Many students cannot afford a college education and there is a greater need for financial aid assistance for more students. This demand for financial support challenges institutions’ student aid processing capabilities. There are more applications to handle, which means more data to wade through, among other reasons.
Institutions need to streamline the financial aid processing, shorten lead times and increase enrollment at their school. The quicker colleges and higher education institutes can handle their student aid processing, the speedier the enrollment process.
Let’s look at the reasons why this process tends to be slow and the importance of speeding it up. We’ll also discuss a few ways to improve the process, including the use of Diamond SIS software solutions.
Why Is Financial Aid Processing Slow?
Financial aid services require students to provide lots of information when applying. For example, the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) has a lengthy form with over one hundred required entries. These include a student’s IRS information, their parent’s income, their academic performance, and other details.
Application processes like FAFSA’s can run into complications that increase the time it takes for students to apply. A student’s information might change or need updating. When this happens, the system creates a new Student Aid Request. This means that the student needs to redo previous steps before submitting their application.
Another reason for delays is that students might not know how and where to get the information they require to complete the form. This might delay the application or deter potential candidates from applying for student aid. Students need guidance to ensure that they include all the relevant information on the form.
Incorrectly filled out forms, stacks of paper documents, and high application volumes. These conditions strain financial aid services and slow down financial aid processing.
Why Is Speedy Financial Aid Processing Important?
Institutions need speedy student aid processing for various reasons. Financial aid departments need to spend less time on completing forms and filing documents. Instead, they ought to ensure financial compliance, engage with prospective students and parents, and provide support to students with loans and aid.
Not only does this assist them in providing the best assistance, but it also helps them get their work done better. With the time to focus on important tasks, financial aid workers can increase their productivity and boost the efficiency of their processing.
According to a 2009 Harvard study, simplifying the FAFSA process increased enrollment for low-income households. The study reduced the form completion time from 13 hours to under 10 minutes. They assisted students with updated tax information from the IRS and further assisted them with the rest of the application.
This shows that simplifying the application helps speed the process. This also makes applications more accessible to students from low-income households, going some way to decreasing inequality in the education sector.
Ways To Speed Up Student Aid Processing
Aid offices can streamline financial aid processing by collaborating with other academic actors. Advisors play an important and direct role in a student’s success and experience. Communicating with advisors would help save time as these advisors have relevant knowledge about student’s needs and academic performance.
Financial aid offices can also use academic advisors as tools to assist and guide students. They can inform advisors about application deadlines, the academic requirements for students to receive aid, and more. Advisors can share this information directly with students, reducing the pressure on the financial aid system.
Student Information Systems
Institutions can deploy an SIS (Student Information System) to streamline form creation, IRS integration, and student communication.
The SIS could allow for electronic file uploads from a student dashboard. Uploads would then reflect via an administrator dashboard. This allows financial aid representatives to track uploaded student documents. It would also help them identify missing documents and information, notifying the student quickly.
IRS Data Retrieval Tool
Your SIS system should have an IRS data retrieval tool. This simplifies financial aid applications, eliminating the need for students to submit their tax data manually. IRS integration tools have the most updated tax information needed for applications. If there are any information gaps, the representative can contact the student on the student dashboard.
Digital Payment Functionality
Your financial aid office also needs digital payment functionality. This allows students to pay application and other fees directly from their student dashboard using a debit or credit card. FAFSA does not require a payment fee, but the institution might have administrative fees. Providing students with these payment methods decreases the time needed for a bank transfer or even posting a check in the mail.
Data Tracking & Compliance
Lastly, utilize tools for tracking and correcting compliance data. Provide financial aid workers with a platform to create compliance reports easily. Having a digital archive is also important so that they can access files and reports from a centralized location. This makes it easier for them to locate information whenever they need it.
Diamond SIS: For Speedy Student Aid Processing Software
Diamond SIS has been providing document and financial aid software program solutions for over 20 years. They service over 270 campuses around the USA and have recently added clients from Puerto Rico.
Their team has expertise across the student life cycle. It includes document management, accounting, systems security, and student aid processing. They offer financial aid offices the necessary tools to automate processes, stay up to date with compliance, and provide guidance and support to students.
Diamond Student Information System
Their student information system is an electronic all-rounder school management system. It can help financial aid offices with document tracking, student collaboration, and real-time financial aid management and reporting. The Diamond ADM also allows its users to customize each aspect of the system.
The system’s 24-hour cloud database improves information access and empowers worker productivity. On the database, employees can access:
- Projected Funds
- Awards Disbursement Tracking
- ISIR Import Function
- Packaging Tools
- Award Letter Generation
- Document Tracking Specific to Financial Aid
- Ability to Work with Leads, Current Students and Graduates
These and other features of the SIS optimize it for use as a financial aid software solution.
The mobile design also improves accessibility and information flow. It allows administrators and students to access their respective portals across a range of devices.
The SIS can also work with the Diamond Admissions Document Manager to improve the linking of financial aid information and admissions data.
The ADM also has a self-service form function where students can input their name and last name, create a password, and join a student portal. From here, they can upload their documents, update their personal details and even receive content about a course. This helps retain and update student information, so they do not need to re-enter their details in later application steps.
The Diamond ADM also allows multiple signatures on the platform. For example, if a form needs a student’s and a parent’s signature, the platform will send the form to each signee.
Student aid processing can be a lengthy undertaking. There are many reasons for this; students lack the correct information, their advisors have limited knowledge of the student aid process, or financial aid offices are inundated with applications.
Software solutions help speed up this process with automated form creation, electronic file uploads, compliance tracking, and electronic payment options. An SIS can also increase data visibility and accessibility, improving information flow.
Diamond SIS has each of these tools and more, to help with speedier, simpler student aid processing.