Staff travel to Hawaii for Banner-System training

Posted Thursday, March 3, 2005 - 12:00am

Staff from Administrative Computing, the Business Office, Financial Aid, and the Registrar's office depart Friday, March 4, 2005 and return Friday, March 11, 2005. The training sessions are presented by Banner's training team and the training sessions move from place to place. According to President Ryan Thomas, the training is necessary to solidify CEU staff understanding of this complex data management system. "If the training were in Elko, we would send them there. The training just happens to be in Hawaii."

The Banner System is utilized by colleges and universities across the United States. "We are not even a flea on the dog's tail," said Thomas in reference to the size of CEU in comparison to other users of the Banner System. Larger institutions are greater motivators of training locations than smaller users. Thomas continues, "We can say, "How about Springville? That works for us" but we don't have the power to drive that."

Expenses for sending staff to this training are approximately $600 per person. President Thomas said due to the number of tickets, and the block of rooms to be rented, the college was able to obtain a reasonable price. "We kept the cost of the training to approximately what it would cost for a faculty member to attend a conference. We were happy to keep the costs in that range."

Currently, state financial auditors are on campus examining the college's fiscal state. According to Thomas, "One of the auditors I spoke with this morning (3/2/05) said the best thing we could do is to improve our staff's training on the Banner system." Financial reports being produced by the Banner system fail to effectively provide accurate account information. This problem is due, in part, to the complexity of the system, and additionally a need for further training of those who utilize the system.

Banner is a data management package used to handle finances, student information, registration, grades, purchasing, inventory and other key functions at the institution. Conversion by CEU and other Utah State Higher Education (USHE) institutions was mandated by state level officials without additional state funds being slated to pay for equipment, software, or training. According to Thomas, "By the time you include the equipment, software and training costs, Banner will end up costing us about 1.2 million dollars. We have arranged to pay this cost over a number of years, with the Commissioner's office holding the debt for us." Second tier tuition dollars have been committed to pay for this debt. The college is paying approximately $97,000 per year toward the costs of the Banner implementation.

In an anonymous letter addressed to President Thomas, the author stated, "I normally would never send anything anonymously, however I fear back lash by bringing up the budget and I don't want to lose my job." When asked about the letter he said, "I have never fired anyone for expressing their opinion. I hope no one is afraid to express their ideas." He further expressed how due to the need for the training that he was unconcerned about the costs. "If this was a perquisite, then I could see it as a problem. The winds blowing in Hawaii are much warmer, and Hawaii seems like a romantic locale. But Banner training is not romantic." Thomas also feels the problem of rumors stemming from statements made in jest or taken out of context have further compounded the perceived problem of staff attending this training.

The anonymous letter also said, "I wonder with all of the accounts not being rolled over, and everyone watching their budgets, how is it that Raelene [Allred] can send practically her whole office to Hawaii for a week?" President Thomas indicated that as of yet no decisions have been made concerning carrying forward account balances from the 2003-2004 fiscal year. Due to the inability of the business services office to obtain an accurate balance of accounts from the Banner System, the decision concerning budgets being carried forward into the 2004-2005 fiscal year has been deferred. "I don't know how much money is in the accounts," said Thomas. "The decision about whether to carry forward account balances is not the Business Services offices. I haven't decided yet due to not knowing if the money is there."

The anonymous letter also states, "I wonder what the public would think if they saw this wasteful amount of money." Thomas responded to this by saying to this reporter, "Do with the letter what you wish." Additionally he stated, "I believe people should be informed, and that is what the media is for."

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