Embattled One Stop service faces student criticism

The sign outside the One Stop office on the first floor of the Library on Sep. 1, 2017.

Laina Yost

After a tumultuous start to the beginning of the semester, One Stop for Student Services is looking to make improvements following student complaints about wait times and poor service.

The new system, which launched in June, combines Student Financial Aid, Bursar and Registrar offices into one center and helpline.

Iris Mirelez, the director of One Stop for Student Services, said the idea is to make matters convenient for students to get the help they need all in one place. Students are saying it’s doing the opposite.

Majestic Mittler, a senior human development and family studies major, said the wait times are long and it took multiple tries before she got the help she needed.

“I am not a big fan (of One Stop),” Mittler said. “I had to go three different times to try and get my financial aid through. It took all summer and every time I went back was given different information. I also would try calling and would be on hold for like two hours and give up on using it. Nobody would ever answer the phone or answer my emails I would send. I would give them a week to reply and just would never get an answer. It was terrible service.”

Mirelez said One Stop is currently in a transition period and they recognize the problem of long wait times.

“It’s been made very clear to the administration with the data that we’ve been able to provide: We need more people to meet the students’ needs,” she said.

Originally, One Stop hired 13 staff members when the service began four months ago. Now, they are seeking to hire four more employees for the service.

Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs and Provost Todd Diacon believes student wait times have reduced with the introduction of One Stop, compared to previous years when the service did not exist at Kent State. He could not provide evidence of this, as wait times were not tracked before One Stop.

“If anything, they are shorter this year,” Diacon said. “They are shorter this year than they were last year and years past, but nobody knew how long they were waiting; we didn’t track it.”

In August, One Stop served 4,232 people and the approximate wait time was about 31 minutes. They also received a total of 10,623 phone calls.

Diacon said students are now aware of their wait times, which allows for greater transparency.

Some students, however, are complaining about the quality of their service, saying the staff is not as helpful as they could be.

“Overall, I find the One Stop an outrageous system to prevent students from easily getting answers for simple questions by making us wait ridiculously long,” said one student, who asked not to be identified. “I believe there is no way to make the One Stop actually beneficial. … Concentrating all of the student services to one office is just naturally going to cause a complete overflow of issues and conflicts.”

Mirelez said there will be a few obstacles while they evaluate and make changes during this time.

“No school is cookie cutter,” Mirelez said. “So, once you get up and running, then the first year to two years, you’re in a period of transition because you’re quickly trying to make changes and identify areas of improvement.”

The transition period for One Stop to operate successfully has already begun, Diacon said. The system will become the norm for Kent State students over the coming years.

“A quarter of our students have never known anything else,” Diacon said. “So within a couple of years, three years, none of the undergraduate students will have seen anything different.”

Diacon and Mirelez both stated they hope to communicate to students not to put off anything they need done at One Stop.

“The other behavior that we really want to address, and I get this cause my son was the same way, is to encourage students not to wait until the day before a deadline to enact the transaction that we need to enact,” Diacon said.

If students plan ahead, they can cut their wait times and get in and out quicker rather than if they wait for a busy period, Diacon said.

“How do we help students understand that if they conducted that transaction five days earlier, they would have a zero wait time or maybe one-third of the wait?” Diacon said. “So, we want to help students understand that if they modify their behavior, they can have smaller wait times as well.”

Mirelez said they are looking for ways to improve and to communicate better with students.

“I think the feedback around the quality of service has been good,” Mirelez said. “I think where we have room for improvement is the wait times and I understand that. And that’s why we’re working to get more staff, communicate with students earlier to try and get things done, so it’s not the last minute and we don’t have everybody reaching out at once.”

Mirelez said the debut of One Stop was strong, but they are seeing areas of necessary change.

“We absolutely understand that there is opportunity for improvement and room for growth,” Mirelez said. “That is normal at any One Stop during the first year. And we will continue to identify better ways to serve our students. And I mean that sincerely.”

In the meantime, Mirelez encourages students to make use of tools like QLess, a smartphone app that alerts students about their waiting time, and to answer a survey after their visit.

Benjamin Smith, a senior physics major, said service at One Stop was fine at first, but has degraded over time.

“Once the fall semester started is when things really seemed to get backed up,” Smith said. “The first two weeks of fall semester it was difficult getting to the first-floor printers and the first-floor library resources due to the amount of people waiting in line.”

Laina Yost is an entreprise reporter. Contact her at [email protected]