“CA4,” for anyone not associated with a secondary school, stands for Common Application, version 4, which was rolled out this summer after some major upgrades to content and interface.
Or I should say, “has been rolling out since this summer,” with no sign of an end point. Turns out that launching a major website upgrade these days is a lot like rocket science.
And like anything vaguely related to the college application process, the CA4 was already emotionally charged because 1) it was a college application and 2) it contains some significant changes from last year’s edition. And now, with the Common App issuing daily bulletins detailing significant problems (and it looks like the Feds are about to take the cue and follow suit)and the news media paying just enough attention to keep the issue in play in the news cycle–especially as selective colleges keep announcing application deadline extensions, one at a painful time.
I’m not going to cast blame here; enough other bloggers and opinionators are doing that. I imagine Rob Killion, executive director of the Common App, is silently thanking the wizards at Health & Human Services for having screwed up their launch on a scale that has made the Common App’s agonies look piddling. The whole thing is a mess, and college counselors who are still keeping their cool in schools deserve hazard pay for the duration–until the CA4 is working seamlessly for all.
But the CA4 mess and the Obamacare mess are karmic warning shots.
We can now open our laptops or phones or tablets and order up shoes and books and music and news and just about everything else our little hearts desire with ridiculous ease. Commercial websites that sell us stuff have made spending our money really easy. We’re spoiled.
But the Common Application, simple as it seems, is designed to turn a complex organism–a high school senior–into a comprehensible digital file, cross-tabulating all kinds of disparate information and documents to be processed by several hundred different end-users, all of whom conduct their operations in slightly different ways. The task of streamlining something like this while including every feature and bell and whistle that every school, counselor, applicant, and college could possibly want is pretty huge, when you think about it.
So, too, on an exponentially greater scale, is the information processing required by the Affordable Care Act. Whatever the flaws in the actual process of putting this multidimensional and still clunky behemoth together, I think we can stipulate to this: It’s insanely complicated.
*Yup—just did. Zeke Emanuel.