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The Future of the Financial Aid Office

This page contains a set of handouts for a talk given by Mark Kantrowitz at the 10th Annual Policy Conference in Vail, Colorado on September 23, 1996 and at the GMAC Conference in Dallas, Texas on November 4, 1996.

Overview of the Talk

The Future of the Financial Aid Office

  • Where is technology headed in the future?

  • How will technology impact service to students?

  • How will technological change affect the role of the financial aid office?

  • How we can best prepare ourselves to understand and use technology?

Sources of Change

  • This talk focuses on the impact of the World Wide Web. Do not forget that many other types of technology will also have an impact:

    • Telephone
    • Fax (signature requirements)
    • Photocopiers
    • Document Imaging
    • Postit Notes
    • Videotapes
  • and that people are the primary cause of change:

    • Increasing enrollments means more students and bigger budgets.

    • Students are changing:

      • More job focused
      • Increasingly sophisticated
      • Want common applications for all universities and awards
      • Want information on demand 24 hours a day
      • More educated -- asking increasingly more advanced questions.
      • Too easily influenced by mass media
    • Reauthorization in 1997.

My Vision of the Future

Hard to see path for the future:

  • Like asking about the impact of paper, TV, telephone in their early days.

  • The only certainty is that most predictions will be wrong or insignificant.

  • The web won't lead to the death of paper. Distance education will not lead to the death of the traditional university. (ATMs vs Cash, Videotapes vs Movies).

  • Synergy and serendipity will lead us in unexpected and unanticipated directions.

So let's look at what is certain:

  • Future will be shaped by social and economic forces.

  • The web will not be owned by Microsoft or Netscape, but by the information providers, such as you. Content is key.

  • We need to catch up with the present before we can move on to the future.

  • The future is already here!

  • The World Wide Web is the way of the future.

  • But don't forget about Electronic Mail (Email).

  • It's taken 20 years for the world to realize the power of the Internet.

  • The Web may be in its infancy, but the basic shape will persist as it matures. There is a window of opportunity for the next 2-3 years to shape the future use of the Web. The time is now to establish standards and conventions.

  • Use of the Web will continue to grow.

  • TV sets will come Web-ready, just as they are cable-ready today.

  • Very high speed access to the Web through

    • Phone lines (high bandwidth incoming, low outgoing)
    • Cable modems (faster than Ethernet)
    • Satellite dishes

How is the Web Different?

  • It is a new communication channel, but with more depth and breadth.

  • Not just the latest fad.

  • Several fundamental advantages:

    • Lower cost publication of information
    • More information -- can provide unlimited information
    • Larger, technologically adept audience
    • Easier and faster correction of errors or update of material Don't have to wait until the next print run.
    • Interactive medium (e.g., online calculators and databases)
  • Supplements -- does not replace -- traditional media. A condition of doing business, like the fax or telephone.

  • Use of the Web creates a level playing field.

    • Little schools look like big schools.
    • Can compete with traditional media outlets.
    • Equal access to low-income families (TV sets are the first luxury purchased by low-income families).

Impact on the Financial Aid Office

Nature of the Financial Aid Office:

  • Back room provides data to students, US Department of Education, other university offices, and lenders.
  • Front room provides education and counseling.

Impact of technology on the Financial Aid Office:

  • Automating routine tasks (the back room) means less drudgery and stress for the financial aid administrator.
  • Greater efficiency in the back room. Doing more with the same number of staff. Handle more students, bigger FA budgets.
  • Shift the focus to consumer education and counseling. A friendlier, less bureaucratic, more personal financial aid office.
  • Help more students, but spend less time per student.
  • Less face-to-face contact with students with routine questions. Answer routine questions via email.
  • More personal contact with students with unusual or exceptional questions.
  • Hub concept will blur the distinction between the financial aid office, admissions office, bursar, registrar, and other enrollment services. It will provide better, more uniform customer service. (One-stop shopping.)

Impact of the Web on the Financial Aid Office:

  • Lower costs mean more money for aid.
  • Fill the information gap with solid information.
  • Satisfy student demand for instant answers.
  • More free publications online.
  • Uniform, streamlined, fast, efficient financial aid delivery system.
  • Automation of verification through interfaces with the Social Security Administration, ED, Lenders, and IRS (National Student Data System & Project EASI). FAO will only need to see students who have failed verification.
  • Process data, not paper.

Using the Web

  • How to meet and manage change:

    • Be flexible and prepared to go with the flow. Don't resist change.
    • Don't wait for the future to arrive, or you will fall behind.
  • Start learning how to use and grow the Web today.

    • Join electronic mailing lists such as FINAID-L and create more specialized lists.
    • Learn HTML (books, viewing source, online tutorials, WYSIWYG editors).
    • Put up a web page for your financial aid office. Start by putting your printed handouts and brochures online.
  • Many possible uses:

    • Early Awareness.
    • Recruiting and Marketing to Prospective Students and Parents.
    • Automated Forms Processing.
    • Interactive Tools and Presentations.

    • Counseling and Consumer Education to Current Students.
    • Sending Bulletins and Notices to Students (e.g., Scam Alerts).
    • Feedback and Surveys.
    • Responding to Student Questions.
    • Allowing Students to Review Their Accounts Online.

    • Collaboration and Communication with Colleagues.

The Future of Financial Aid on the Web

Within the Next Year or Two
This is my vision -- no guarantees that it will come true.

  • FAFSA Online. Apply online, and receive your SAR immediately.

  • Two additional large scholarship search services will announce free versions on the web (earning revenue from the advertising model, like FastWEB, instead of student fees).

  • 15-minute student loan application and approval on the web, instead of 60-90 days. Getting the funds to the student more quickly.

  • Review and correct your student records online. (TGSLC, Sallie Mae)

  • Federal Student Aid Handbook on the Web, as well as all other Federal publications.

  • Uniform interface to lenders, guarantors, servicers, secondary markets, collection agencies. The details will become invisible.

  • Project EASI.

  • Who knows?

Coming Soon from the FinAid® Page
I will do my best to see that these improvements come to pass.

  • An overview of financial aid, including explanations of how to apply for financial aid and answers to common student questions.

  • More financial aid calculators, online surveys, and an interactive entrance/exit interview test of student knowledge.

  • Press releases for news media about financial aid topics, from debunking myths to analyzing important financial aid issues.

  • Inexpensive Macintosh and PC versions of the financial aid calculators.

  • Template for a Common FAO Web page. (Why duplicate effort?)

  • Early awareness initiative.

  • Any other suggestions?

Using the Internet for Collaboration

  • You can ask colleagues at other schools how they handle unusual situations.

  • You can gather data on staffing, salaries, facilities and tools at other schools, to convince your administration to provide you with the resources you need for your office.

  • You can post news and announcements about your office.

  • You can advertise openings in your office, or find out about openings at other schools to advance your own career.

  • You can ask and answer questions of colleagues with a broad range of expertise, and discuss topics of mutual interest.

  • You can find out the latest news from the US Department of Education.

  • You can hear about all the software and processing problems encountered by other schools, and avoid falling prey to the same bugs.

  • You can review federal regulations, dear colleague letters, and other professional information online through EFAL and the SFA BBS.

  • You can keep in contact with all the friends you make at these conferences.


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