The Testudo site is getting a $100 million makeover that’s been years in the making

(Screenshot via testudo.umd.edu)

The University of Maryland’s Testudo site, formally known as the Student Information System, is now one step closer to getting a drastic makeover that’s been years in the making.

Last week, the Maryland Board of Public Works signed off on contracts with a new cloud-based system that will improve user experience, modernize technology and change business practices, according to a university statement. The Board of Regents had already approved the contracts on Nov. 13. 

The new system will cost nearly $100 million and will be paid over the course of 11 years, if all options are exercised.

In February, the university announced it had selected Workday, a California-based software vendor, as a platform for a cloud-based system. The base contract for the first five years is almost $21 million. If the university extends the contract for six additional years, the subscription cost goes to over $53 million. 

[The new Testudo site will be open 24/7 — but it won’t be online for at least 5 more years]

Additionally,  the university hired Huron Consulting Group to assist throughout the transition and implementation in the first five years. The Huron contract will cost the university nearly $43 million.  

At last week’s meeting, Maryland Comptroller Peter Franchot questioned why the university didn’t attempt to get a better price from the other vendors, arguing that the cost is too high.

“What assurance do we have that all of the vendors were treated evenly?” Franchot asked.

University of Maryland officials responded that the university selected the vendors with the best pricing compared to the highest technical score.

The university started reviewing cloud-based systems in higher education in 2017 as part of the Elevate project, according to the university’s website. The goal was to find an integrated system that would combine the Human Resources, Finance and Student Information systems and modernize and improve user experience, according to the website.

Unlike its predecessor, the new system will be available online 24/7. It will also have enhanced data security and regulatory compliance, regular upgrades and increased efficiency, according to the university’s website. 

The new enterprise system is set to be fully functional in the fall of 2026.

[With most UMD classes online, some students are struggling with internet access]

In November 2019, Workday and Oracle, another software company, showcased their systems on the campus, and community members were invited to watch and complete a survey for each vendor.

The technical evaluation committee considered the presentations, which had 743 attendees, over 400 online survey responses and references from other universities. The University of Virginia, Georgetown University and the University of Pennsylvania are some of the universities that currently use Workday.

As the Board of Public Works and the Board of Regents approve the platform and consulting firm contracts, the university will begin to implement the system in 2021. They will start with the Human Capital Management and Finance systems and are set to complete the transition in the summer of 2023.

Last November, Jack Blanchard, chair of the project’s executive steering committee, told The Diamondback the transition and implementation of the student information system would take three years because of how technical it is — it requires transcripts, course scheduling and financial aid.

“[The university is] replacing everything that’s taken pretty much decades to build, going to a completely new way,” Blanchard said. “It’s not just changing the software, it’s changing business practices.”

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