By Lesley Phelps
Each year financial aid offices staff up and may even require overtime and deny vacations in order to manage processing of all the student files that have been selected for verification. Increased regulatory complexity and annual policy changes have made verification one of the most costly and complex aspects of the administration of Title IV aid. Just keeping up with the changes is a challenge, so it is not surprising that verification is one of the leading causes of compliance and audit findings-and a key issue in service challenges and escalated calls.
It can be difficult to explain to a student that in the case of federally selected students, the institution did not single them out nor are they trying to make the process complex or difficult. This is a conversation many of us have had with students over and over again-but the frustration students feel is understandable. They have already completed an online form when submitting the FAFSA-and then they are told that they need to confirm what they have already submitted. Sometimes this means submitting additional documentation and in many cases this information is gathered via a paper form. The result is the potential for students to see the school as a roadblock-and perhaps become frustrated with a process that can seem archaic to students that have grown up with the concept of all things being online and paperless.
Admissions may very well understand what financial aid administrators’ face-but it is certainly understandable that they also see verification as a potential hindrance to enrollment. These are also valid concerns regarding creating a negative first impression of that institution. The process is challenging for both students and institutions-so it is essential that financial aid offices look at ways to reduce the amount of paper and create an online experience for students. Moving to an automated verification processes that provides a student-centric, online experience is a critical step in preventing students-and potential students-from having a negative first impressions of an institution.
Automation of the verification process is also the key to reducing peaks and valleys in staffing levels, reducing call volume, improving compliance and service-and driving enrollment. If your institution is still directing students to worksheets, exploring automation of these processes can have immediate and positive impacts. For more information on how Regent is helping schools address these challenges please view our Regent Review page.