Carnegie Mellon University modernizes degree systems to boost efficiency and improve student experience

"As we were going to replace a very outdated tool, we were looking for something to be more contemporary, modern and flexible. That was Stellic."

Executive Summary

The registrar office at Carnegie Mellon University was at a crossroads with their degree audit, which they found to be extremely outdated, not user-friendly, and lacking a degree planner for their students. They were looking for a solution that would not only provide real-time, beautiful reporting for their registrars, but also a modern, digital experience that their students have come to expect. When the time came to evaluate degree software solutions, they found Stellic to be head and shoulders above the rest. 

The Challenges

John Papinchak, long-time CMU Registrar, was frustrated by the limitations of the degree management tools used by the team, which often required older coding languages or even involving the IT department in order to update the system. They found their degree audit in particular to be inflexible, slow and not-user friendly, so much so that it impeded their ability to effectively manage processes like graduation clearance and requirement adjustments. Completing these processes could sometimes take weeks and would require a heavy lift from multiple parties. 

“In a couple ways, the stars aligned, we had an old tool that was so bad...We were apprehensive that it was going to die on us and we weren’t going to recover.”

- John Papinchak, CMU Registrar

The team at CMU knew they were at a breaking point that required innovative technology aligned with a modern, forward-thinking university. When the opportunity came to evaluate other systems, the team jumped on it. 

The Solution 

The team required a system that would not only improve staff experience, but included a student-facing interface for students to track their own progress and degree plan. This eliminated many vendors when combined with their desire for software that is easy to use. 

“We looked at Stellic and other degree audit tools. Stellic met all of those requirements and had so much more,”

- John Papinchak, CMU Registrar

In the words of Papinchak, the “user interface is head and shoulders above” the rest. Stellic’s modern design and functionality enables a seamless user experience, leading to higher student and staff adoption. For staff,  Stellic enables autonomy over their degree audit processes, because where other tools use older coding languages that restrict system capabilities, Stellic doesn’t require its users to know how to code in order to add items to the system. 

 For students, Stellic provides a tool that allows them to visualize, explore and plan their degree path, and then understand how those decisions will affect their graduation. CMU was particularly excited to provide their students with the kind of online interfaces that today’s students have come to expect in their everyday lives. 

“What we love is that our users can see the reports, and the students like it because it is modern and doesn’t look like it is from the 80s or 90s”

- John Papinchak, CMU Registrar

The Results

Stellic enables CMU to drive better student success by aligning the needs of students, faculty, staff, and university operations in one place. With instant reporting and real-time student data, the registrar office has been able to significantly reduce their graduation clearance processes from weeks to days. Not only has Stellic increased staff efficiency, but the data is more accurate and up to date without the headache. 

“Stellic is innovative and flexible at meeting user needs. Not innovating for innovation's sake.”

- John Papinchak, CMU Registrar

Students have also seen major benefits with the tool, which is now available to undergrad and graduate students, across a dozen campuses. To date, over 90% of students have adopted the platform to plan for future semesters, and adoption rates continue to grow. With Stellic, CMU students are more engaged in their degree plan and confident in their decision making leading to graduation.

As students engage more with Stellic, administrators are able to accumulate more data to draw out insights and trends that can inform strategic decisions on course offerings, hiring and resource management. By having visibility into rich historical and future course data, CMU is able to better support student needs and ultimately boost retention and graduation at the university. 


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