Automating Student Financial Aid

By Tim Oberschlake, Vice President, Navigator Management Partners, Oracle Practice

The Educause Center for Applied Research published an article in November 2007 titled Information Technology Strategies for Financial Aid Automation. This article presented a Financial Aid Technology Pyramid.  The lowest level of the pyramid illustrated the functions of a financial aid office that relied completely on paper based processes. The top level of the pyramid represented a completely paperless financial aid office. Anyone who wants to better understand student financial aid should take the time to read this article. While some of the statistics and underlying data in the report may be dated, the overall message remains consistent.  Financial aid fuels higher education. As a result, institutions that reach the higher levels on the Financial Aid Technology Pyramid have a huge advantage over other institutions who don’t make those same technology investments. This trend will only become more apparent as student debt continues to rise and college affordability becomes one of the predominant reasons for choosing to attend an institution of higher education. Student debt is growing at an alarming rate, forcing educational institutions to compete for a decreasing number of traditional students and an increasing number of students seeking education through other modalities. This is also expanding the emphasis on student retention, success, and fiscal responsibility within higher education institutions. All of this is impacted by an institutions financial aid business processes.
Technology tools to automate student financials come in many shapes and sizes. There are software packages that simply focus on automating the Institution Student Information Report (ISIR) verification process after students have submitted financial aid applications. Traditional on premise Student Information Systems offer student financials process automation after ISIRs have been uploaded. There are also systems that focus exclusively on automating some of these financial aid processes and then integrating with Student Information Systems. More recently, a new breed of financial aid software has emerged that builds upon the emergence of fully automated multi-tenant Software as a Service (SaaS) solutions in higher education. The first of this new breed of software is Oracle’s Student Financial Planning (SFP) which is part of Oracle’s Student Cloud functionality. This solution is consistent with the top level of financial aid processing as defined in the Financial Aid Technology Pyramid. 
A fully automated multi-tenant SaaS solution offers institutions the opportunity to transform the way financial aid is processed. Oracle offers a best practice financial aid solution. The solution is highly configurable which means it can support institutional and state specific awards while fully automating federal funding processes. Successful SFP clients will understand that moving to a fully automated SaaS model means that they must be willing to change to a common set of business processes. No longer can an implementation consultant ask “what are you doing today?” and attempt to replicate functionality. This is a recipe for disaster and establishes expectations that are often unrealistic. An implementation of Oracle Cloud is an exercise in business transformation. 
Institutions must help their staff and students navigate the move from current state to cloud state with organizational change management. As the only Prosci authorized training partner in the United States and one of the few consulting organizations that have been trained by Oracle in Student Financial Planning implementations, Navigator is uniquely equipped to help with this migration. Change is hard. Living with ineffective and inefficient processes in an area like financial aid can be catastrophic to the financial health of an institution. 

Contact us to learn more about Navigator's Oracle Practice. 

Interested in learning more about Oracle Student Financial Planning? Check out our data sheet here

Image Source (Technology Pyramid)
Image S
ource (Oracle Student Financial Planning demo)