As the higher education landscape evolves, the community college system is growing in importance. For example, it is now commonplace for community college campuses, such as Houston Community College (HCC) and California Community College System, to serve as physical locations for associated state university classes. With this partnership in place, state universities can increase revenue and serve a broader student population, working to educate students who previously would not have been able to attend university classes.
The Overlooked IT Challenges that Come with Higher Education Partnerships
Although partnerships in higher education are beneficial for students and good for business, they create new challenges for community college IT teams. Visiting professors and students of the associated state universities require network and facility access privileges at the local campuses where their classes are being held. However, just because a student or professor’s class is taking place on a community college campus does not mean that they should have complete access to the community college’s network. This means new accounts and IDs must be created, managed, and provisioned prior to the start of the classes.
Since these new users are students and faculty of the partner university, their accounts do not exist in the community college’s human resource or student information systems. Instead, their accounts and IDs must be created in an ad hoc manner, similar to user accounts for temporary workers and contractors.
This usually involves a flurry of emails and an influx of paperwork that requires multiple signatures, as well as numerous phone calls between people in the registration, facilities management, and IT departments. The manual nature of such ad hoc processes makes them prone to error, which not only causes delays, but often puts the security of user accounts and the community college network at risk.
A Burdened IT Department
Access requests, like those we are describing here, are often not communicated in advance. They add yet another hot “to do” task to IT’s already overloaded plate. Unfortunately, the legacy IAM systems in place at most community colleges are not up to the task of automatically provisioning accounts for users with multiple roles. Most were designed primarily to manage the accounts of employees, not external users. For IT, this means developing workarounds, such as custom scripts. However, this often only partially automates the approval process, requiring IT to have to shepherd it through to completion. Delays, errors, and potential security vulnerabilities are inevitable.
Community colleges today need a modern IAM platform that automates the complete lifecycle management of a large and diverse population of students, faculty, staff, alumni, and yes… external users. Modern IAM software automates most IAM tasks and many ad hoc processes, such as creating accounts, providing user IDs and passwords, and granting access to resources.
Save Time and Limit Risk Through Automation
Community colleges, like HCC are reaping the benefits of “sponsorship.” Sponsorship enables central IT to delegate to campus-specific IT or staff the ability to request or instantly create accounts and automatically provision appropriate network and facilities access. Rather than taking days or weeks to set up temporary accounts for their university partners’ students and faculty, the entire process happens in minutes with little or no IT involvement. Students and faculty have the access they need prior to the start of class. And, by mandating time-based access controls, the granted network access is automatically revoked after the class ends.
Don’t Let Ad Hoc Access Requests Bog You Down.
Ad hoc requests and exceptions can quickly eat up your work week. The good news is that with the right IAM solution and configurable automated workflows, you can minimize such requests to a simple online form.