University of Texas at El Paso Meets Evolving Student Expectations with a Successful Transition to StarRez

Learn how UTEP was able to improve processes, empower staff, and boost student satisfaction through their implementation of the StarRez platform.
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Key Highlights

10X

Easier and more efficient room assignments process with auto allocation.

97%

Less emails and calls from students about room assignment concerns.

80%

Reduction in room change requests due to self-selection.

3

Months to implement StarRez and begin optimizing processes.

University of Texas at El Paso
Region
Southeast, USA
Industry
Higher Education
Beds
1,000
Active Since
2021
Integrations
DocuSign

The University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP) is a public research university founded in 1913. It has achieved and maintained R1 status by the Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education. UTEP has just over 24,000 students enrolled, with 169 Bachelors, Masters, and Doctoral Programs across 8 colleges. It is the second-largest university in the United States to have a majority Mexican American student population of around 80%. On-campus housing consists of roughly 1,000 beds spanning three apartment-style residence halls that were built between 2001 and 2015.

The University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP) underwent a significant transformation in its housing management operations. During their webinar, From New to Awesome- Tips to Make Your Transition to StarRez Streamlined, two integral members of UTEP's housing team revealed highlights from their successful transition to the StarRez platform and the numerous benefits it brought to the institution's housing department.

The Decision to Switch to StarRez

In 2019, the team knew they wanted to implement StarRez due to its powerful automation and reporting capabilities, so they created an executive plan to switch to StarRez in 2024. Then, the COVID-19 pandemic hit, and accurate reporting became absolutely essential. The team sent reports to the President’s Office with important student data like cancellations, but the generated reports from their previous software were inaccurate, causing confusion and frustration at a pivotal time. "Reporting was the primary driver for the switch,” said Elisa Espinosa, Assistant Director for Operations at UTEP.

Their 5-year plan was fast-tracked when in early 2021, Raymond Gordon, the new Executive Director at UTEP, decided to implement StarRez as soon as possible due to his previous positive experiences with the software at other institutions. Elisa Espinosa, who had been with UTEP for eight years and was accustomed to their CBORD system, played a vital role in the transition. With his extensive experience in software transitions, Tom Atkin, the Departmental Applications Specialist, was instrumental in the successful implementation of StarRez.

A Challenging Time for a Software Overhaul

UTEP initiated the transition in January 2021, and despite the ongoing impact of the pandemic combined with a network shutdown, the team managed to launch StarRez successfully on March 26, 2021.

To ensure a smooth transition without disrupting student processes, UTEP continued using CBORD until May. The team applied change management best practices to improve student engagement and well-being.

“We wanted to continue communicating with our students the same way, but we also started building excitement,” said Espinosa. “We started dropping hints... Something new is coming, especially for our housing applications and room selection.”

- Elisa Espinosa, Assistant Director for Operations at UTEP

While ensuring student satisfaction and engagement, the team also focused on importing accurate data into StarRez and training staff on the new system.

Initial Implementation Triumphs and Accomplishments

In their first year post-implementation, UTEP accomplished several significant milestones. They implemented housing applications through StarRez, informed students about the new resident portal, and created instructional materials to facilitate the transition. They also imported historical resident data for returning students and simplified the room assignment process using auto allocation.  

Improved Accuracy with StarRez Auto Allocate

While their previous auto allocation process was efficient to build and execute, inaccurate reporting and roommate matching functionality provided challenges and additional administrative work. This resulted in Elisa having to spend time adjusting data in the system on the back end. After implementing the StarRez auto allocate solution, student preferences, including room type and roommates, are now accurately prioritized and considered. “The cleanup after room assignments was minimal in StarRez compared to the previous system that I had,” said Espinosa.

“We did room assignments via auto allocate, which compared to what I had before, was 10 times easier and just timesaving.”

- Elisa Espinosa, Assistant Director for Operations at UTEP

Optimized Student Communication & Other Processes

Communication with students was optimized through StarRez's bulk emailing tool. “The emails from StarRez are life-changing,” stated Espinosa. UTEP further integrated other tools, including registration for summer camps and conferences, maintenance request management, packages and parcels, and various forms within StarRez, making these processes more efficient and centralized.

Building on Success in Year Two

In their second year post-implementation, UTEP continued to leverage StarRez's capabilities. They started testing room self-selection with first-year students, gradually expanding it to different groups of residents. Elisa had been managing room assignments for 8 years and was excited to try out self-selection. “Appointments went out, self-selection happened, and I thought, this is wonderful. It's magic! All the rooms were being plugged in and occupied.”

The biggest benefit of implementing self-selection was the massive drop in calls and emails the staff received. The students can now see for themselves in real time what rooms are available.

“I realized that the number of ‘I didn’t get the room that I wanted’ emails and phone calls each week went from 150 to 5.”

- Elisa Espinosa, Assistant Director for Operations at UTEP

Self-Selection Helps Drastically Reduce Room Change Requests

At the start of the school year, UTEP had a handful of rooms still available, which they kept open for room changes via self-selection. To automate this process, Tom configured the ‘room change request’ link in the portal - if students click while self-selection is still open, it will send them to that page. There, they can see available options and select a different room without staff involvement. Once self-selection is closed, that same link will take students to the room change request form instead. This has helped dramatically reduce their number of room change requests from around 250 to 50.

Proof of Residency, Key Management, and User Permissions

UTEP also introduced a proof of residency template for easier verification, increased the number of requests that students could submit online, and began using StarRez for key management.  

To address their need for real-time visibility, they set up limited access for other departments. This was a game-changer compared to their previous process, as they are now able to grant specific permissions through the security module and user groups. For example, when the Director of Parking logs into StarRez, they are only able to see booking information.

“StarRez has made it easier for us. Instead of me sending excel sheets to Parking every single week - time that I didn't have - they can go directly into StarRez and look at what they need to do.”

- Elisa Espinosa, Assistant Director for Operations at UTEP

Demographic Data, Dashboards, and DocuSign

Furthermore, UTEP collaborated with the StarRez team to make necessary demographic data changes, they developed more dashboards, and integrated DocuSign for housing applications. UTEP had already gone paperless with CBORD, but the students did not have access to their contract. This resulted in staff having to handle multiple contract copy requests. Now with DocuSign, each student immediately receives an emailed copy of their contract.

“The happiest time of my life is when we purchased the DocuSign module. We implemented DocuSign for housing applications for our students to sign the contract. They get a copy. I have a copy. We're all happy.”

- Elisa Espinosa, Assistant Director for Operations at UTEP

Future Goals and Recommendations from UTEP

Looking to the future, UTEP aims to further automate room selection, implement a module for student orientation, manage student staff through StarRez web, and enhance their online chat options. They also plan to post housing charges from StarRez to Banner and expand on the use of dashboards for various teams.

Recommendations for a Successful Transition:

The UTEP team shared key recommendations for institutions considering a similar software transition:

  1. List Out Your Processes: Create a detailed inventory of existing processes to understand how each can be transitioned to the new system. Then, the StarRez team will help optimize each process on your list.
  1. Identify Key Players: Appoint a core team to lead the implementation. Only involve other staff members as needed to prevent information overload, various requests, diverse opinions, and overall confusion.
  1. Create a Wish List: To take advantage of everything StarRez has to offer, maintain a prioritized list of features and processes you want to implement, allowing you to track progress and make informed decisions.
  1. Review and Iterate: Leverage StarRez reports and dashboards to continuously review and improve processes post-implementation to enhance efficiency. Elisha stated that whenever they needed to make tweaks to a process, the StarRez team would quickly respond and help facilitate those changes.
  1. Leverage Resources: Utilize resources such as StarCare Online. “It is your best friend, there is a lot of knowledge there,” says Espinosa. They have also learned from webinars and leveraged the StarRez Connect Facebook community for support and best practices.

UTEP’s successful transition to StarRez optimized and automated numerous housing processes, offering a modern and user-friendly experience for staff and students while preparing for future improvements and innovations. As student expectations continue to evolve, UTEP will further leverage StarRez to exceed their expectations and enhance student satisfaction.

“StarRez has helped our students and has helped us tremendously in just being transparent with the student, so the student knows what to expect.”

- Elisa Espinosa, Assistant Director for Operations at UTEP

Learn how you can deliver the ultimate on-campus experience with StarRez.