Financial aid technology: More productivity, less drudgery

“Our prospects live in an age of instant gratification,” said Bryan Conover, assistant director of admissions at Transylvania University. “Other institutions were responding quicker. Now, we can meet students’ expectations for responsiveness and this helps us be more competitive.”

O’Neill said in the Stone Ages of financial aid technology – just a decade ago – many requested changes to aid processing would take almost a year to update.

“You were left being noncompliant or having to find a very manual way to become compliant while you waited for changes to be made,” she said, adding that financial aid officials would have to go file by file, making changes to aid data, since the technology wouldn’t be updated for months.

It’s not just the government’s constantly moving target of financial aid regulations that requires updating on the part of aid officials on campuses large and small. Students, and their fluctuating decisions about how much financial help they’ll need to attend college and what sort of course load they’ll take in the coming semester, used to make for a lot of busy work in aid offices.

Even a simple change in a student’s financial aid paperwork would require hours of work correcting various fields of a financial aid form.

“[Technology] makes the packages more accurate and less prone to error,” O’Neill said. “Students change their mind all the time, and instead of using populated fields, you can get live data so what you’re doing is what you intended to do from the get-go.”

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