Making Admissions Easier for You and Your Prospects: The CommIT Project

What if you could spend less money and time to onboard and manage accounts for new prospects in your admissions portal? And what if you could correctly match their third-party records without a second thought? And what if the approach reduced financial aid risk and made it easier for students to apply? Join Ann West, Associate Vice President for Trust and Identity for Internet2 to learn about how your peers are doing just that through the community-driven CommIT Project.

See this session and others at AACRAO's 101st Annual Meeting in Baltimore, MD.  Register today!

Ann West

Associate Vice President for Trust and Identity


Making Admissions Easier for You and Your Prospects: The CommIT Project

Wednesday, April 15, 2015 8:00 AM - 9:00 AM


Ann, please share your role at Internet2 and identify your session at the AACRAO Annual Meeting in Baltimore. 

I serve as Associate Vice President for Trust and Identity for Internet2. Internet2 is a non-profit consortium of research and education organizations that collaborate on solving interesting technology problems. Stewart Uyeda from USC, Steve Hahn from the University of  Wisconsin-Madison, and myself are presenting on the Common Identity and Trust Collaborative.  It’s a service that simplifies a key piece of the application process for students, parents, colleges and universities, and their external service providers. 

Typically when a student applies to multiple universities, they set up separate accounts and passwords for nearly every campus application and corporate service they use. The CommIT service will provide single sign-on capability and reduce the login credentials down to one, making the application process easier and more secure for the user and easier to support for campus admissions offices.  

Tell us about the CommIT project. 

The Common Identity and Trust Collaborative project, or CommIT, is a partnership of PESC and Internet2 that was born out of the need to overcome several shortcomings in the current application process. Besides providing single sign-on functionality, the CommIT project provides a scalable secure approach to matching electronic records for all college applicants and institutions.  The unique electronic credential will help resolve matching problems at the university level, simplify the entire application process for all stakeholders, and reduce reliance on social security numbers for matching. 

We are in the middle of our third pilot and developing a roadmap for production service to be offered in early 2016.

What do you think attendees will glean from sitting in your session?

I hope they will think about their campus admissions process a little differently.  Authentication is not core to our business systems and not core to our institutions.  What is core is understanding the person coming to your institution is who they say they are and—once that is verified somehow—granting that person access to the appropriate campus services.  That final step, authorization for access, is really important.

Previously, having an authentication credential or account was perceived as a brand awareness tool , but now with services such as Google and Facebook enabling people to use their login process to authenticate to other services, we realize that this process can be outsourced. However higher ed’s mission is different than a corporate providers, so having a non-profit, higher-ed consortium supporting authentication for our students just makes lots of sense.

What would be an example of a best practice that you have observed at institutions that are applying your technology effectively?

Aligning the student login experience across the organizations participating in CommIT is very important.

Can you explain how CommIT would help colleges reduce duplication?

When the student sets up their single sign-on account, we request that they provide name, address, birthdate and use a very sophisticated matching algorithm to ensure the student doesn’t set up a second account or login.  

As a side note, we’ve received requests to supply this information to participating organizations so they can pre-populate application forms to make it easier for the students to apply.  However, even if the university requests this information, the student must provide consent for information to be released.

Any final words?

Admissions offices are pretty busy these days trying to seek out qualified applicants. It just makes good sense to reduce the barriers for students to apply. CommIT addresses that pretty clearly. It also eliminates the need for admissions counselors to help applicants with forgotten passwords, account set up problems, and the like. The staff can focus on helping the student with their application----not technology---questions.