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RCC gets $850K refund from software vendor

The Florida-based Anthology failed to correct more than 200 bugs

Editor’s note: This story has been updated to clarify comments made by RCC President Cathy Kemper-Pelle during email exchanges.

After apologizing to students for a software company’s inability to process financial aid, registration and records, Rogue Community College terminated its relationship with the Florida-based Anthology and received a refund of $850,000 from the software vendor.

Anthology, based out of Florida, agreed to pay the school that much as part of a settlement approved by the RCC Board of Education last fall, according to documents recently obtained in a public records request.

RCC President Cathy Kemper-Pelle told the Mail Tribune in response to emailed questions that the school “has received the funds and have not designated a specific purpose yet as we are still in the budgeting process.”

"Our college mission is to improve our students' lives through accessible, exemplary educational opportunities,“ she wrote. ”RCC seeks a technology solution that will enhance our ability to fulfill our mission, supporting diverse students' access to and success in our programs."

Because of the terms of the agreement, which includes a non-disparagement clause, as Kemper-Pelle answered “No Comment” to a number of the newspaper’s questions, including why there was a large gap of time between the school’s termination of Anthology as a vendor Nov. 6, 2020, and the settlement reached two months ago.

Several attempts were made by the newspaper to reach out to Anthology representatives for comment, but the company did not respond by press time.

Kemper-Pelle said she is not aware of any deal RCC has had with any other vendor that has fallen through. But, the RCC president added, she has been at the helm for only six years.

With Anthology in the rearview mirror, RCC has initiated a competitive bidding process to find a software vendor that matches the school’s needs. A request for proposals will close May 5.

“Our consultants from GFOA (Government Finance Officers Association) will assist us with the selection process, including product review and scheduling of software demonstrations,” Kemper-Pelle wrote. “The selection process and contract negotiations are expected to wrap up in the fall.”

Before RCC’s Board of Education hired him to be RCC’s next president, Randy Weber, an administrator at Johnson County Community College in Kansas, touched on the school’s fallout with Anthology during a town hall meeting at the Redwood campus.

Weber explained that with technology being one of three key issues he intends to tackle as president come July 1, enterprise resource planning tools — as Anthology was — will be part of the conversation.

“The third thing that really made me choose technology as a current topic for RCC is the critical experience that the college has ahead of us this summer and fall — and that is the deployment of an ERP,” Weber told attendees. “I'm pretty aware of a more recent experience over the last couple of years of a less successful deployment. I want to make sure, if I'm selected, that we go through this together and we get it right.”

When the Mail Tribune followed up with Weber on that comment, he acknowledged he was referring to the Anthology termination during the event. He said he became aware of the developments when researching RCC while he was a candidate for president.

Weber said he did not have “specific understanding” of the prior arrangement between RCC and Anthology.

“Moving forward, I know we will soon be executing an RFP for a new solution,” he wrote. “It will be important for a selected product to meet specific needs of RCC and our students. From materials I reviewed on the college website, teams are currently working on strategies for successful deployment.”

Kemper-Pelle told the Mail Tribune that Weber is not currently involved in the RFP process, but he will be once he takes office July 1, assuming a new software vendor has not been selected.

Kemper-Pelle went on to relate some of the things RCC is doing in the interim while it procures new software to replace RogueNet, the system that it has used for the past two decades.

Integrated into RogueNet is PowerFAIDS, a software that facilitates the award of financial aid, Kemper-Pelle wrote. PowerFAIDS is a trusted program, she said, that it is used by many higher education institutions throughout the U.S.

Kemper-Pelle is not aware of any problems students have had using PowerFAIDS or RogueNet since RCC terminated Anthology.

RCC had issued a letter of apology to students in the summer of 2020, after they encountered problems using the Anthology-developed product Campus Nexus to register for classes, process financial aid payments and loans and access records.

“Our hearts have been moved by your stories,” Kemper-Pelle wrote in the letter.

Students using Campus Nexus, which replaced an outdated system from the 1990s, experienced “unexpected problems” from the first day of launch, Kemper-Pelle said at the time.

“We believed the problems would be quickly resolved, but progress has been slower than anticipated,” she wrote.

Kemper-Pelle said at the time that Anthology would change its ways, saying the company was “putting all their resources into working closely with us to resolve them so that you can focus on your studies and not your loans or registration.”

But on Nov. 6, 2020, Kemper-Pelle put the brakes on Anthology after it became apparent company officials had failed to fix more than 200 bugs in the system.

“While we appreciate Anthology’s attempts to remedy software issues, the software remains materially deficient, and as a result RCC is facing increasing (reputation) and economic harm,” the RCC president wrote in the letter, obtained through a public records request.

Reach reporter Kevin Opsahl at 541-776-4476 or kopsahl@rosebudmedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @KevJourno.