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Next Generation Student Systems held its second town hall meeting on April 30 to discuss Pennant, a new digital infrastructure slated to replace the current student billing, registration and record system.

Credit: Khristian Monterroso

As graduating seniors prepare to transition from college to the real world, something else at Penn is changing, too — Penn’s tech systems are about to get introduced to the 21st century.

On April 30, Next Generation Student Systems held its second town hall meeting to discuss Pennant, a new digital infrastructure slated to replace the current system that has managed student billing, financial aid, academic records and registration for over 35 years.

The assembly featured discussions on updates of the project led by executive project sponsor Michelle Brown-Nevers, functional project manager Rob Tisot, and technical project manager Michael Kearney followed by a question and answer session.

The new infrastructure will provide for a more streamlined user experience by ushering in three essential changes to the system. Data will be stored in a more modern Oracle database, staff will be able to view more flexible web-based user interfaces instead of text-based screen applications and data will be able to be cross accessed by different systems and departments. Pennant will be released in three phases to allow system users to gradually adapt to change and to allow program creators to learn from each phase.

The first phase, Pennant Accounts, is scheduled to release this fall and will encompass all functions of consolidated student billing, from posting charges and payments to refund disbursement. Development and unit testing is already complete, systems and acceptance testing is currently underway and another round testing is scheduled for the summer.

“Pennant gives us the flexibility and the infrastructure to support academic innovation improve service and provide stability and adaptability to advance Penn’s mission well into the future,” Tisot said.  

The core programs for Pennant will be provided by Ellucian’s Banner products. However, NGSS has also developed helper applications for business-specific functions that the Banner products do not cover. One example is Pennant Graduate Funding App, which will launch this year and will allow schools to set up multiple years of funding for PhD and other graduate students with grants and have that information carry over to a financial aid and billing system.

Another example is Pennant Feeder Application. which just finished development and is currently under testing. The application will centralize the location where charges and payments going into the system can be entered and will give real-time feedback on the status of their transactions.

NGSS is also building a training website to help make this transition. Training for the Graduate Funding App will be held in the latter part of June while training for the rest of Pennant will be held in October.

The next two phases of the program will be the development of Pennant Records and Pennant Aid. Pennant Records will manage student records, course inventory, registration, academic planning, fee assessment, grading and transcripts while Pennant Aid will support the financial aid application process and includes functions such as data collection, eligibility determination, assignment of resources, notification and disbursement.

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