Financial aid technology: More productivity, less drudgery

Financial aid offices struggled through sequestration talks in Washington.

Changes to college students’ financial aid packages caused by the political saber rattling of Congress’s sequestration talks last spring were updated almost in real time, an impossibility in campus financial aid offices of yesteryear.

Colleges and universities in February and March scrambled to let current and incoming students know that the aid available for their college education was in flux, subject to the whims of legislators who couldn’t come to an agreement on how to best solve the nation’s budget deficit.

Tara O’Neill, Marquette University’s associate director of the Office of Finance and Student Financial Aid, said if this sort of political crisis had threatened to alter financial aid awards already doled out to students in need of college funding in the mid-2000s, schools wouldn’t be able to make the proper adjustments and send updated information for days after changes tool effect – weeks, even.

With technological advancements in the financial aid office, however, Marquette officials were able to notify students of possible aid changes within 30 minutes of getting word from the federal government.

“It’s critically important for students to know how much they’re going to owe for the fall semester because, frequently, they still owe money [after the aid is deducted from their tuition,” she said. “Financial aid is always dynamic and always changing. We need to know what’s accurate, and students need to know what’s accurate.”

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