office which is expected to open next semester.

Dennis Chavez, director of financial aid and student records, said that the merger will allow the department to utilize its resources more efficiently by better synchronizing the services of the registrar and financial aid.

He pointed to the many overlaps that the departments have, giving examples of the interactions between financial aid and student records, adding that students who do not decide on their major, a service of the registrar, might not necessarily know the implications of that decision on their Tuition Assistance Program or grant status, a service of financial aid.

Some employees in the new department will do cross-training, so that a financial aid employee will know how to interpret DARS reports, Chavez said.

The merger also changed the composition of the staff. Chavez noted that some employees have accepted new positions in other departments, some have been reassigned within the department, and because of a lower budget, some workers and positions were eliminated.

Chavez insisted that even though the staff was rearranged, it is still ‘focused, experienced and very creative’ in helping service students.

The new department will place greater reliance on self-services.

He pointed out that students can complete the process of declaring a major on their computer and send a request for the replacement of a lost ID by e-mail, both of which previously required the student to visit the registrar office in person.

Office student visits have dropped 54 percent from fall 2009 to fall 2010. Chavez attributes the decrease to ‘ongoing use of Banner functionality, self-service and continued effort and commitment toward continuous improvement.’

The reduction of visits will help the staff in providing ‘timely, proactive information and processing,’ according to Chavez. He said these self-service programs are not expected to result in further staff reductions, as he noted the department is ‘already very thin.’

Another result of the consolidations is the creation of the Course Building and Academic Space Management Office, in Student Wing room 110.

Michelle Ponczek, the director of that new office, said that the office was created so as to ‘closely align the educational and research missions of the University with the management of the University’s academic and research space.’

She said the office will handle ‘course building, scheduling policies, classroom scheduling, academic events scheduling, final exam scheduling, classroom renovation planning, space utilization and needs analyses, renovation and relocation support to academic/research departments/groups, space reporting and is the liaison for capital projects involving academic affairs and research space.’