Over the past several years, Bellevue College, in collaboration with 33 other community and technical colleges, has been working tirelessly to implement a new system-wide program known as “ctcLink.” This project, spearheaded by the Washington State Board for Community and Technical Colleges (SBCTC), aims to replace the conglomeration of disorganized 35-year old systems in place at colleges like BC and replace it all with one standardized system that will be unified across every community and technical college in the state.
Maria Rivas, BC’s ctcLink Project Manager, said that ctcLink is “a more modern way of doing business (the current legacy system is 35 years old), so we’re excited about the upgrade! All BC students, faculty and staff will access self-service tools anytime online.” It really is much more modern — the previous set of systems was written in COBOL. Trying to keep this system working involved multiple band-aid systems that were labor-intensive to maintain, and were not easily compatible with the technology used by other community and technical colleges. It led to a scenario where even though it all worked, it was much more difficult in the backend than it needed to be. From the perspective of one first-year Running State student, Emmy Lewis, “The previous systems used by Bellevue College are fine and not extremely hard to work with, but the idea of ctcLink being a central location for everything sounds nice.“
The program itself has been in development since its approval by the SBCTC in 2013. It was then initially implemented as a pilot project at a handful of colleges, and after the major kinks were worked out, full implementation began in deployment groups. Bellevue College is now rapidly approaching its goal for the full rollout of ctcLink.
However, the transition has not been simple. Laura McDowell, the Director of Communications for the SBCTC, said, “Changes like these are difficult. College staff and students are adjusting to a new way of doing things as they continue to pursue their work and studies.” It’s not easy to unify all these systems and requirements under one banner. In Rivas’ own words, it’s been an “‘all-hands-on deck’ project,” with every department working together with the SBCTC to get everything implemented properly.
For the students of Bellevue College, ctcLink is going to offer a whole suite of changes. As Rivas said, “For students, ctcLink will be how they search and register for classes, update their contact info, pay tuition, or review their grades.” To ‘link’ all that together, students will be issued a new ctcLink ID, as a replacement for the existing SID system. That ID will also be easily transferable if you were ever to transfer to another community or technical college in the state. For the faculty, their system will also be upgraded to offer additional personal agency and control over their contact info, expense reports and more.
For us as students, there are a few things that are really important for us to keep in mind about the transition to ctcLink. There isn’t much for us to do yet until Nov. 17, when student account activation starts. But until then, check out the ctcLink for Students website for things you can do to prepare and other important information. As Rivas stressed, “Right now is a great time to get familiar with what’s changing so that when things do change, students are ready.” Although there is a “small army” standing by to support the school during this transition, it’s important to continue to monitor your Bellevue College email for updates. The linked website also has a record of past messages in case you missed one.
Change is never easy, and the administration behind the ctcLink implementation knows that. As put by McDowell, “Studying during a pandemic is stressful; studying while trying to learn a new software system is even more stressful.” They’re hoping that because of their experience with its implementation in many other colleges prior to Bellevue and the years of preparation that have gone into this system, the transition will be smooth.
It’s not just the administration that is remaining optimistic, however. Lewis is also confident about the promises the efficiency ctcLink brings us. “Looking at the benefits of ctcLink, it looks like a pretty organized system which is always a good thing. All the changes that will come from the new system seem like they’ll be positive and will make things easier.” Overall, although it will be a massive shift and one that will undoubtedly hit a speed bump here or there, we seem to have good leaders and a well-planned system for the upcoming implementation of ctcLink.
ctcLink is a long-awaited and long-needed update to Bellevue College’s system-wide affairs. I remain optimistic that it will be a boon to further the learning of all who work and study at the college. Be sure to pay attention to your inboxes for updates on ctcLink, and be ready for Nov. 17, when student account activation will start. Additionally, here are some other important dates provided by Rivas:
- Oct. 20 – Nov. 29: Financial aid and emergency funds disbursement will be paused during this time.
- Nov. 4: Students’ information in the former legacy system becomes read-only.
- Nov. 17: Students start ctcLink account activation.
- Nov. 29: Winter quarter registration starts and students will only be able to register via ctcLink.