Registrar, bursar experience problems with new software

Computer systems were sporadically down around the University on Tuesday morning as students attempted to register for fall classes and pay summer session tuition.
Fixed by late morning, a glitch in registration system software brought Web registration down most of Tuesday, said University Registrar Sue Van Voorhis.
But because of initial confusion about the source of the crashes, concerns arose about the University’s largest-ever computer upgrade completed Sunday.
That upgrade might contain other bugs that will still need to be worked out this week, said Steve Cawley, associate vice president of networking and telecommunications.
“We’re chasing lots of little, minor bugs,” said Cawley. “We fully expected to have some bumps.”
Computer systems in the bursar’s office also went down briefly Tuesday, but were brought back online almost immediately, said Director Pat Roth.
Because few students were affected, the bursar’s office has not changed the due date for summer session payments. Students who did not submit payments by 4:30 p.m. Tuesday face a $20 late fee.
Roth was unsure what caused the system crash, but said she didn’t believe it was related to last week’s upgrade.
Cawley is hopeful that problems will be worked out before most students return in the fall.
The upgrade of the University’s new PeopleSoft program was originally scheduled for implementation July 16 to July 25, but unexpected problems developed in the testing stage. The total cost of the conversion is expected to reach $53 million.
Bob Kvavik, associate vice president for academic affairs, said potential setbacks are anticipated.
Other large universities who have upgraded PeopleSoft have found the new version runs more slowly than the old one.
But the additional functions — distributing student financial aid and billing students — provided by the new version are worth it, Kvavik said.
“I don’t like crashes and delays,” he said. “But the slower speed is not a bad price to pay for the added features.”
Kvavik compared the upgrade to a new highway system.
“The system itself is working, then a guy goes on the highway with a clunker,” Kvavik said. “One clunker on the road can slow everything down.”
In this case, the clunkers are a series of add-on programs implemented during the upgrade.
Problems with these modules might continue to create problems in the next several weeks, Cawley said.
Eventually, University officials will need to ask themselves if they can continue to fix the clunker or should yank it off the road, Kvavik said.
But Kvavik is optimistic that the upgrade will be worth the monetary cost, system down time and efficiency.
“Yesterday it was going terrific,” Kvavik said. “The performance was better than it was before the upgrade.”
Although other minor upgrades will continue throughout the life of the system, Kvavik said an upgrade of last week’s scale is not expected again in the near future.
“I wish I could tell you it was easy,” Kvavik said. “But it’s a very complicated system. It’s like a detective job to track it down.”