Five ways the right SIS integration improves your financial aid process

Professor and student in library

In most offices under the Enrollment Management umbrella, the volume of work is increasingly daunting. The document processing needs in offices of Financial Aid are as representative as any when it comes to handling increased demand. The amount of verification documents that you must collect, match and send to reviewers is significantly on the rise.

Several factors are driving these increases, most notably the recent shifts in verification practices. Whereas previously, many schools verified only, say, 30 percent of those selected for verification, now all – not just a portion – of the students selected for verification must be verified at most schools.

This means collecting, processing and reviewing application-supporting documents, such as tax forms, for many more students than before. Unfortunately, while application and verification numbers are on the rise, staff resources for tackling the increases in volume typically are not.

That’s a recipe for bottlenecks and delays.

Job No. 1: Delivering superior student service

Delays are a problem as the demand for fast turnaround of packaging decisions – a result of heightened expectations for superior student service – is also rising.

If your institution is in competition for students (and who isn’t these days?), you must know that students – and for dependent students, their parents as well – are increasingly savvy about playing institutions off one another. They’re weighing the relative value of competing institutions’ awards offers and not always willing to wait for slow-to-respond schools.

Faster financial aid = bigger pool of students

Moreover, because of the rising cost of education, more students are enrolling at the school that offers the most attractive financial aid package, whether or not that school was the student’s preferred choice. To those schools not only offering the most attractive packages but also doing so the fastest, the likeliness of more matriculations is high.

So, what can your Financial Aid office to do handle spikes in volume while delivering awards packages faster than other schools?

I suggest five speed-generating, accuracy-ensuring process improvements, all enabled by complementing the student information system (SIS) or financial aid software application with enterprise content management (ECM) technologies.

Here are five ways a SIS integration with ECM empowers your institution:

  1. Matching incoming verification documents to the student record automatically, with little or no human intervention.
  2. Automating file completion and handoff to counselors for verification review.
  3. Automatically updating student-facing Web portals showing which documents are required and the current status of submitted documents.
  4. Sending and tracking electronic notifications to students regarding missing or inaccurate documents required to complete processing and verification.
  5. Automatically updating the SIS or financial aid software application with information and decisions managed by the ECM platform.

Bonus tip: Automate processes with workflow management

And, here’s a bonus tip for improving student service and protecting funding for Financial Aid: Automate and speed transfer credit evaluation with workflow software in order to keep students from enrolling in redundant course work.

After all, the students and your Financial Aid office have worked to secure those precious financial aid dollars. No sense watching them go to waste.

Tom von Gunden directs Hyland’s market research, strategy and advisory initiatives in higher education. Tom holds a Ph.D. from The Ohio State University and spent more than a dozen years in higher education, serving as a tenured university professor, program director and accreditation specialist. His deep understanding of best practices in deploying ECM (enterprise content management) capabilities comes not only from his direct involvement in system implementations in colleges and universities, but also from his prior work as chief editor of Web and print publications focused on ECM and data storage technologies.
Tom von Gunden

Tom von Gunden

Tom von Gunden directs Hyland’s market research, strategy and advisory initiatives in higher education. Tom holds a Ph.D. from The Ohio State University and spent more than a dozen years... read more about: Tom von Gunden