3 ways colleges are using technology to help students borrow less

From using AI to revamping old-fashioned processes, higher ed is using technology to help students make better informed borrowing decisions

Last year, the U.S. Department of Education signaled its understanding of the importance of mobile as well, announcing that the FAFSA will soon be available as a mobile application. But a growing number of institutions are already using mobile apps to make student financial services more accessible, intuitive, and transparent; communicating with students via a quick text message, video message, or live chat; and helping students engage with advisors on their own time, in ways that are targeted for their needs.

Savvy institutions are also using technology pioneered by banks to enable mobile deposits and mobile document upload to make it easier to send payment and documents. The financial aid office at the University of California Santa Barbara uses CampusLogic StudentForms to facilitate mobile document-upload, e-signature, and text-message reminders to replace traditional paper forms, long lag times for sending and receiving sensitive documents through the mail, and daily calls from concerned students and parents.

Going mobile accelerates the verification process and reduces access barriers like “verification melt,” which can have profound economic and equity implications for institutions and students alike.

3. Digitizing the award letter saves time
Financial aid offices use the award letter to provide students and their families with information about the composition of the financial aid package, the cost of attendance, and the institution’s financial aid policies and procedures. But many award letters suffer from antiquated design and time-consuming production, providing students with too much information to be useful or not enough to enable better decision making.
Technology can transform—and translate—aid into terms that students and parents understand.

Ivy Tech, Indiana’s statewide community college system, revamped its award-letter system for a new generation of learners. The new approach is digital, mobile friendly, and interactive, with direct links to important information and embedded videos. Best of all, the letters are personalized.

Neumann University in Pennsylvania has also developed a digital, interactive award letter, aimed at bringing families better transparency around college costs. The university believes they’ve cut the time spent on developing and sending award letters by at least 50 percent. They’ve also reduced the call volume about basic questions because the new letter is much more informative.

In the coming years, the transformation of student financial services will play a powerful role in making critical processes less cumbersome and more intuitive for students. But those shifts don’t have to wait for changes in public policy. Colleges and universities are already using technology to help students make better informed decisions and take the first steps toward borrowing less.

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