In today’s world, finding students to award scholarships seems like it should be a very easy task. There are obviously a lot of students in need of financial assistance to help with their education. However, the reality is that finding students to award scholarships to is a huge challenge for colleges and universities across the entire globe. Due to lack of technology, it is difficult for colleges to find the right students to fill available scholarships on campus. This results in millions of scholarship dollars going unspent and strained donor relationships, all while enduring large administrative costs for ineffective processes.
While awarding scholarships may not be a part of your direct responsibilities, the results of an inefficient scholarship process can lead to consequences for everyone on campus. Technology can play a big role in helping your campus use all scholarship funds, support more students, and even improve relationships with key donors.
3 ways to use technology to maximize scholarship management efforts
1. Create a connected campus.
Traditionally, scholarships have been awarded by many varying offices on campus using disparate systems and different applications. Spreadsheets fly around via email leading to FERPA security concerns and outdated information. By bringing all awarding entities on campus into one technology, you can make it easier for administrators to make accurate awards faster, and, most importantly securely. Scholarship-management technology will allow you to access information on current scholarship criteria, ongoing application information, and accurate award availability—all in one place.
(Next page: More ways to fix your scholarship process.)
For example, Mississippi State University adopted a scholarship-management technology called AcademicWorks that positively impacted the way it makes awards across campus. “With critical awarding information so easily accessible, campus administrators can analyze awarding practices, such as the amount of awards made to women and minorities,” says Bailey Poindexter, donor relations coordinator.
AcademicWorks is a scholarship-management platform that serves as a catalyst to improve student access to scholarship funds, enhance cross-functional visibility throughout the process, and revolutionize donor reporting. Hundreds of colleges, universities, and foundations have transformed their scholarship and stewardship practices with AcademicWorks.
2. Make scholarships easily accessible for all students.
Believe it or not, students have a really difficult time finding applicable scholarships. For most colleges and universities, there is not a resource available for students to discover, apply for, and be considered for all scholarships on campus. When in need of assistance, students are sent across campus to collect applications and spend hours completing them. This process is not only difficult for the student, but it also makes it hard to create applicant pools to fill each scholarship. With technology, campuses can come together to create a single access point for students, allowing them to complete applications and have a shorter application process. This happens all while allowing departments across campus to keep autonomy for who is awarded.
In the most recent scholarship cycle, Grand Valley State University in Michigan saw an 86-percent increase in scholarship applications. “Having a single website with AcademicWorks makes it easy to promote scholarships during campus events and with marketing materials. It is very clear that there is an increased awareness about scholarships on campus,” says Erika Wallace, associate director of scholarships and outreach for the university. Having an online resource makes it easy to assist current students in need, but can also be used as a recruiting tool for new students.
3. Make current student data accessible in a secure way.
Today on many college campuses, students must complete scholarship applications that ask them to list their major, GPA, and other key information that you already have access to within your student information system (SIS). In many cases, this leads to conflicting information; for example, students may input inaccurate GPAs or majors they are not registered for. Rather than asking students to fill in information you already have on file, use technology to integrate the application with your SIS for scholarship administrators to make accurate awards, based on current information. This simplifies the student’s application process to answer only the questions you don’t know the answer to, such as what clubs they belong to or an essay about the importance of education in their lives.
Above all, security is a top priority with scholarship data. This technology integration needs to be accomplished in a way that student data is kept secure and only appropriate staff sees sensitive data. One example is North Central College in Illinois, where a nightly recurring import from the SIS ensures that all reviews and final award decisions are made using accurate applicant information.
While awarding scholarships may not be within your job description, everyone working in higher education is responsible for advocating for students to have access to the tools they need to succeed. This includes access to the financial-assistance tools. Talk to your department heads, financial aid office, and IT teams about what they are doing to improve accessibility to scholarships on campus.
[Editor’s note: This article is part 1 of a 3-part series. The next two articles will focus on using technology to improve scholarship problems and how technology can help with donor-stewardship problems.]
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