3 Ways E-Signatures Can Pay Off in University Operations

Mary Ellen Power, May 6, 2014
University Operations

Colleges and universities face many unique regulatory standards when it comes to university operations storing and protecting student data. However, aside from these stringent responsibilities, academic institutions also must interact with a variety of records types as they handle financial data, housing information, grants, interactions with the public sector, staffing contracts and other forms of formal agreements. Essentially, academic institutions need to deal with many of the contract-related challenges that must be held in sectors like government, financial services and the enterprise. A good electronic signature policy can help organizations balance these responsibilities effectively and alleviate the records management burden.

Three particularly noteworthy ways that e-signature software can pay dividends in university operations include:

1. Dealing with students

It can be a nightmare when an institution needs to get its student body to sign a binding document, whether it be a registration form with a specific deadline, financial aid paperwork or some form of unique contract that organization wants individuals to sign. Particularly when new students enroll for the first time, the processes can be overwhelming and lead to a frustrating experience. Compound the likelihood of errors and the processes become even more challenging for the organization as a whole.

E-signature solutions make the entire process more accessible. It can make education about the contract simpler, include built-in accuracy checks and give students immediate access to forms without them having to get them from the mail. The end result is a much simpler and more efficient contract environment that can ease operations for a variety of departments at a college or university.

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2. Supporting faculty

Members of the faculty and staff are often extremely busy trying to perform research, grade papers, plan lessons or manage various groups they interact with. Getting them to fill out paper forms and sign them can be a burdensome chore, but simple electronic signatures alleviate that burden. Furthermore, many faculty and staff members at universities will use grants and other specialized funding models to support various projects they want to engage in. This can be a complex process that requires specialized contracts, some of which need to interact with the university while others deal with external entities. E-signature functionality can simplify the internal aspects of this process and make it easier for professors, coaches and other staff members to establish grant proposals and related documents.

3. Easing records storage burdens

Contracts, financial aid forms and other records can put an incredible burden on registrar offices and other departments that handle official records of students. These paper-based records take up large amounts of space, are difficult to manage and need to be maintained for an incredibly long time. Switching to electronic records management practices can erase these burdens by storing all of the forms as data.

E-signature solutions create a clear electronic record of contracts. These records are created in such a way that any change will be noticeable because of digital watermarks and other advanced capabilities. Furthermore, the solution can store details about when files are created, viewed and changed to make them completely legally valid in the event that a college or university needs to support a contract in court.

Academic institutions need to wear plenty of hats when it comes to records management, and e-signatures can help organizations handle the diverse range of tasks they need to complete. Supporting such a wide range of stakeholders can be difficult, but e-signatures provide a process-focused approach to electronic documentation that allows colleges and universities to build robust and adaptable solutions.

Unsure how you can use e-signatures in your institution? Check out our e-signature FAQ to get started.