Obie goes to college part 2: Optimize financial aid verification to attract the best students
Welcome to Part 2 of the Obie College Story. In part 1, our fictional friend, Obie began his journey into higher education through the college application process.
Fortunately for Obie, his journey is much more streamlined than the old days, when everything relied on paper. Now, with digital management of the student lifecycle, the process of evolving from an admissions prospect, an applicant, a student and beyond as an alumnus is much easier.
So, Obie has braved the harrowing period of finding institutions that would be good matches for his interests and applied to them. He completed all of the applications on time – including his FAFSA form – and waited for decisions to arrive.
After a few months, Obie receives the email he was waiting for – an acceptance letter from one of his preferred institutions. And there’s great news. Obie’s admissions acceptance message includes critical information about the financial aid award this institution is able to offer to him!
But there’s a problem.
When Obie and his parents were filling out the FAFSA, they didn’t know about the new prior-prior year rules and filled out some information incorrectly. Obie had moved within the past year. Now the “number in household” on his FAFSA doesn’t match what the IRS has on record.
Statistically speaking, undergraduate students received an average of $14,210 in total aid in the 2014 – 2015 academic year, according to the College Board’s Trends in Student Aid 2015 report.
However, about 61 percent of these students graduated with debt, borrowing an average of $26,900.
As we can see, the Financial Aid office will play a critical role in Obie’s journey. And many other students just like him.
Financial aid verification: The institutional perspective
In today’s economy, it’s extremely important to your school’s mission to serve your community, your state and the nation and not limit a qualified applicant’s chances of matriculating because of tuition costs.
One of the most challenging puzzles in higher ed is correctly anticipating the best mix of financial aid to attract the best students while ensuring that your institution meets enrollment goals and helps students control loan debt. On top of this, every higher ed institution must comply with the constant change of government regulations related to financial aid verification.
So what can we do to get better?
Using ECM to get rid of paper
I don’t have to remind you of the blizzard of paper, emails, documents, forms, transcripts and more that each student brings to your institution. With all the paper and documents involved in this process, managing the always-in-flux world of admissions and financial aid can be difficult.
But you can make it easy with the right higher education software solution.
That’s where enterprise content management (ECM) can help. The right ECM solution will help you decrease your dependency on paper for more visibility into – and the ability to optimize – automated processes that attract and retain students.
With this technology, Obie’s FA advisor was quickly notified of the discrepancy between what he reported on the FAFSA and what was reported by the IRS. Obie and his FA counselor were able to update information to the IRS, completing his verification and providing Obie the best possible FA package.
Using ECM to connect systems, share information and contact students quicker
Consider it this way: By replacing time-intensive, paper-based processes with ECM, you send out financial aid packages sooner, resulting in higher student acceptance rates and more progress toward your enrollment goals. And, with a robust ECM and SIS integration, you easily connect these systems with your financial aid software system, speeding financial aid verification and award notification.
Institutional verification happens prior to award, so relying on paper puts your institution at a disadvantage to others that have embraced electronic documents and processes. And we all know that the students are inclined to choose the school that responds first.
With the right ECM solution, your institution is empowered to:
- Automate checklisting
- Electronically and securely capture and deliver specific data like tax transcripts
- Easily gather necessary information depending on the type of verification
With paper out of the way, you’re free to find the best students, quickly.
Here come the students!
So, your institution determined Obie would be a great addition to your incoming fall class. In carefully evaluating Obie’s application, you determined his academic record and personal traits would help him likely graduate on-time and later become a loyal alumnus.
With his acceptance letter in hand and a financial aid award on offer, along with other sources of aid, Obie has chosen to attend your institution!
In part 3, we’ll see how you can make Obie’s life easier as he prepares to head to campus.